Escalante Natural Bridge is an amazing hike near Escalante, Utah. We really enjoyed the adventurous nature of this hike because it requires five shallow river crossings. The hike is perfectly flat (except climbing river banks!) and runs for just over three miles out and back.
- Rating: Easy
- Distance: 3.5 miles
- Elevation Change: minimal
- Fees: None
- Tips: Be prepared for water crossings. Wear appropriate shoes and clothes. If the water is too deep or swift from spring run off, consider hiking this trail another time.
It’s best to be prepared for this hike with water shoes if possible. Your other options are to hike it barefoot, take shoes on and off, or get your shoes wet. We decided to hike barefoot. This was mostly okay as the sand is soft, but there were a few prickly bushes. We ended up with one sliver and a cut that bled a little. For this reason we’d recommend water shoes. The repeated sand and water would ruin decent shoes, and taking them on and off nearly a dozen times doesn’t seem like much fun. Flip Flops might even be an alternative since the trail is so flat and easy.
The trailhead for the Escalante Natural Bridge has a small parking lot about 13 miles from Escalante or if you are coming from the other direction, the parking area is 14.5 miles from Boulder along Highway 12. There is a sign, so it is easy to find. Lower Calf Creek Falls is just a few miles away from this trail.
The first river crossing is within 50 yards of the trailhead. It is also the most difficult crossing, so if you can do this one, you can do the other four easily. When we crossed in early Spring, the water was just below knee deep, but not too swift. The creek is about 20 feet across, and the bottom is smooth, but slippery.
From there the trail turns right along the bank of the river. It is quite a while before you cross the river again, but someone has made a rather distinct false trail. This trail peters out after a few hundred yards, but don’t follow it. Make sure you go down through the river instead. There is a cairn on the far side of the river, so look for that.
From the second crossing, the trail cuts away from the river, which loops back around. It cuts through the sagebrush and shortly comes to a new crossing. There are two other crossings before the bridge comes in sight, tucked back against the wall. It is quite huge, and if you look along the skyline to the right, you can see another sliver of an arch.
When you reach the river for the last (and 5th) time, it looks deep and swift. You don’t need to cross, but despite appearances this crossing is no more difficult than the previous crossings. If you cross, there is a muddy sandbar on the far side. Beyond that, you can walk right under the Escalante Natural Bridge, which is the only way to frame it against the sky. It is really beautiful up close.
Spend a little time at this beautiful bridge and then turn around and make the crossings again. This hike is so fun and unique that we will always remember it. We’d love to do it again! This trail is part of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. For other hikes in this national monument, click here. Or if you like hikes through water, try Kanarraville Falls or Willis Creek.
This Post Has 4 Comments
Your blog is really helpful I love following you. Last weekend we were at Escalante and your post saved me but also confused me lol. I was thinking the trail head to this hike was going to be called escalante natural bridge. So I was looking for the pull out with this name. I found out It is called Escalante river. We stoped there and your picture of the trail head is what saved me lol. I think this should be added to your blog so people dont get confused like me. I’m curious as to what part of utah you live ?
Thanks for your feedback. I’ll make note of the sign in our blog post. We live in Utah County.
Thank you so much for posting this! After reading your post we (my husband and 5 and 7 year old boys) did the hike. We loved it!! The ranger at the visitor centers gave us a tip to skip the first river crossing. This would be good for groups who aren’t really water shoe ready and don’t want to get wet within the first minute of your hike. Because you don’t need to cross for a long while after that. Anyways, if you get back on highway 12 and cross over the bridge (this the river), there is a way to get right on the path, without having to get wet. Thanks again for the recommendation! We did this after doing peek a boo slot canyon.
Thanks for the tip about the first crossing and we are so glad you enjoyed the hike!