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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Hiking Utah’s Natural Bridges

I tend to be a bit of a planner, something I get from my father. My brother reminded me of this after seeing the “office” room in my house when he was out here this past fall for a visit. In my Las Vegas road trip I thought I did an excellent job of planning all the stops out and was positive I hadn’t missed a think. Well, when I was looking at my national parks book in Blanding, Utah on a stop one night, I realized I totally skipped over something unintentionally: Natural Bridges National Monument.

 

 
I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I’m really happy I caught it and made the stop. The monument, the first national park in Utah, is an excellent place for a visit. And while you can certainly camp there for a few days and take it in, it’s also great for a quick half day stop. The intimacy of it, opposed to Canyonlands, is what I really loved and I reconginized, while here, that that’s something that attracts me to some national parks and turns me away from others.

 

 
After a quick stop at the visitor’s center, I made my way towards the bridges, which are all situated on short paths off of a single loop drive through the park. Sipapu, formerly President and Augusta, is the first of the three bridges on the drive and is thus named from the Hopi Indian culture. All three of the bridges actually are, and this one means “place of emergence.”
 

 

There’s a trail that leads down to the bridge, and around to all three actually, but I unfortunately couldn’t hike it as the snow kept it closed. I was disappointed by this, but also thankful as I was quite sore from my hikes the previous day at Canyonlands and Arches.

 

 

The next stop they told me about at the visitor’s center, but I was still a bit surprised to see it. The Horsecollar Ruin is a small cliff dwelling, like what you find at Mesa Verde National Park, built on the wall of the canyon. It’s not as elaborate as its cousins in Colorado, but possibly built by the same people leaving that area to come here. Either way, I still found it quite amazing to see the dwellings built on the side of the canyon like that and could only imagine the effort it took to construct them around the 1200s and without the tools of today.

 
After admiring the Horsecollar Ruins for a while and hiking the short trail back I continued on my way. The next natural bridge on the road is Kachina, which is still being developed as the river erosion expands the bridge. Unlike the various forms of erosion in play at Arches National Park, all of these bridges are formed by river erosion. And while I didn’t hike down to it, it was still interesting to think that I could come back in 50 years to a totally different looking bridge here than what I’m seeing now.

The final, and oldest of the bridges, is the Owachomo Bridge, meaning “mound.” Out of the trails to the bridges a ranger told me this was the shortest, so I seized the opportunity to check it out as I figured it’d be the easiest on my tired joints. I was quite happy I did too as the vantage point from below, down in the canyon, was amazing. And as no one else was around, I was able to enjoy the beauty of the bridge for myself for a good hour before hiking back up to my car and on to my way out of the park.
 

 

Here’s a few pictures I took of Owachomo and the canyon while I was down there:

 

 

 

 

 


 
Little did I know, when I left the Natural Bridges National Monument, that I would experience one of the most amazing drives ever. The sun was bright and there was barely a cloud in the sky and the scenery was long highways 95, 24 and 12 in Utah was so amazing. Driving by the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and through Capitol Reef National Park as well as the Dixie National Forest, enroute to Bryce Canyon National Park, was absolutely amazing. Everywhere I turned the view was outstanding and well worth a photograph or twelve.

 

 
I stopped at an overlook on Hwy 12, just an hour or so from Bryce, I met a guy from New Jersey, Joe, and he had the same reaction I did. He jumped from his SUV with his mouth agape and absolutely excited about the drive he had. I swapped some stories about what I had seen with Jersey Joe and traded some photos before going on my way. I can only imagine his reaction to the rest of the drive as what was behind me turned out to be far more impressive than what was in front of me on the road.

 

 

 
Well, that is until I made it to Bryce Canyon National Park anyway…

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  1. The Most Beautiful Road Trip | Jason's Travels - August 2, 2013

    […] drive through Capitol Reef National Park from Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument to Bryce Canyon and on to Zion National Park is one of the most beautiful road trips int he […]

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