Stretching across the bright blue sky, Rainbow Bridge National Monument is one of the largest natural bridges in the world! Located on the shores of Lake Powell, Rainbow Bridge is an excellent day trip from Page, Arizona.
We spent a day in a rented speedboat cruising the sandstone rimmed waters of Lake Powell, visiting Rainbow Bridge National Monument, tubing, and gorging on ice cream.
Arching 290 feet into the air and stretching 275 across, Rainbow Bridge is almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty and as wide as the wingspan of a Boeing 747. According to Natural Arch and Bridge Society, Rainbow Bridge measures in at #11 in the world.
But what is a natural bridge? Natural bridges are the rarer cousin to sandstone arches. Bridges form when a waterway like a stream or a river breaks through rock. Water flowing from Navajo Mountain to the Colorado River eroded Rainbow Bridge.
It’s hard to imagine now, but back before Glen Canyon Dam formed Lake Powell, Rainbow Bridge was seriously remote. Intrepid visitors like Teddy Roosevelt rafted several days on the Colorado River and then hiked 7 miles up the canyon. Makes a full-day trip seem easy!
Getting to Rainbow Bridge National Monument
You can get to Rainbow Bridge either by boat (recommended) or by a 16-18 mile backcountry hike (not recommended). Plan on taking a full day by boat or at least two days on foot.
At Rainbow Bridge, there are restrooms on the courtesy dock. There are NO restrooms at the actual bridge.
By Boat Tour
The easiest way to get to Rainbow Bridge is via boat tour. Easy, but time-consuming. Plan on 8+ hours for the boat tour, most of that on the boat.
We haven’t done the boat tour so can’t offer any personal advice. Based on reviews, I would bring snacks and maybe lunch. Only drinks are available onboard.
I would also bring coloring sheets or small games for kids. The scenery is beautiful, but that’s a lot of hours looking at the scenery.
Another option is to rent a powerboat. I resisted the idea at first because it’s expensive. Once I calculated the cost of four boat tour tickets, I realized it wasn’t all that much more money. Plus, it gave us the flexibility to enjoy Lake Powell and Rainbow Bridge on our own schedule. Splurge on!
From Antelope Point or Wahweap, the turn for Rainbow Bridge (buoy 49) is about 50 miles. Then 2 miles along the canyon before your reach the courtesy dock. The 2 miles through the canyon takes a while because it’s a no-wake zone.
We used the map provided by the marina and found the route easy to follow. Floating toilets are available along the route. Not often that you get to use one of those!
On the way back, you will want to stop at Dangling Rope Marina. You can refuel your boat and yourself. Ice cream never tasted so good!
If you missed a ranger at Rainbow Bridge, Dangling Rope Marina is another chance to turn in your completed Junior Ranger book.
We like to hike, but the hike to Rainbow Bridge is out of our league. This is a long, arduous hike on unmarked trails. The summer heat is searing and the trail is prone to flash floods.
You can read more about the hiking options on the NPS website.
Viewing Rainbow Bridge
From the courtesy dock, you hike a relatively flat trail to Rainbow Bridge. The exact trail length varies depending on water level, but plan on about 1-mile (1.6 km) each way.
The trail is hot and exposed! Wear sunscreen and a hat and bring lots of water. The trail may be short, but the air is dry, dusty, and hot.
Remember to stay on the trail and practice Leave No Trace principles. Let’s protect the fragile desert landscape. Additionally, Navajo, Hopi, San Juan Southern Paiute, Kaibab Paiute, and White Mesa Ute all consider the land sacred.
A shade structure welcomes you to the first viewpoint. At the second viewpoint, closer to the bridge, see if you can spot the single dinosaur footprint. You can also take a trail around the bridge for a different perspective.
Rainbow Bridge NM Junior Ranger Program
Rainbow Bridge National Monument has a Junior Ranger badge separate from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Confusingly, there are two versions of the book. One version is part of the Glen Canyon NRA book. This is the version you will find at a visitor center. The other is specific to Rainbow Bridge NM. Rangers accept either version. Kids can easily complete the activities during their visit.
Tip! Try to pick up or print one of the booklets before your trip. Bring a pencil too. Finding a ranger at Rainbow Bridge can be hit and miss.
If you can’t find a ranger to review your finished book and administer the Junior Ranger oath, try again at Dangling Rope Marina.
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