Sipapu Natural Bridge is an excellent natural bridge located in Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah. It is the first of three natural bridges encountered while driving the one-way, nine mile loop road through the park. Sipapu is my favorite of the three here and is impressive in size. At 220 high and 31 feet wide, it is almost tall enough to take in the United States Capitol. While visible from near the parking area, to really experience it you need to hike down.
The bridge has a span of 268 feet and with a thickness of 53 feet – it is probably not in danger of imminent collapse, which it will inevitably do someday. Sipapu is #13 amongst the largest spans for a natural bridge or arch in the world. The second bridge in Natural Bridges park, Kachina, ranks #20.The name Sipapu is a Hopi term for the opening between worlds.
The terrain around the bridge and throughout the park is typical for the area – lots of slickrock sandstone that so often is eroded into interesting shapes. Here the sandstone is lightly colored as opposed to the red-orange to be found a bit to the south in Monument Valley. Trees are slow-growing junipers and pines for the most part, but there are a few more along the river bottoms like where these bridges are.
The trail to get to the bottom is .6 mile (1 km) one way and has a 500’ (102 m) elevation change. It takes about 1 hour to hike it. The trail itself is rustic, with a bit of scrambling and several steps that have to be navigated. These steps vary from fabricated metal steps with safe handrails to wooden ladders bolted to the rock. You’ll need to be able to navigate these to hike to the bottom. If you are scared of heights, this may make it a bit difficult for you.
Sipapu Natural Bridge is nice in the afternoon sun. The hike gives you numerous places to take pictures as you work your way down. You can walk right onto the sandy bottom of the wash that has carved the natural bridge and marvel at its magnificent size. At 220 feet above the ground, it towers above your head like few arches or bridges can. Imagine how many floods it has taken in this mostly dry environment to carve this huge opening.
It will be hot here in the summer and the late spring and early fall. Please take plenty of water along with you. Seasonally, the park has decent visitation, but nothing near as busy as you’ll find in Arches National Park to the north. On our hike, we had it to ourselves – in fact, we were the only ones in the whole park as far as I could tell. We arrived right after closing time for the visitor center and were able to hike to the first (Sipapu) and third bridge (Owachomo) in the time we had left. Bridge two (Kachina) was in shadow in the late afternoon and we didn’t have time for all three in any event.
I have a hi-res gallery of pictures for Sipapu natural bridge and trail here.
To read more about Natural Bridges National Monument, go here.
I’ve put a list of all the arches and natural bridges I’ve visited here.