Located in the rugged, isolated canyons at the feet of Navajo Mountain, Rainbow Bridge was known for centuries by the Native Americans who have long held the bridge sacred.
Ancient Pueblo Peoples were followed much later by Paiute and Navajo groups who named the bridge Nonnezoshe or 'rainbow turned to stone.' [Wikipedia]
A Rainbow Made of Stone: Initially, water flowing off nearby Navajo Mountain meandered across the sandstone, following a path of least resistance.
A drainage known today as Bridge Canyon was carved deep into the rock.
At the site of Rainbow Bridge, the Bridge Canyon stream flowed in a tight curve around a thin fin of soft sandstone that jutted into the canyon.
The force of the stream eventually cut a hole through the fin.
Rainbow Bridge was created when the stream altered course and flowed directly through the opening, enlarging it. [NPS]
Mouse-over the image on the right for a larger view.
Select menu option Geology for the complete story of Rainbow Bridge geology at NPS.
There are only two routes to Rainbow Bridge: by boat from Lake Powell (photo in the gallery), and by one of two trails in a rugged, difficult, multi-day hike through Navajo Nation (image on the left is a ranger in Rebud Pass on the trail).
The two trails are located on Navajo Tribal Lands and terminate at Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
The trails traverse rough canyon country and are not recommended for the beginning, casual or careless hiker. In summer, the trails are hot and dry; in winter, elevations make them subject to severe cold and high winds. [NPS]
Select menu option Hiking for more information from NPS. Mouse-over the Ranger in the pass (on the right) for a larger view of the Ranger in the pass.
The gallery includes pre-drought photos showing water in Bridge Creek when Lake Powell is at normal levels, an historic black and white photo with people on top showing how huge this rock is, photos from a Glen Canyon National Recreation Area photo contest, and photos of a flash flood that closed Rainbow Bridge for fifteen days in September, 2013. View Photos is an auto-show of the photos. The Map locates Rainbow Bridge inside Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.