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Rainbow Bridge Professional Review and Guide
"Rainbow Bridge is the world’s largest natural bridge, and one of the most graceful—a frozen rainbow of stone. Although most people now reach the bridge by boat on Lake Powell, the hike around Navajo Mountain is scenic enough in its own right—the bridge is frosting on the cake.
The Rainbow Bridge Trail, though originally constructed for pack stock, is no longer maintained. Until you reach the bridge and the lake, you are in a very remote corner of the Navajo Reservation. All but experienced desert hikers should avoid this route from mid May through mid September, because of temperatures that reach 100°F. Lake Powell is the only dependable water source during the summer months."
--Bruce Grubbs, Backpacking Arizona: From Deep Canyons to Sky Islands (3rd printing) (Wilderness Press).
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The road to Navajo Mountain has been paved all the way to the turn off to the trailhead, so the directions in all guide books are out of date. After about 29 miles look for a dirt road heading east - if you go in the near future there is a group of road construction vehicles to the left. There is also a white and blue sign.
Once you are on this road look for the sandstone mound - Haystack Rock.
The trail begins at the ruins of Rainbow Lodge, if you have a 4-wheel drive, or at the parking area by the well. The trail is difficult to follow at times - look for cairns. I would describe the trail conditions as difficult due to the loose rock everywhere. However, since the trail does receive moderate use, there are usually foot prints and a worn path in places.
The route is also difficult (unless you are a desert rat). This is not a hike for beginners. Up and down 4 canyons, up to a rocky pass and down 1700 ft in 1.25 miles on loose rock just to get to Cliff Canyon (6 miles). There is water at the bottom of Cliff Canyon but none before. In Cliff Canyon, keep walking down canyon until you see a large alcove/arch set onto a rock on the left side. There is also a sign that points to Redbud Pass. From here it is straight forward but about 5 miles through canyon bottoms to Rainbow Bridge. Campsites everywhere.
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