Greetings from Natural Bridges National Monument

My son and I set up camp on a high plateau overlooking the distant sandstone spires of Monument Valley. We look forward to our all-day hike through Natural Bridges, where three sandstone formations rise high across a very narrow canyon of dark pine-laced cliffs bearing small ancestral Pueblo ruins tucked deep within built by rural desert dwellers, scores of centuries ago, who tended crops of corn and squash and varieties of beans, even from mesquite. We rise early to pack lunches along with plenty of water to slake our desert-thirst. We first walk under Owachomo Bridge, a thin span of sandstone blending with sky, and after pausing to watch a green lizard frantically scurry right under our feet, we continue onward and under a second bridge called Kachina or “dancing spirit” of the rain-praying Hopi people. We pause again at Horse Collar Ruins to drink cool water and munch on a sandwich, all the while listening to notes of a canyon wren singing just as he had for the ancient people of these very ruins, 700 years ago. On we trudge in heat to Sipapu Bridge or “entrance to the spirit world,” as our minds drift back in time until we arrive back at camp.

Richard F. Fleck

Natural Bridges National Monument

This Utah gem is far enough off of the beaten path that few of the visitors that head to Arches or Canyonlands make the two-hour trip south from the Moab area to see it, yet it’s one of the best stargazing spots in the country and the only place where you can find three natural bridges in such close proximity. Hike right up to these stunning rock formations—among the largest natural bridges in the world—then pitch a tent at a campsite on the edge of the park’s canyon for a starry, magical desert experience.

State(s): Utah

Established: 1908

“Parks like Natural Bridges naturally erase the centuries to have the visitor experience, for just a bit, the way things were.”

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