Natural Bridges National Monument is around 50 miles northwest of the Four Corners boundary in southeast Utah. It is located at the junction of the White Canyon and the Armstrong Canyon and is part of the Colorado River drainage. It is an indispensable part of any ultimate Utah National Parks Road trip.

Natural Bridges are more than the jaw-dropping natural bridges in the park and are testaments to what the forces of nature and time are capable of. It is also filled with some well-preserved ancestral Puebloan ruins.

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The Natural Bridges Of the National Monument

The natural bridges here are awe-inspiring and one of them is the thirteenth largest natural bridge in the world.

The three bridges in the park have had serval names. First, they were named "President," "Senator" and "Congressman" by Cass Hite. Later explorers called them "Augusta," "Caroline" and "Edwin". Later as the park expanded to protect the nearby Puebloan structures native Hopi names were applied to the bridges in 1909. These are:

  • Sipapu: Meaning "The Place of Emergence" (An Entryway By Which The Hopi Believe Their Ancestors Came Into This Word)
  • Kachina: Name For Rock Art On The Bridge Ath Resembles Symbols Used on Kachina Dolls
  • Owachomo: Meaning "Rock Mound" After A Feature On The Top Of The Bridge

The natural bridges have been formed through erosion by water flowing in the stream bed of the canyon year after year through time. This is particularly powerful during periods of flash floods. During flash floods, the stream undercuts the walls of the rock and then a new stream flows under the bridge. Eventually, the land beneath is eroded away, but of course, the bridges will all collapse under their own weight eventually. There are signs of at least two collapsed natural bridges in the Monument today.

The bridges are on the Colorado Plateau. Since the Cretaceous Period 66 million years ago (the T-Rex walked the earth), the plateau has been uplifted about 12,000 feet or 3,660 meters.

  • Elevation: The Monument Is up To Around 6,500 Feet In Elevation

The monument's elevation ranges up to around 6,500 feet or 2,000 meters and the vegetation is typical of the high desert in Utah. It is mostly made up of pinyon-juniper forest, brittle brush, Mormon tea, sage, etc. In the canyons, one can find other vegetation like willows, oaks, and cottonwood trees.

Sipapu Bridge

Sipapu is the largest and most spectacular of the bridges. It is considered middle-aged and could almost house the dome of the United States Capitol. One can view the bridge from a viewpoint or hike to it. It is the first bridge on the scenic road and the second largest in the USA (the largest in the park).

  • Height: 220 Feet (67 Meters)
  • Span: 268 Feet (82 Meters)
  • Width: 31 Feet (9.5 Meters)
  • Thickness: 53 Feet (16 Meters)

Walk To The Sipapu Bridge Viewpoint:

  • Duration: 10 Minutes
  • Season: Year-Round

Hike To Sipapu Bridge:

  • Duration: 1-2 Hours
  • Location: Sipapu Bridge Trailhead
  • Season: Year-Round

Related: What To Expect When Visiting Stunning Bryce Canyon National Park In Utah

The Monument's Ancient Ruins And Connections With Native Peoples

The Natural Bridges National Monument acknowledges the peoples who are traditionally associated with these landscapes, according to the NPS they are various peoples and tribes of the Pueblo, Paiute, and Ute groups

In its long history, this area has been repeatedly occupied and abandoned. One can see the ruins of various pre-history homes of sandstone masonry and mud-packed sticks on the mesa tops and in alcoves in the cliffs. The styles here suggest the people who lived here were related to those of the Mesa Verde region eastwards. Mesa Verde is the home of Cliff Palace - the largest cliff dwelling in North America dating from the Ancestral Pueblos.

While there, check out the Horsecollar Ruin. It is an Ancestral Puebloan ruin abandoned over 700 years ago but it's remarkable for its good state of preservation. Notably, it has an undisturbed rectangular kiva. The kiva still has two granaries and the original roof and interior.

  • Visit: The Ancestral Puebloan Horsecollar Ruin
  • Age: Over 700 Years Old
  • Where: Visible From an Overlook A Short Hike From The Main Bridge View Drive

Related: 10 National Parks In The US Worth Visiting Now (And 10 To See Later)

Visiting The National Monument

One of the main highlights of the national monument is Bridge View Drive. It is organized as a one-way loop - as a one-way road, it is safer for motorists to rubberneck at the awe-inspiring landscapes without worrying about head-on collisions.

  • Length: 9 Miles

The paved road makes its way to the overlooks and trailheads that branch off to the three bridges. The easiest bridge to hike to is the last bridge, Owachomo - it is only half a mile from the road.

  • Visitor Center Hours: 8.00 am to 5.00 October to March, 8.00 am to 6.00 pm April to September
  • Camping: The Is a 13 Site Campground with No Water By The Visitor Center (Water is Available From The Visitor Center)

Next: Zion National Park: When To Visit, And Why It's Definitely Worth The Awe-Inspiring Hype