Hiking is the number-one activity here. From the trail heads, you can hike separately to each of the bridges, or start at one and do a loop hike to all three. Be prepared for summer afternoon thunderstorms that can cause flash flooding. Although the possibility of encountering a rattlesnake is very small, you should still watch carefully. During the hot summers, all hikers should wear hats and other protective clothing, use sunscreen, and carry a gallon of water per person for all but the shortest walks.
The easiest hike -- more of a walk -- leads to Owachomo Bridge (.4 mile round-trip), with an elevation gain of 180 feet. Look toward the eastern horizon to see the twin buttes named Bear's Ears. Allow a half-hour.
The Sipapu and Kachina Bridge trails are both considered moderately strenuous -- allocate about 1 hour for each. The trek to Sipapu Bridge has a 500-foot elevation change, climbing two flights of stairs with three ladders and handrails on a 1.2-mile round-trip trail. This is the steepest trail in the park, and it ends with a splendid view of the bridge about halfway down. The hike takes about 1 hour.
The 1.5-mile round-trip hike to massive Kachina Bridge has a 400-foot elevation change, descending steep slickrock with handrails. Under the bridge is a pile of rocks that fell in June 1992, slightly enlarging the bridge opening. Allow about 1 hour.
Those planning to hike the loop to all three bridges can start at any of the trail heads, although rangers recommend starting at Owachomo. The round-trip, including your walk back across the mesa, is about 9 miles. Although the trails from the rim to the canyon bottom can be steep, the walk along the bottom is easy.
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