Natural Bridges: A Quick Tour
Day 3 of our Utah vacation was a driving day for the most part, heading from our digs in Escalante to Blanding, via a quite circuitous route — that being the only option available, due to the complex of impassable canyons between the two locations.
Leaving 24 at Hanksville and turning south on 95, the road tripper is treated to one of the more spectacular and varied 125 miles of terrain imaginable, with the first section on level ground paralleling the abrupt rise of the Henry Mountains to the west. Soon the road transitions into a red rock canyon tour of impressive proportions as one descends toward the Colorado River basin. Views from the Dirty Devil River bridge to Hite Crossing are enough to distract even the most attentive drivers from their steely focus on the highway (fair warning!).
A little farther down the road is the entrance to Natural Bridges National Monument, which boasts three prominent examples of the titular feature within easy driving distance of each other. There are quick and dirty overlook trails for those (like us on this day) without a lot of time to spend, plus lengthier paths to take one beneath the bridges themselves.
Anne and I made a quick pit stop at the ranger station before striking out on the one-way loop road to take in the bridges. We were a bit too late in the season, it turned out, to consider backtracking from Blanding that evening to experience the brilliant night sky views for which the monument is almost equally famous. (To clarify, the brilliant night sky views would still have been there, but the ranger-led programs wrapped up the week before due to increasingly chilly temps.)
The trail to the Sipapu overlook was our introduction to the landscape, and it provided some memorable moments, including airy walks along and beneath the canyon rim and one descent pitch involving a park service-installed metal ladder. Thrilling!
Out quick tour certainly failed to do the area justice — it would be a great deal of fun to backpack the connecting trail that visits all three of the bridges, but that’s an undertaking for another time.