On May 30, 1910, U.S. President William Howard Taft used presidential proclamation to create Rainbow Bridge National Monument. The monument is now inside GCNRA (1972). Native Americans, who consider Rainbow Bridge a sacred site, have protested against it being a public site. In 1993, after consulting with area tribes, the NPS developed a National Park Service General Management Plan recognizing that Rainbow Bridge is a religious and sacred place and should be protected and visited in a respectful manner.
Located in the rugged, isolated canyons at the foot of Navajo Mountain, Rainbow Bridge has been 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 of the pre- and post-erosion images of the site.
Select menu option Geology for the complete story of the geology of Rainbow Bridge 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 (Navajo Nation permit required; image on the right 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]
Mouse-over the Ranger in the pass (right) for a larger view of the Ranger in the pass. Note that Redbud Pass is no longer passable by horse because of erosion.
Select menu option Hiking for more information from NPS, including links to pdfs with precise trail info and estimated hiking time.
Historic Redbud trail map.
Rainbow Bridge was closed for 15 days in 2013 by a flash flood after heavy rains fell over several days. The damage included a complete loss of approximately 150 feet of trail between the dock and the first shade structure, with a 21 foot drop-off into Bridge Creek, and debris at the mouth of the creek. At the same time, 35 air miles southwest, a flash flood moved huge bolders into and on top of a bridge on Lee's Ferry Road, highlighting the destructive power of flash floods. Photos of Rainbow Bridge and the flood are included in the Photo gallery.
The Map from NPS locates Rainbow Bridge inside GCNRA, Road map covers a wide area around Rainbow Bridge in Utah and Arizona.