Hiking to Rainbow Bridge National Monument - South
Rainbow Lodge 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 Center 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 South (Rainbow Lodge) 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 left and drive 4.6 miles to another fork.
- At the fork, which has a Pinon pine post with IL license plate nailed to it, bear right, drive 0.7 miles to the Navajo Mountain water tank filling area - keep going straight - the track no longer resembles a road and you will need to engage your 4WD. From here it is 1.4 miles to the ruins of the Rainbow Lodge and the Rainbow Bridge Trailhead.
The following information has been compiled from an archival NPS trail guide and hikes completed in October, 2003 and May, 2004. Mileages are from the archival trail guide and are approximate, based upon flat map miles and not trail miles. Hiking times will vary, but the October hike was completed in 7 ½ hours while the May hike was completed in 9 hours. Hiking times from the 9-hour hike are included. It is recommended, however, that this hike be considered an over-night hike.
This trail, beginning at the Rainbow Lodge ruins, is not maintained, and is the steeper, rougher trail of the two. The trail is marked mainly with stone cairns and iron pipe mile-posts. Water is not available for the first 8 miles of this hike. There are route signs at Redbud Canyon and Redbud Pass.
Mileages are Approximate
Mile 0.5: Rainbow Lodge Ruins – trail begins at a rock cairn beyond cabin sites - elevation 6300 feet. Trail follows southwest side of Navajo Mountain – goes into and out of 3 canyons – several side trails, with main trail keeping to the right. No water – pinon, juniper cover.
Mile 2: Horse Canyon, second of three to be crossed
Mile 3: Mile-post. Approximately 45 mins hike further up trail you reach High Camp (no water)
Mile 5: Yabut Pass ("Sunset Pass" inscribed in rock) – spectacular view into Cliff Canyon – 1600 foot drop in first 2 miles
Mile 7: Cliff Canyon – elevation 4800 feet
Mile 8: First Water Campsite – pit toilet and garbage pit are full. Usually water here – some shade, good bedding, no firewood.
Mile 9: You have followed the stream to this junction with Redbud Canyon – Cliff Canyon turns slightly left. Confusing confluence of canyons; if you don’t find the cairns, navigate toward a very large arch-shaped alcove high on a canyon wall ahead. Redbud Pass is marked by a rock cairn on the right and route sign.
Mile 9.4: Redbud Pass blasted by Wetherill/Bernheimer in 1922 and named by them – see inscriptions. Trail improvements by NPS, May 1957.
Mile 10: Redbud Creek comes in from your right, you tend left.
Mile 10.9: Intersection with the North (Navajo Mountain Trading Post) Trail – Bridge Creek, continue downstream. Approximately 20 mins walk in you reach Second Water Campsite (shade, usually water here)
Mile 12.7: You will cross through a gate – please close.
Mile 12.8: Echo Camp – spring at campsite – nearest campsite to Rainbow Bridge National Monument.
Mile 13: Rainbow Bridge – please avoid re-vegetation areas. The trail continues under the bridge to a primitive visitor observation area and shade structure. Park Rangers may be present during the high season to offer assistance and provide information about the area.
Mile 14.3: Rainbow Bridge Docks -- toilets but no running water, accessible by boat or trail only.
Trail Notes compiled by Kirk W. Robinson, Summer 2004