Hiking to Rainbow Bridge National Monument - North
Navajo Mountain Trading Post Trail Overview
Rainbow Bridge National Monument can be reached by way of two hiking trails whose trailheads are located in the vicinity of Navajo Mountain. 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. Portions of both trails are subject to flash flooding during thunderstorms. Neither trail is maintained. Be prepared! Search, rescue and evacuation can be time-consuming and expensive. Neither the National Park Service nor the Navajo Nation is responsible for search and rescue operations that may need to be carried out on this trail system.
Few trail signs exist. The trails are mostly marked with small stone cairns. These can be washed away during flash floods, so carry the appropriate 7.5’ quad maps. Maps can be purchased at the Carl Hayden Visitor or in our online store.
It is important to note that both trails lay almost entirely upon Navajo Tribal Lands. Utmost respect must be paid to homes, hogans, sweat lodges, and archeological sites along the way. It is preferred that vehicles not be left at the trailheads. Do not harass horses or livestock. Practice Leave No Trace backcountry ethics at all times: pack out all trash, build fires in established fire rings only, do not bury human waste near water sources, and most importantly, stay on the established trail.
Before You Begin
- Check weather reports. Do not attempt the hike if rain is in the forecast
- Arrange drop-off and pick-up in advance. If hiking one-way to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, contact the Glen Canyon NRA Concessioner at (928) 645-2433 to arrange boat transportation out.
- Contact Navajo Parks at the LeChee Office at (928) 698-2808 for permits to hike upon Navajo Tribal Lands. Do not attempt the hike without acquiring permits.
- Contact the Navajo Mountain Chapter for current trail conditions.
- Obtain 7.5’ maps. These are available at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, Page, AZ, or by calling 928-608-6068.
- South Trail maps are: Chaiyahi Flat and Rainbow Bridge
- North Trail maps are: Chaiyahi Rim NE, Navajo Begay, and Rainbow Bridge
To reach the North (Navajo Mountain Trading Post) Trailhead from Page, AZ:
- At the intersection of Hwy 98 and Coppermine Rd (Big Lake Trading Post), take Hwy 98 East 51.1 miles to the Inscription House Trading Post turnoff (Indian Rd 16).
- Take Indian Rd 16 25.1 miles on pavement and 5.4 miles on dirt to the Navajo Mountain Trading Post fork - bear right and drive about 8.5 miles past the Navajo Mountain Trading Post.
- Along the main road, it is 3.7 miles past the trading post to a 4-way intersection with several structures including a stone warehouse.
- Go straight through the intersection for 2.8 miles, road forks here.
- Take the straight fork (across earthen dam), road forks again after 0.4 miles.
- Take left fork 1.6 miles until road ends at Cha Canyon.
- Fork right by corral and park at base of cliff. Trailhead (no sign) starts at end of road.
The following information has been compiled from an archival NPS trail guide and a hike completed in January 2004. This is the slightly longer and more scenic of the two trails to Rainbow Bridge. The trail follows the north slope of Navajo Mountain and exhibits extremes in temperature. Water is generally available, but drought can dry these sources. The trail is not marked, and in some places is difficult to follow. The first half of the trail is criss-crossed with various livestock and wildlife trails and paths to summer hogans, and can confuse the unwary hiker – be alert. This is a minimum two day round trip – three days recommended.
Mileages are approximate:
Mile 0: The road to the Trailhead is rough and rocky, high center or 4W drive vehicles are recommended. Know where you are going prior to driving out there.
Trailhead - No water available, good camping areas. Beware – no trailhead sign. Trail enters canyon and continues on the other side. Close gate behind you as you start down Cha Canyon.
Mile 1: Cha Canyon - Creek is usually running.
Mile 3.5: Bald Rock Canyon – Deep, good campsite, water (intermittent as in all following streams). Interesting trail construction. Nice scenic view from the top. Cave on right wall ¼ mile below stream crossing.
Mile 5: Pass an old hogan, go up sandy hill behind small Navajo sweat house. Hill is crisscrossed with many small animal trails. The main trail becomes more apparent on top of hill. As you go down into the canyon, notice the bedrock was notched out like stairs. This was done so that pack mules and horses wouldn’t slip and fall on the slick rock.
Mile 6.5: N’asja Creek – Good campsite, picnic table, water available – You will pass an old sweat lodge ½ mile further, then you’ll see Owl Bridge on your left side.
Do not climb or walk on top of the bridge. Awesome views as you climb out of the canyon. You’ll pass another old hogan on the left on the way to Oak Canyon.
Mile 10: Oak Canyon – Water is available. Poor campsites except further downstream. Take the trail heading up the hill, south, "not downstream". No water available for approx. 3 miles from Oak Canyon.
Mile 11.5: Trail enters Bridge Canyon, via long, narrow, downhill trek. Water & campsites available further down the canyon. Can become VERY HOT with the heat reflecting off canyon walls.
Mile 15: Bridge Creek joins Redbud Creek. This is where the North Trail meets the South Trail. Go to your right, downstream to Rainbow Bridge. Water and campsites are available.
Echo Camp – Nearest campsite to Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Please close the last gate behind you.
Mile 17.5: Rainbow Bridge – Rainbow Bridge is considered sacred to local Indian tribes. The NPS requests that hikers do not walk or sit under the bridge in respect of these beliefs. The trail to the docks, however, continues under the bridge. Please be considerate by staying on trail and avoiding revegetation areas.
Mile 18.8 Rainbow Bridge Docks -- toilets but no running water, accessible by boat or trail only.
Trail Notes compiled by Kirk W. Robinson, Summer 2004