Date of Trip: November 11th, 2017
How to do it like we did:
We woke up early, drove from Moab to Natural Bridges National Monument, and by the time we got there we were ready to get out of the car and MOVE. We wanted to see as much of the park as possible but our time was limited. We also knew we wanted to hike. We stopped by the Visitor’s center and asked the ranger on duty for her recommendation. These are the options she presented us:
1) You can do the Bridge View Drive with easy-access viewpoints to the main bridges.
2) You can park at Owachomo Bridge and do the entire loop trail, hiking from Owachomo Bridge to Sipapu, Sipapu to Kachina, and Kachina back to Owachomo. This option will take you on an 8.6-mile loop trail that shows the highlights of the park.
3) Park at Kachina, hike to Sipapu, back to Kachina and then drive to the Owachomo overlook. This is a 5.4-mile hike, plus the short 0.2 miles to get to the Owachomo overlook.
We decided to go with the third option because while we did want to hike, we also wanted time to sightsee on the way to Monument Valley (which was our next destination). You can view a map of the park with all the hiking options from Live and Let Hike.
We drove to the Kachina Bridge parking area, parked the car, and started hiking East toward Sipapu Bridge. The first mile-and-a-half is basic desert hiking: flat, shrubby, dry land with little variation in scenery. As you get closer to Sipapu, things start to get interesting. First, the trail crosses the road. Then the trail begins a descent into a canyon.
There are multiple stair and ladder descents to get down to Sipapu. After the first two sets of stairs and the first ladder, the trail comes to the edge of a canyon and you have a clear view of Sipapu. From here, it looks like the trail can go left or right. The left turn dissipates into nothing. Take the right-hand trail. This continues down the canyon and leads to another ladder descent.
After Kachina, the trail slowly starts climbing back up the canyon. The last quarter-mile is a steep descent using switchbacks to reach the top.
After the hike, we finished driving the loop to Owachomo. For this, we just walked the short distance to the overlook. There is a 0.4-mile hike that takes you under the bridge and looked pretty easy. We were just trying to get to Monument Valley before dark so we opted out.
Want to learn how this trip fits into a short road trip? Click to visit our post on our Easy Weekend Trip.
1. The two most difficult parts of the hike are the descent to Sipapu and the ascent after Kachina. They are possible for all ability levels – we saw many different ages on this hike – but may not be agreeable to everyone in your group. The descent might be tricky for anyone with a fear of heights. The ascent after Kachina, though it is short, might be difficult for someone who is out of shape.
Gear of the Trip:
Hydro Flask Water Bottle.
The desert stays dry no matter how cool the weather is. A good water bottle goes a long way in making sure your trip is successful. These Hydro Flask bottles are our go-to when desert hiking. It is stainless steel and double-walled insulated which makes it a little more cumbersome. The weight is worth it for a fresh, cold drink of water when the hike gets long.