While we were staying at the Valley of the Gods, Kelly and I made a day trip up to Natural Bridges National Monument. 45 miles away, the trip to the monument took us up and over the Moki Dugway again, and then along the top of Cedar Mesa to literally the middle of nowhere.
After a quick stop at the visitors center to get a new America the Beautiful National Parks pass, we headed out to drive the one-way 9-mile scenic loop that takes you to all the bridges (all three of them).
Let’s stop and pause here for a moment before we get to the pictures. You might wonder what is a natural bridge? What makes them different than arches you see at, say Arches National Park? To be honest, a lot of them look exactly the same. But there is a difference! Yes, indeed there is. Pay attention!
Natural bridges are initially formed by erosion from moving water. Streams, rivers, flowing water. Arches are formed by other erosion forces – mainly frost action and seeping moisture. This same frost and seeping moisture erosion forces can continue to enlarge natural bridges long after the flowing water is gone, but the bridges are formed initially from moving water. Got it? Good! Cuz bridges and arches all (basically) kinda look the same…
With a span of 268 feet and a height of 220 feet, Sipapu Bridge is the largest of the three bridges in the monument. The 1.2 mile round trip hike to Sipapu Bridge has 500 feet in elevation loss/gain – the most of all three bridges. Sipapu is the first bridge you come across on the drive, so we knocked the “hardest” one off first.
Second stop was Kachina Bridge, which has a span of 204 feet and a height of 210 feet. Because Kelly brought “the girls” with us, she opted to stay in the car for this one, so I made the trek to the bottom alone. Because of the way Kachina Bridge is situated, it’s a tough one to photograph. Go see it for yourself if you want a better “picture”.
Final stop of the day was Owachomo Bridge, which is the “baby” bridge at 180 feet wide and 106 feet tall. It’s also the easiest of the three bridges to get to with a round trip hike of 0.4 miles and an elevation loss/gain of 180 feet.