Natural Bridges Kachina Bridge

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 1.7 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Elevation: 5641 - 6032 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Usage: Hiking - No Dogs
Time: 1 hr. 30 mins.
Facilities: Vault toilet
Trailhead: Kachina Bridge Overlook
Fee: $10/vehicle
Attractions: Natural bridge, petroglyphs, pictographs, scenic canyon
   

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The Kachina Bridge trail is located in Natural Bridges National Monument which is about 35 miles west of Blanding, Utah. Natural Bridges was the first national monument to be created in the state of Utah. The purpose of the monument is to protect the three natural bridges named Sipapu, Kachina and Owachomo. The surrounding area of Cedar Mesa and most all of its canyons were inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloan, or Anasazi, people from about 1 A.D. to 1300 A.D. They have left behind countless examples of their structures and rock art for current people to study and ponder.


Kachina Bridge is the middle of the 3 natural bridges. It stands at the confluence of Armstrong and White Canyons. The trailhead is located along the Bridge View loop road. From the trailhead visitors can walk a short trail to the Kachina Bridge Overlook or descend into the canyon for a closer look where they can not only walk beneath the massive bridge but also see ancient petroglyphs and pictographs on the canyon walls. For those who choose to simply visit the overlook the path is wheelchair accessible.


A lot of work has been completed to make the trail into the canyon easier to manage. Sections of slickrock have had steps carved into the rock and handrails erected along some of the steeper sections.


Other places have steps built from quarried rock that have been secured to the mountain to form natural looking staircases.


One of the steepest sections of slickrock augments the carved steps and handrails with a short ladder.


There is a junction where there inner canyon trail to Owachomo Bridge branches off to the left. Trails across the top of the mesa make it possible to begin at either the Kachina or Owachomo trailheads and hike a loop through Armstrong Canyon. The same type of loop hike can be done in the other direction through White Canyon for Sipapu Bridge.


The trail becomes primitive when it reaches the wash in the bottom of the canyon. If you hike either of the loop trails the only improvements to guide you will be a few rock cairns and the well worn path of other hikers. The trails are pretty easy to follow as long as you avoid the side canyons.


As you approach the bridge look for rock art on the right hand side on the surfacees above a small ledge. More rock art can be found on the same side if you pass under the bridge.


There are two main types of rock art that are both present on the cliffs. Pictographs are images that have been painted onto the rock. There are many yellow hands along with a few red hands and other faint symbols. The bighorn appears to be wounded. That coupled with the painted hands hints that this panel may have had something to do with hunting magic.


Petroglyphs are images that have been scratched or carved into the rock.


When you pass under the bridge you are entering White Canyon which leads to Sipapu Bridge. If you go under the bridge be sure to stay to the left when you return and retrace your steps back up Armstrong Canyon and not to the right down White Canyon which leads out of the park. As much as they warn people about taking the wrong canyon you get the idea that it happens all of the time. They could put up a sign but when there are several flash floods each year a sign might only be temporary.


Here is a better picture of the short ladder. The ladder is tightly secured to the rock and with the handrail you can practically walk right up it.


The hikes in Natural Bridges National Monument tend to be a lot of fun. The trails into the deep canyons, with their ladders and other aids, have a real adventurous feeling to them. The inner canyon hikes have ruins and petroglyphs which add an air of mystique to the adventure. It would be hard to do all of the hikes in a single day but it isn't impossible. All 3 bridges can be hiked in one big loop rather than 2 smaller loops and an out and back. There is a nice campground that is only about $10/night. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.