Rainbow Bridge National Monument is a tucked-away natural gem of the Utah desert. It is known for being one of the largest natural bridges in the world, with dimensions reaching 290 feet tall and 270 feet across. There are no roads to access Rainbow Bridge at Lake Powell. Those wishing to capture a glimpse of this hidden gem must either visit by boat or a 32-mile round trip backpacking excursion through remote desert land and permission from the Navajo Nation.
We visited years ago during the summer on a private boat. It was an incredible experience! We share everything you need to know to plan a trip with this guide to visiting Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
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Rainbow Bridge is sacred to five Native American Nations in the Southwest – the Navajo, Hopi, San Juan Southern Paiute, Kaibab Paiute, and White Mesa Ute. When visiting, it is essential to be respectful of the cultural significance Rainbow Bridge has.
In 1910, Rainbow Bridge became a National Monument.
According to the National Park Service, the monument receives around 85,000 visitors a year.
Before the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell) was artificially created, Rainbow Bridge was only accessible via foot traffic.
If there are no roads, how do you get to Rainbow Bridge National Monument?
It is a secret spot at Lake Powell and can only be accessed via a 50-mile boat ride or a 32-mile round-trip hike.
When on the water at Lake Powell, the entrance to the Monument is at buoy 49, the mouth of Forbidding Canyon.
You can get there with your own boat, rent a boat, or take a Lake Powell boat tour to Rainbow Bridge (link to Lake Powell boat tours).
The Wahweap Marina to Rainbow Bridge is 50 miles.
The Bullfrog Marina to Rainbow Bridge is also 50 miles.
From both of these marinas, it will take about 3 to 4 hours with your own boat.
If taking a boat tour, depending on the nature of the tour, it could take anywhere from 4 hours to all day.
If you don’t want to boat in, you can hike in!
There are two trails to hike in from – the Rainbow Bridge North Trail and Rainbow Bridge South Trail.
Backpacking in, these parts of Utah are some of the most remote and least accessible places left in the U.S. To hike in, you’ll want to make sure you are well prepared for the desert backcountry. Hiking to Rainbow Bridge from the backcountry is only recommended for experienced hikers and backpackers. There are no services, included cell phone reception.
The hike is 32 miles (round trip) along a rugged, not maintained trail. The trail is mainly marked with cairns. The National Park Service recommends bringing a map not to get lost.
The best times of year to hike are during the spring and fall, when temperatures are milder.
Do not attempt to hike during the summer months.
Always practice Leave No Trace and respect sacred tribal land.
Backcountry permits are required to do this hike from the Navajo Nation. Permits can be obtained from the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department located in Window Rock, Arizona.
Once you get to Rainbow Bridge, from Lake Powell, there is a courtesy boat dock. Walk around the area and enjoy the views. It is called courtesy because it is not managed or manned by anyone.
Take lots of photos, admire the magnificence of this hidden gem of Lake Powell.
There is a 1-mile trail (depending on water levels) to get to the base of Rainbow Bridge.
The best times of the year to visit Rainbow Bridge are March through November.
If you are boating there, it will pair well with lake activities during warmer months. Daily temperatures during the summer are easily 100-degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are hiking in from the North or South backcountry trails, it is recommended to hike during the spring (April-early Jun) and fall (September-October) only. The summers are scorching in Utah.
Be sure to plan. There are no services at Rainbow Bridge National Monument and there is not a Visitor Center.
Toilets are available near the boating dock.
The nearest services are located at Dangling Rope Marina. Dangling Rope is located 10 miles from the monument via boat. Dangling Rope has gasoline, some supplies, and emergency services.
Boating to this area of Lake Powell is highly remote, and there is practically no cell phone reception. Be sure you practice boating safety.
You’ll also want to bring sunscreen, shade, sun-protective clothing, shoes you can walk to the bridge in, and all of your food and water.
We hope this guide to visiting Rainbow Bridge National Monument helps you plan a memorable trip. It truly is one of the best places to visit on Lake Powell.
Thanks for reading.
Ashlee & Pablo
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Are you visiting the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area – Lake Powell this summer?
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When are you planning on visiting Rainbow Bridge National Monument? We’d love to hear from you!