Friday, August 5, 2011

Road Trip Report 4: Bluff Fort and Natural Bridges National Monument

Bluff Fort: The only original cabin still standing sits on local
sandstone slabs to keep the wood from rotting. And keep
in mind: no chain saw to cut down those cotton wood
trees to get the logs!
The nice thing about a road trip is that you do stumble across interesting things you didn't expect, didn't know about, weren't even looking for. Like Bluff Fort in Bluff, Utah. We'd checked into our hotel, the Desert Rose Inn, magically situated among the red rocks of southeastern Utah, and were driving down the road trying to decide where to eat when we dropped into the visitor center to get info on local hiking trails. We ended up touring Bluff Fort and learning about the Mormon pioneers who trekked to this remote area in 1880 to settle and establish friendly relations with the local Indians. We were amazed that nowadays this town didn't sport a McDonald's or a chain store, just small local businesses, but how about arriving here in 1880, after a six month trek through the canyonlands, having to build an abode for shelter as winter was setting in? To say nothing of the fact that there were no supply routes in any direction? Just whatever you brought with you and what you might be able to grow? I am in awe, is all I can say.

We couldn't hike the one trail in the Bluff area I found intriguing because the hanging bridge across the San Juan River had been torn away during one of the river's spring floods so we headed north to Natural Bridges National Monument. What a fortuitous choice! The drive there through the red canyonlands was beautiful, and the monument uncrowded and pristine. A friendly park ranger even advised us to buy the $80 annual national parks pass and saved us a ton of $$. Thank you, ranger!

We hiked the Sipapu Bridge Trail to view the first of the three natural bridges in the park from the bottom. The trail is "only" 0.6 miles but with an elevation change of 500 feet rather strenuous, and the 45 minutes it supposedly takes are a grave underestimation, especially if you're hiking in the summer, and it gets progressively hotter as you go lower. Nevertheless the challenge of this trail was great fun, as you can see from this picture - several ladders were involved as well as rock faces where you weren't quite sure where to put your boot.
The view from below was worth it, particularly because we had the little oasis down there to ourselves. We were the only hikers who made it all the way, and my kids now complain when we end up on a trail that "everybody and their mother" is on. So I am on the lookout for remote yet well established hikes. Stay tuned.


  1. Oh my, your pictures are beauthiful. I want to go.

  2. I love roadtrips, Annette. Even the vicarious kind. Natural Bridges is someplace I still want to hike. We just don't get west often enough. Reading your post was a bit of deja vu because I just posted about my hike this week

    'Tis the season, I guess.

  3. Shelly - you should go!

    Julie - you'll just have to head out west on your next trip! Loved your post about walking!