Spanning 275 feet, the Rainbow Bridge is the largest natural bridge in the world. It was formed by the action of Bridge Creek as it flowed down from the Navajo Mountain Gradually, an amazing sandstone arch was formed. The Paiute and Navajo tribes named the bridge Nonnezoshe which means “rainbow turned to stone." For centuries, the Rainbow Bridge was considered a sacred spot by the Native American tribes who in habited the area. However, it only became known to the rest of the world in the early 1900s, when an expedition headed by University of Utah dean Byron Cummings and government surveyor W.B. Douglass discovered it. Then, on May 30, 1910, President William Howard Taft proclaimed Rainbow Bridge national monument material.
After World War II, the popularity of river running in Glen Canyon made Rainbow Bridge more accessible to more people. By 1963, the gates on the Glen Canyon Dam were closed. This caused the waters of Lake Powell began to rise, which in turn facilitated more frequent motor boat access to Rainbow Bridge. As a result, thousands of people began to visit the Rainbow Bridge National Monument each year.
Although this was great for tourism, the Native Americans who inhabited the outskirts of Rainbow Bridge Utah were not pleased. In an attempt to protect the religious sites against Lake Powell’s rising waters, in 1974 neighboring Navajo tribes filed suit in U.S. District Court against the Secretary of the Interior, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation and the Director of the National Park Service. The Court ruled against the Navajo. However, if you visit today, the National Parks Service asks that you approach the Rainbow Bridge National Monument in a manner that is respectful of its religious significance.
Today, hikers and backpackers can select one of two trails to reach Rainbow Bridge., Utah. One of the trails follows the south slopes of the massive Navajo Mountain. The other trail meanders along the mountain’s north slopes. Both of these trails meet in an intricate labyrinth of sandstone canyons that are located on the west side of Navajo Mountain.
As you approach the trailhead of Rainbow Bridge, Utah, the roads become progressively more challenging. However, you will eventually reach Cliff Canyon where you will find the Redbud Pass. This climbable rock pile was actually blasted out by John Wetherill in 1922 as a trail improvement. The last part of the trail follows the Bridge Canyon for another three miles. Be warned, the Canyon walls will hide the Rainbow Bridge National Mountain until you are almost there.