Hike to Sipapu Bridge

Sipapu natural stone bridge view from side
Hike to the base of Sipapu Bridge for a new perspective.

NPS Photo by Jacob W. Frank

Sipapu Bridge is the largest natural bridge in the park and the second largest in the United States. Admire its 268-foot (82-meter) span up close with a hike to the bridge’s base. Sipapu’s size inspired its many names, including President. Sipapu Bridge’s current name is Hopi for “place of emergence,” or the opening through which Hopi ancestors entered this world.

Length Roundtrip: 1.4 miles (2 kilometers)
Elevation Change One-way (from Rim to Base): 436 feet (133 meters) loss, 11 feet (3 meters) gain

Getting There

Start at the Sipapu Bridge Trailhead parking area (different from the Sipapu Viewpoint parking area). Follow the trail to the bottom, 0.7 mile (1 kilometer) one-way.

orientation sign on Sipapu bridge trail
A small side trail leads to an overlook for Sipapu Bridge partway down the main bridge trail.

NPS Photo by Miranda Kay

Don’t be deceived by distance!

This trail is extremely steep and considered strenuous. Hiking from the canyon rim to the base of the bridge, you lose 436 feet (133 meters) in elevation using three wooden ladders, one long set of metal stairs, rock stairs, wooden stairs, and switchbacks. This hike is perfect for adventurous hikers who are experienced with steep canyon trails. If you are looking for a shorter trail, consider walking to the Sipapu Bridge Viewpoint or hiking the trail to Owachomo Bridge.

Special Features

The hike to the Sipapu Bridge is a great opportunity to explore the park’s geological features. The trail winds along the canyon edge, giving you a chance ponder the ancient rivers that carved these canyons over thousands of years. Look across the canyon for desert varnish painting streaks of black and red down canyon walls. Examine these rock walls for crossbedding, ripple marks that show layers of silt, sand, and mud deposited by an ancient sea. See if you can find life in one of the many ephemeral pools at the overlook half-way down. At the bottom, check out the abundant biological soil crust.

The bumpy, black soil along the edge of the trail is a living layer of soil known as biological soil crust. This soil crust is essential to the survival of desert life in Natural Bridges. Please protect this sensitive resource by staying on the trail. It takes decades, if not centuries, for soil crust to recover from a single footprint.

A stunning view of Sipapu Bridge is located off a small detour, 0.5 mile (0.8 kilometers) down the trail. A sign points in the overlook’s direction. Return to the main trail along the same path.

Details

All ages, but minors should be with an adult parent or guardian.

Park entry fees are required.

Directions from Natural Bridges Visitor Center: Out of the visitor center parking lot, turn right at the stop sign.  Follow the driving loop approximately 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers) until you see the sign and parking for the Sipapu Bridge Trailhead (Not the Sipapu Bridge Viewpoint).

Spring and Fall: Suggested visiting time is spring and fall.

Summer: Summer temperatures often reach 100°F (38°C).

Winter: In the winter, the hike to Sipapu Bridge can be treacherous.
The trail may be muddy, icy, and slick. This north-facing trail is in the shade for much of the day. Snow and ice will remain on the trail longer than elsewhere in the park. A long set of metal stairs and numerous ladders can become frost-covered and slippery. This trail should only be attempted by well-prepared, experienced hikers in the winter. If snow and/or ice are present, snow cleats, crampons, and/or hiking poles are highly recommended. Always check conditions before hiking in winter.

This trail is open after dark, but can be treacherous and is not recommended.
Accessibility Information

Service animals are allowed on this trail.

There is one accessible parking spot in the parking lot. This is a primitive trail. This trail is not wheelchair accessible. Audio recordings of the posted signage are not available. There is uncertain footing in places. Stay away from the canyon edge - although it is not sheer, it can be steep. Most of the trail is in the shade for much of the day.

The trail declines 436 feet (133 meters) to the base of the bridge. That elevation change is experienced using three wooden ladders, one long set of metal stairs, wood stairs, rock stairs, and switchbacks. The total trail length (roundtrip) is 1.4 miles (2 kilometers). This trail is strenuous. This trail may be difficult for individuals with mobility impairments.

The nearest restroom is a pit toilet located at the Kachina Bridge parking area. There are flush toilets outside the visitor center. The nearest water is available at the visitor center.

Last updated: April 3, 2018