Natural Bridges National Monument: Sipapu Bridge


After visiting Arches National Park, you’ve probably seen your share of arches.  Well, this is something different.  Natural bridges span water, or at the very least, dry riverbeds, and are formed by erosion by moving water. Arches are formed by erosion caused mostly by frost and seeping water.

Admission to Natural Bridges National Monument is $6, but there’s no toll station as you enter.  So be honest, stop in at the visitor’s center, and pay the fee.

Natural Bridges National Monument provides easy access to three bridges.  As you drive around the one way loop, the first bridge you’ll spot is Sipapu.  It’s easily viewable from an overlook, right off the main road.

Sipapu is the highest of the three bridges in the National Monument (220 ft.), and also has the longest span (268 ft.)

If you’re not satisfied with the view from the road, and your feet aren’t still aching from yesterday’s long hikes, you can venture all the way down into White Canyon.  It’s a steep climb that includes slopes, steps carved into rock, long staircases, and even a few ladders.

This is the view of Sipapu Bridge from halfway down the trail.  There’s an excellent viewpoint here, on a wide, flat slab of rock, on the canyon wall.

Check out these views of the trail to Sipapu Bridge.  In the photo above, if you look closely on the left, you can see a long metal staircase.  After that, the trail clings to the side of the rock wall.  See the metal railing in the center of the picture, just slightly to the right?

This photo gives a closer look at that railing, at the top of the ladder.

Here’s a shot from the bottom of the ladder.

I chose not to continue into the canyon, due to the restraints of time, although I’m sure it would have been a very cool hike.

After hiking to the bottom of the canyon, you could continue along an unmaintained trail, that runs along the creek.  That path will eventually take you to Kachina and Owachomo Bridges.  This would make for a very long hike, though, so plan ahead.  Pack a lunch, water, sunscreen, and whatever else you might need for a several- hour-long hike.

A side note: I took a wrong turn on this trail, and ended up adding a half mile or so to my walk.  Watch closely for a sharp left turn near the start of the trail, and don’t step over an old log.  There’s a reason it’s there.

Note: This trip was first published in 2004.

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