Rainbow Bridge has a span of 234 feet (71 m). At the top it is 42 feet (13 m) thick and 33 feet (10 m) wide. With those measures it competes in the category of the largest natural bridges in the world. There is only one in Chad and two others in China which are bigger than the Rainbow Bridge. However, compared with the other three bigger natural bridges Rainbow Bridge has a considerable easiear access and it is also considered significantly more photogenic.
Rainbow Bridge National Monument is administered by the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and it is located in the Navajo Nation.
Getting to Rainbow Bridge:
Since the existence of the Glen Canyon Dam things got quite easy to get to the Rainbow Bridge. You can use your own boat, rental or tour boats.
Departure points for a tour boat at the Wahweap and Bullfrog marinas. Since these two locations are about 50 miles on the lake from Rainbow Bridge, the tour takes all day. For boat tour information and reservations call 1-800-528-6154 or go online at www.lakepowell.com.
If you are using your own boat or a rental you might also consider other marinas such as Antelope Point, Dangling Rope (south from Rainbow Bridge) or Halls Crossing (north of Rainbow Bridge). Proceed to the mouth of Forbidding Canyon (buoy 49), where a floating sign on the right marks the canyon entrance. Follow the canyon about 2 miles (4 km) to another sign that points the way left through a narrow passage. Proceed with caution! Beyond the wakeless buoys, go slowly so that no wakes, or waves, are made. A courtesy dock is available for short-term docking while people make the 2 mile (3.2km) walk to the bridge.
For the more adventurous I highly recommend backpacking. In this case you will cross Navajo Nation lands and a permit is required! Visit the website www.navajonationparks.org to familiarize yourself how you can obtain a permit. You can not apply online and you will have to write to the Navajo Nation, Parks and Recreation Department, Box 9000, Window Rock, Arizona 86515 and receive your permit either via mail or pick it up at the office in Window Rock.
There are two trails leading to the Rainbow Bridge: North Trail and South Trail. To reach the north trail you will need a 4×4 car. Back when I did the hike I did not have a four wheel drive and ended up taking the South Trail. Be sure you are in a good condition and you are an experienced backpacker as this hike will require endurance and good map and compass reading skills. A GPS is certainly a handy tool but you might not have any satellite signal in the lower portion of the hike as you will be in deep and narrow canyons. The hike can be done in two days but I strongly advice to take three days. You will enjoy it more and have more time to photograph.
If you are getting there with the boat you should just stack about everything you have in your photo bag to make sure that you will all the tools to explore all photographic possibilities. Just do not forget that you have to walk about one mile from the boat landing place to the Rainbow Bridge.
If you are playing hardcore and doing a two to three days backpacking you really will think carefully how much photographic gear you want to take with you and how much weight you can handle in your backpack. This will be specially an issue when you are hiking back to your car as you will have to carry everything for at least 13 miles and lift it for more than 2,000 feet to boot.
Your camera, a lens in the range of 24-70mm and a tripod should be a good compromise for the shooting and backpacking.
The season you pick to do this hike will give you some additional things to think about. I did the hike in Winter as my goal was to have the Navajo Mountain snow covered to contrast it well with the orange rock of the bridge. The nights I spend in the bivvy sack were not very appealing to say the least. The ideal seasons to do the hike are spring and autumn. The day and night temperatures will be easy on you. However, you might need to carry more water with you in autumn as natural water sources might have dried out. If you use water along the trail you will certainly need to carry water treatment gear with you. The summer heat can be brutal and I would not recommend anyone to hike to the Rainbow Bridge.
Your plans are to get there with a boat? Anytime of the year is good, but do not forget a hat and lot of sun block if you go there in summer.
Last update: March 01, 2011