The Shoe

Round Trip Distance: 2.6 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 5771 - 6075 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 2 hrs. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Owachomo Bridge
Fee: $20/vehicle
Attractions: cliff dwellings, pictographs

Located in Armstrong Canyon in the Natural Bridges National Monument west of Blanding, Utah is a prominent rock formation called 'The Shoe'. On a ledge below The Shoe overlooking Armstrong Canyon is built a small Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwelling. Along with the ruins there is also a large panel of pictographs.

Begin by finding your way to the Natural Bridges National Monument. From the Visitor Center, where you will pay the requisite fee, proceed around the Bridges View Drive to the Owachomo Bridge trailhead.

Follow the well constructed scenic trail as it gradually descends into the canyon.

There are many great views of the Owachomo Bridge as you get closer. You might notice places where visitors have gotten off of the trail to take photos but none of those places provide angles half as good as what you will find right from the trail itself. It appears that the trail was routed in a way that would provide the best photos.

Continue beneath Owachomo Bridge and down the slickrock on the other side and you will come to a trail sign pointing the way to continue.

For the most part the trail stays up on a bench above the floor of the canyon where the hiking is easy and the scenery is spectacular.

There a couple of places where the trail crosses the wash and this one where it follows the wash but only for about 50 feet. Most of the wash is a tangle of brush, boulders and pools of water making the benches more preferable than the wash bottom.

Once The Shoe comes into view you will know that you are getting close.

The ruins aren't visible from below and the trail isn't marked but knowing that they are on a bench below The Shoe is enough of a clue to decide where to scramble up the slope. One drawback from the route out of the wash up to the ruins not being cairned is that people tend to braid the side of the hill with trails that go nowhere. Since the Park Service isn't allowed to tell where the ruins are that is the way it has to be so don't erect any cairnes of your own. The best route is to scramble straight up to the bench and not follow any of the lateral trails.

The main room of the ruin is mostly fallen into a rubble pile but there is a well intact granary off to the side. The pictographs are on a ledge just around the corner on the left.

The ledge isn't really wide enough for the camera lenses that we use. All the photos from up here have to be taken at a sharp angle. Some of those had a nice aspect to them even with that.

The best place for us to take photos was from down below. Down here you don't have to worry about touching the images and messing them up.

These 3 spirals that sit off to the left of the point of a boulder are kind of interesting. If they are part of a calendar we thought that one spiral might be for the Summer Solstice, one for the Winter Solstice and one for the Spring and Fall Equinoxes.

We had visited The Shoe before when we hiked the Owachomo/Kachina Bridge Loop. The trees are noticeably taller and the brush seems a little thicker now than then. A person hiking that loop now and not knowing about the site might easily walk on by not knowing what they missed. If coming from the Kachina Bridge direction that is sure to happen. While some people will be able to handle the short hike from the trailhead down to Owachomo Bridge only experienced canyon hikers should venture any further. There are a couple of scrambles where the trail is all loose rocks and dirt that a casual hiker will find very unpleasant. If you are a little more than a casual hiker and would like to see The Shoe Ruins and Pictographs for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.