A Complete Guide For A Day Trip To Natural Bridges National Monument
Natural Bridges National Monument is a hidden gem that can be found in southeast Utah.
It is home to three incredible natural bridges including the second largest natural bridge in the United states, Sipapu Bridge. Sipapu Bridge has an impressive 268-foot span and also holds the title as the thirteenth largest natural bridge in the world.
The monument can be found on the Cedar Mesa at 6,500 feet above sea level in an area that was once covered by an ancient sea. Over time streams flowing through the area created two canyons and the massive sandstone bridges that exist there now.
Prospector Cass Hite discovered the bridges here in 1883 while exploring White Canyon. In 1904 National Geographic Magazine published a story on the bridges and the surrounding area.
On April 16, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt made it Utah’s first national monument. It only receives a little over 100,000 visitors a year so it’s the perfect spot to really get some solitude and enjoy this beautiful landscape.
On March 6, 2007, the International Dark-Sky Association named Natural Bridges National Monument the first International Dark Sky Park. Light pollution is so minimal here visitors regularly see the Milky Way rising over Owachomo Bridge.
The park is open to visitors 24/7 so you are free to stargaze in the park whenever you want. Rangers also present stargazing programs during the spring and summer. Check their official calendar for all upcoming events.
Natural Bridges National Monument supports hundreds of different kinds of plants with shrubs and trees being the most common. Pinyon pine and Utah juniper are abundant here as well as several varieties of wildflowers, shrubs, cacti, and yucca.
Around 207 species of birds call Natural Bridges home or travel through the monument during their migration each year. Turkey vultures, ravens, pinyon jay and canyon wrens are commonly seen flying the skies.
A number of mammals, including nine species of mice and rats, can be found scurrying about. Keep an eye out for desert cottontails and mule deer that are often seen by visitors.
The only reptiles found in Natural Bridges are lizards and snakes. One of those snakes is the prairie rattlesnake though, so watch where you step.
A few varieties of toad and one species of salamander (tiger salamander) also call the monument home.
The Natural Bridges campground is located right next to the visitor center and has thirteen spots available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Each site has a firepit, grill, picnic table, and tent pad. No water, electricity or other hook-ups are available.
The campground is open year-round, the fee is $15 and there is a 26-foot length limit.
The monument is open 24 hours a day all year long.
The visitor center is open 9 AM-4 PM every day. During winter hours (November 1 – May 8) they are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. They are also closed for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days.
Hours may change so check the website or call (435-692-1234) ahead of time.
While at the visitor center watch the park film, browse the exhibits and pick up some souvenirs in the gift shop. Talk with a ranger to get information on the park as well as maps.
Don’t forget to sign the kids up for Junior Ranger packets as well.
Restrooms, trashcans and drinking water are also available at the center.
The visitor center is where you will pay your park entrance fee.
The fee is $20 per vehicle, $15 per motorcycle, and $10 per hiker or bicyclists. Admission fees are good for up to seven days in the monument.
If you have an America the Beautiful Interagency pass (or it’s equivalent) entrance into the park is free.
The scenic drive within the monument is called Bridge View Drive. This one way, nine mile paved loop road will take you to the overlooks for all three bridges, trailheads and the visitor center.
Below I will list the hiking trails that can be found in the monument as well as a brief description of each. We did all the hikes in the park so click on the names to read my blog posts.
Please note, pets are not allowed on any trails in the park.
Sipapu Bridge: This 1.4 mile roundtrip hike has about 450 foot of elevation gain and takes you to the largest bridge in the park. It’s the steepest trail in the park and requires climbing multiple wooden ladders and stairs.
Kachina Bridge: This 1.5 mile roundtrip hike to the widest and youngest bridge in the park has around 460 feet of elevation gain. There are hundreds of steps on the hike, but it’s my favorite bridge in the park.
Owachomo Bridge: This 0.5 mile out and back hike takes you to the smallest, thinnest and possibly oldest bridge in the park with about 180 feet of elevation gain. It’s the shortest hike in the park (except the viewpoints).
Horse Collar Ruin: This 0.6 mile roundtrip hike only has around 50 feet of elevation gain and gives you a a birds-eye view of Horse Collar Ruin. This easy hike has you traveling over slickrock.
Full Loop Trail: This 12 mile primitive and strenuous trail has you hiking through the canyons and over the mesa top as you pass under all three natural bridges. You can shorten this hike by getting off at any bridge trailhead.
I would also like to say I didn’t list the hikes to the viewpoints of each bridge.
They were all extremely short though and located right off of Bridge View Drive. The viewpoints aren’t bad, but if you can hike the trails to the bridges I highly recommend it.
We absolutely loved our visit to Natural Bridges National Monument and can’t wait to go back. We really want to do the full loop trail which I think will give us of a whole new experience of hiking in the park.
We only saw maybe a dozen people during our visit which was awesome. We hate crowds so this place is a great way to see some incredible works of Mother Nature with as few people as possible around.