UTAH'S FIRST NATIONAL MONUMENT
Three majestic natural bridges invite you to ponder the power of water in a landscape usually defined by its absence. View them from an overlook, or hit the trails and experience their grandeur from below. Declared a National Monument in 1908, the bridges are named "Kachina," "Owachomo" and "Sipapu" in honor of the Native Americans that once made this area their home.
People repeatedly occupied and abandoned Natural Bridges during prehistoric times. They first began using this area during the Archaic period, from the year 7000 BC to 500 AC. Only the rock art and stone tools left by hunter-gatherer groups reveal that humans lived here then. Around 700 AC, ancestors of modern Puebloan people moved onto the mesa tops to dry farm and later left as the natural environment changed.
Three hundred years after their ancestors left, the farmers returned. They built homes of sandstone masonry or mud-packed sticks, both on the mesa tops and in alcoves in the cliffs. South facing caves provided passive solar heating and cooling. The farmers often chose sites near seep springs where water could be found.
Bridge View Drive is sensibly organized as a one-way loop, so you can rubberneck all you want and not worry about head-on collisions not that you can see much from the road. The paved 9-mile drive leads to overlooks and trailheads above the three bridges that are the park’s chief attractions. The easiest hike is to the last bridge, Owachomo. Whatever else you do, leave a little time at the end of the drive and walk the half-mile trail to stand under its massive span.
To really see the bridges, it is necessary to hike at least part way down the canyon. Each bridge can be reached by a path ranging from moderately easy Owachomo to moderately difficult (Sipapu and Katchina). One excellent way to see the bridges from the ground and also explore a splendid Cedar Mesa canyon in relative safety is to hike down to Sipapu Bridge, follow the canyon floor down to Katchina Bridge, and hike up to the parking area. There is a 2 mile connecting trail back to the Sipapu parking area (making a 5.6-mile loop), or a car shuttle could be used to save the 2 miles.
GETTING THERE FROM BLANDING:
To reach Natural Bridges National Monument Visitors Center, travelers will drive 3 miles south of Blanding and head west on Highway 95. Follow Highway 95 for 30.2 miles, turn right onto UT-275 follow the signage to the paved parking area and Visitors Center.