Rainbow Bridge is the world’s largest natural bridge. It is called “nonnozhoshi” or “the rainbow turned to stone” by the Navajo people. The bridge’s size, symmetry and red sandstone color make it one of the most amazing sights on earth. It is 290 feet high, nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty and spans 275 feet across the water. The top of the arch is 42 feet thick and 33 feet wide.
Rugged canyons and sandstone mazes hid the bridge for many years, yet the Native American people knew of its existence. It wasn’t until the 1800’s when it was seen by wandering trappers, prospectors and cowboys. Finally, in 1909 two exploration parties ventured across slick rock and difficult conditions to reach the bridge. Byron Cummings and W.B. Douglass, along with their guides Nasja Begay and Jim Mike announced to the world their trek to the bridge. Soon afterward in 1910, Rainbow Bridge was declared a National Monument.
President Taft wanted to preserve this extraordinary natural bridge, which is of great scientific interest as an example of eccentric stream erosion. Natural bridges are formed by extremely rare conditions. The dry climate, steady flowing stream and firm but soft sandstone rock all became the perfect conditions for the creation of Rainbow Bridge.
Not many visitors ventured to see Rainbow Bridge after it became a national monument. The trip to the bridge was tough made by foot with a several day hike in a hot climate across slick rocks. Soon, rafts were used to make the trip easier. Still the trip took several days to complete. Rafters were faced with a 7-mile hike to Rainbow Bridge after leaving the raft. Even by the 1950’s the trip took three days. It wasn’t until 1963, when the Glen Canyon Dam was complete and the water began to fill into Lake Powell that the higher water level made access to Rainbow Bridge much easier.
Today 300,000 people come to Rainbow Bridge each year. Rainbow Bridge is part of the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, however it is a separate unit of the National Park System. The National Monument status reduces the range of activities permitted compared to that of a National Recreational Area. Activities such as swimming, fishing, water-skiing are not allowed within the monument.
Rainbow Bridge has been a sacred religious symbol for the Native Americans living in the area for countless years. Visitors are reminded to respect the religious importance of Rainbow Bridge by staying at the viewing area to marvel at its beauty. Please do not leave this area and hike up to or under the bridge. As visitors to the bridge, please respect the long-standing beliefs of the Native American people.
The ranger station is staffed intermittently during the year. The best time to visit is between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when the station is staffed daily. There are no fees to see Rainbow Bridge, however there is a fee to use the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, of which Rainbow Bridge is included.
Rainbow Bridge can be accessed by boat. Visitors can take a tour or rent a boat from a marina along Lake Powell to reach the bridge. By boat it is approximately 50 miles from Wahweap, Bullfrog or Halls Crossing marinas to the bridge. There is a courtesy dock for those who want to take the half-mile hike to the bridge. It is important to remember to stay on the trail to the bridge. The monument is trying to prevent trampling of vegetation. There is a revegetation effort underway. The dock is for short-term use only. The courtesy dock has rest rooms only. Visitors should plan on a minimum of four hours to boat to the bridge, hike to the viewing area and return to the marina. The trip will take a minimum of 6 hours, if you are leaving from the Hite area marina. There are half day and full day tours available at the Wahweap Marina. Lakeshore camping is available; however there is no camping permitted within the Rainbow Bridge National Monument boundaries.
Individuals, who want to hike to the bridge, will need to acquire a permit from the Navajo Nation. Hikers will be traveling through Navajo Nation lands to reach Rainbow Bridge. If you are interested in making this hike please write to: Navajo Nation, Parks and Recreation Department, Box 9000, Window Rock, Arizona 86515 or call 520-871-6647 or 520-871-4941. There are no roadways to the bridge.