About 50 miles northwest of the Four Corners boundary of southeast Utah is Natural Bridges National Monument. Located at the junction of White Canyon and Armstrong Canyon, the monument is home to the thirteenth largest natural bridge in the world, along with two other natural bridges. The park’s three bridges (named Kachina, Owachomo and Sipapu) were formed by erosion.
The elevation of the monument is up to 6,500 feet and the vegetation found is typical of that of the high-elevation Utah desert; pinyon juniper trees, grass, and shrubs. In the monument’s canyon areas, you will find seasonal streams and riparian desert plants. Along with beautiful scenery that can be viewed during the daylight, Natural Bridges National Monument has focused on the protection of its dark sky so that visitors can view the light formed by the Milky Way over the Owachomo Bridge. In 2007, the monument earned the distinction of becoming the first International Dark Sky Park, certified by the International Dark-Sky Association.
A visit to Natural Bridges National Monument will provide the opportunity to view these natural wonders while enjoying the fresh air and beauty of southeastern Utah.
To get to Natural Bridges National Monument from Moab, Utah, take US-191 S for 74.6 miles. After, turn left and continue following US-191 S. Next, turn right on UT-95 N and proceed for about 30 miles. Make a right onto UT-275 N and continue until you take a slight left toward UT-275 N/Natural Bridge and follow signs to the Monument.
Parking is available within Natural Bridges National Monument.
Public transportation is not available.
Natural Bridges Campground is located next to the visitor center off of the park’s main road. The campground, which is open year-round, has 13 campsites that are first-come-first served. Each campsite has a fire grill, picnic table, and tent pad. RVs up to 26 feet can be accommodated. The same restriction applies to trailers and the vehicle they are connected to. Combined, they must be 26 feet or less.
Vault toilets are available; as the campground is unserviced, no running water or hookups are present. Choosing the Natural Bridges Campground means you will have easy access to all that you would like to do in the park, as well as the opportunity to view the stars directly from your campsite.
Natural Bridges National Monument offers a variety of hiking trails, ensuring that there is one that is appropriate for you regardless of ability. Consider taking a short hike, like the one to the Sipapu Bridge Viewpoint. The walk is about ten minutes long and will deliver an excellent view of the United States’ second-largest natural bridge.
For a longer hike, consider taking a hike to Kachina Bridge, which will take about an hour or two. The monument also offers several loop tours that will help you explore the park on foot.
The night sky at Natural Bridges National Monument is likely as dark as it was 800 years ago during the time of the ancestral Puebloans. As the monument is in a remote location, the dark sky is preserved, with the only artificial lighting used for safety purposes.
On a clear night, you can look up and view up to 15,000 stars in the sky above the monument. Whether sitting back at your campsite enjoying the view after a long day of adventure, or if you visit the park specifically to take in its nighttime scenery, you are in for a treat.
A number of different types of birds make their home in Natural Bridges National Monument, making it a good location for birdwatching. Keep your eyes peeled; 207 species of birds can be found in the park, whether they live there or are traveling through during migration.
If you are hoping to catch a glimpse of smaller birds, look near the pinyon-juniper forest or on the ground near plant life. Larger birds, like raptors, can be observed as they fly or when resting on a tree or a rock.
Natural Bridges National Monument offers a scenic drive that is open year-round unless there are issues with the weather. From the comfort of your vehicle, you can take in the high desert scenery that includes bright-white slickrock, a forest of pinyon and juniper trees, mesas, and mountains.
The main park road is a paved, nine-mile loop, which will lead you to viewpoints as well as trailheads, should you want to get out, stretch your legs, and walk among the park’s beauty.
Within Natural Bridges National Monument is Horse Collar Ruin, which is one of the best-preserved ancestral Puebloan sites in the area. The site got its name from the two structures it includes with doorways that look like horse collars. It is believed that people left the area more than 700 years ago and that the reason it is so well-preserved is because of its isolation.
Since not many people made the trip down the canyons, the kiva with original roof and its interior were not bothered. While visiting the monument, you can see Horse Collar Ruin from an overlook, or if you are hiking, pass it on the trail that takes you from Sipapu Bridge to Kachina Bridge. However you choose to glimpse the site, you will have the chance to be taken back into the area’s history.
Natural Bridges National Monument offers programs led by park rangers from the spring through the fall months. Participating in a ranger-led program will provide the opportunity for you to not only view the park’s amazing scenery, but learn more about its culture, history and natural habitat.
Guided walks, overlook talks and patio talks are offered at the monument. You can learn more about each program by contacting the park or checking its bulletin boards for current schedules.