High Desert Sampler
Offering everything from dayhiking, swimming, and scrambling to multiday backpacking, Cha is a multisport wonderland. There’s the quarter-mile of resurfaced canyon where you’ll cross beds of red clay that mark the Chinle Formation. Farther up, you may spot petroglyphs on boulders of Wingate Sandstone that have tumbled from the cliffs; if you’re lucky, you’ll see wild horses. In the narrows, the canyon gets even more spectacular, with overhanging waterfalls and pools that reflect the rock’s almost-artificial colors.
Cha’s most tantalizing option, though, may be the access it provides to 10,388-foot Navajo Mountain. Six miles from the lake, past giant boulders you must climb over and around, is a junction with the North Rainbow Bridge Trail, which begins a 3- to 4-day circumnavigation of the sacred peak (call 928-871-6647 for the required permit). Hiking across slickrock at roughly 5,000 feet, you’ll pass great fins of sandstone and the heads of at least five major canyons before coming to Rainbow Bridge.
The Way Cha is 11 miles up the San Juan from Lake Powell. From your boat, head up the wash, taking the west fork in 1 mile. After 5 miles of fun canyon scrambling, take a path on the west side of the creek to North Rainbow Bridge Trail.