Hiking Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah is a National Park consisting of three natural bridges. One can spend ~1-3 hours hiking nearby each of the bridge. The hikes are short and require ascent/descent. Even without the hike, one can drive around to see the views.

Sipapu Bridge

Sipapu Bridge

While one can hike to the bottom of Sipapu Bridge, Kachina bridge can only be seen from a distance. And that too after a hike. If you are short on time, skip this one.

Kachina Bridge

Kachina Bridge

Owachomo bridge, the last one, also requires a hike down to the bottom. The hike is easier than the hike to Sipapu bridge though. There is a strenuous climb to the top of the bridge on the right.

Owachomo Bridge

Owachomo Bridge

 

A trip to Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is probably the most photographed canyon in the world. Located in the Navajo Indian preservation, only guided tours are permitted.  We took a trip to Antelope Canyon Tours. The tour lasts about an hour, and it takes ~20 mins one-way drive to reach the canyon. There aren’t any hikes, just simple walks in the canyon. Everyone is crazy running around and taking photos, so, it does become a bit hard to enjoy in the mad rush. Even then,  if you are in the area, I would recommend booking a tour in advance to visit the canyon.

 

Rim-2-Rimember: Day hiking through Grand Canyon

I did the 23.4 miles rim to rim day hike through Grand Canyon during last week of November (Thanksgiving weekend) 2017. Unlike most hikes like Mt. Whitney, the hard part (ascent) comes later and therefore it is easy to get trapped. Be very certain of your fitness level before you try this.

A view from the north rim

What to carry

  1. There are multiple water stops, some seasonal, some permanent, check the current situation at NPS website. The water supply comes from the Roaring Springs and it has high  Chlorine content.
  2. I carried ~3L of water and 1L of Gatorade. I think 2L of water is the absolute minimum to avoid the risk of dehydration. Also, get a hydration pack, so that, you are drinking more frequently and without stopping.
  3. Wear good trail hiking boots since many parts of the trail are really rough.
  4. Carry protein bars and trail mixes for the consumption.
  5. Cache the Grand Canyon maps in Google maps since there is no network connectivity inside the canyon.
  6. Carry a detailed list of the checkpoints you are going to encounter, along with the distance to track how well you are doing, a sample tracking sheet can be downloaded from Grand Canyon hiking time tracking sheet and my filled sheet can be seen under “My Journey” section in this blog post.

A view from the south rim

About the Journey

  1. The road AZ 67 to the North Rim closes on the first snowfall, therefore, check it’s current situation before leaving.
  2. The North Rim is less touristy, less accessible, and higher elevation than the south rim, therefore, start the hike on the north rim and end it on the south rim.
  3. There is exactly one trail to take on the North Rim, that’s North Kaibab trail. The total length of the trail is about 14 miles, and elevation change is about 5800 ft.
  4. There are two trails one can take to go up the South Rim, South Kaibab trail or Bright Angel Trail, Bright Angel trail is longer but has lower elevation gain and has one water stop (Indian garden), therefore, take the Bright Angel trail while going up the South Rim. The total length of this trail is about 9.4 miles and elevation change is about 4400 ft.
  5. On an average, it seems it takes anywhere between 12 to 15 hours to finish the hike.

My Journey

My journey tracking sheet

Download a copy of this sheet for your use here.

I started at 6:45 AM in the morning and it took me about 10 hours 45 minutes to finish the hike. This included 4-5 breaks of 5 minutes each along the way. Here are some photos of the major checkpoints along the way. The first of them is a short tunnel called Supai Tunnel.

Supai Tunnel

After Supai Tunnel, the next major milestone is Roaring Springs. The actual springs are a bit off the route, therefore, I would recommend not going there.

Roaring Springs

Manzanita Rest area was the first stop where I got potable water and being 5.4 miles away, this is the first major checkpoint on the way. And it’s a good time to evaluate how you are doing on time. If it has already taken you three hours or more to reach here, I would highly recommend turning back. Cottonwood campground is a little over a mile from here. From here on, the trail is next to the water stream.

Cottonwood Campground

Till Cottonwood, the descent is really steep. Beyond that, it becomes much more smooth and pleasant to walk. From here on, it becomes a long walk towards the Phantom Ranch.

One of the many bridges along the way

Another bridge

Eventually, I reached the Phantom Ranch, it’s a small town in the middle of the canyon. I refilled my hydration pack here. They do seem to serve food to day hikers.

Menu at Phantom Ranch

Bright Angel campground, a much smaller campground, is only 20 minutes away from here. Bright Angel campground is 14 miles from the start and is the lowest checkpoint of the hike. Here I encountered the board that I am finally crossing over to the South Rim.

Bright Angel Campground

Soon after this, I came across the Silver Bridge on Colorado river, which is used for crossing over to the south side of the canyon.

Silver Bridge

The temperature was climbing up now and I was sweating due to the strong sun. That’s when I came across more smarter travelers.

Mule tours

Next, I saw this really cool cave. Being alone, I decide not to take the risk but I am still unable to get this off of my head.

Mysterious cave in Grand Canyon

From here on the hike becomes a strenuous climb.

The trail I took

Seven-and-a-half hours into the journey, I reached Indian Garden. It’s an Oasis in the middle of the desert and is the last point to get potable water before the last leg of the journey. While Indian Garden is only 4.7 miles away from the Bright Angel trailhead, it is 3000 ft below that, so, I had to climb an average 12% gradient in the last leg of the journey.

Indian Garden

The next major stop is 3-mile Resthouse which is 3 miles from the Bright Angel trailhead. From here on, one encounters many day hikers who are coming down from the south rim for the shorter hikes.

3-mile resthouse

Eventually, I crawled to the final checkpoint 1.5-mile Resthouse.

1.5-mile Resthouse

Finally, a view from the top.

View of the canyon from the Bright Angel trailhead

References

  1. Rim to rim website
  2. NPS website