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Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Summary: A nice two day backpacking trip to the largest natural bridge in the world (span wise).
Directions: The trailhead for this hike is somewhat difficult to find.  
From Page drive east on Highway 98.  Between mile posts 349 - 350 turn left onto the well graded, dirt, Navajo Mountain Rd.  Drive 35 miles until you reach the Navojo Mountain Alliance Church on the right hand side.  At the next split turn left and drive ~8 miles until you see the large dome shaped rock on the right hand side.  Turn right on the next dirt road past the rock.  After a short distance you will come to a well and a wooden sign with a few rules for the Navajo Mountain area.  Drive past the sign on the left hand side and follow this rather rough road up and to the left.  It will pass a large steel water tank to the left, then climb a short stretch of slick rock before arriving at the ruins of what used to be Rainbow Lodge.  Park near the ruins.  
Road Conditions: High clearance vehicle
Navigation: Moderate - the hardest part of the hike is finding the trail head.
Length: ~13 miles each way
Date Hiked: November 2000
Weather Conditions: Cool with some snow 
Required Skills:
Hike Description: Walk up the road a short way from the ruins and you will see two cairns marking the beginning of the trail on the left hand side.  The first part of this trail tends to the right traveling around the base of Navajo Mountain, winding in and out of a few canyons along the way.  The first canyon you drop into and climb out of is (aptly named) First Canyon.  The trail then winds itself in and out of the larger Horse Canyon, then a smaller drainage.  You then pass through an area consisting of some nice sandstone rocks.  After passing a large sheer sandstone wall to the right, the trail goes through Yabut Pass then drops steeply into Cliff Canyon.  Once you reach the canyon bottom, the trail follows the stream bed (water flowing when the author was there) on one side or the other.  After a time you will come to a major drainage entering from the right which has a small sign reading "Red Bud Pass".  Turn right and climb up and over the fairly narrow pass.  Once on the other side head down stream once again.  At one point you will come to a fairly large drainage entering from the right with cairns continuing down canyon and up this side drainage.  The side drainage (Bridge Canyon) is the alternate hiking route to the bridge which comes in from the north side of Navajo Mt.  Stay to the left and continue down canyon.  Just before reaching the bridge the canyon widens with a large alcove on the right hand side.  This alcove contains the remains of a former tourist camp and a spring (from back when the only option for viewing the bridge was over land).  A short distance later is Rainbow Bridge.  There are Park Service signs at the bridge which describes the bridge as sacred to Native Americans and to treat the area accordingly.  True to the hypocritical nature of the Park Service there is also a huge boat dock and gazebo built to accommodate the motorized hoard.  If they felt the area to be sacred why build the amenities?  Fortunately this organization does not oversee historical buildings or we would expect to see a parking lot in the vestibule of St. John's Cathedral as well.  Return the way you came.  
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife completed the hike to the bridge in 7 hours, camped and returned the next day in 8 hours.
Maps: Trails Illustrated - Glen Canyon NRA, Capitol Reef NP, Rainbow Bridge NM
Books:  Canyon Hiking Guide to the Colorado Plateau - Michael Kelsey
Canyoneering Arizona - Tyler Williams
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Hiking around
Navajo Mt.
Rainbow Bridge