Done In a Day: Bridge the Gap

Earth is the first and best architect. See Ma Nature’s oeuvre of natural arches on these dayhikes.

Sipapu Bridge, one of the longest arches in the world, spans Utah’s White Canyon. (Leland Howard)
Sipapu Bridge, one of the longest arches in the world, spans Utah’s White Canyon. (Leland Howard)

(1) Loop Trail, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
Walk by three—yes, three—arches on an 8.6-mile dayhike that passes Ancestral Puebloan ruins. On the Loop Trail, you’ll be privy to front-row views of Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo Bridges. Head out from the Sipapu Bridge trailhead and reach Sipapu Bridge—the longest of the arches at 225 feet—at mile .8. Continue 2 miles to 204-foot-long Kachina Bridge (keep an eye out for Horsecollar Ruin, a well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan structure near mile 1.5). Look for petroglyphs 100 feet south of the bridge on the west side of the canyon. Continue into Armstrong Canyon, home to 180-foot-long Owachomo Bridge (near mile 6.1), likely the park’s oldest at 100,000 years. From here, loop 2.5 miles back to the trailhead. Note: Don’t touch rock art or artifacts. Contact

(2) Auxier Ridge Loop, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky
If more is better, then the Red River Gorge Geological Area is best in class with more than 100 natural arches—the highest concentration east of the Mississippi. We like the 6.1-mile Auxier Ridge Loop, which grants a panorama of the arch-rich gorge en route to a double arch. Take off on Auxier Ridge Trail #204, heading north through rhododendrons (blooming pink in June and July). Reach 90-foot-tall Courthouse Rock at mile 2, and then hike south on Trail #203 to a spur near mile 3.1. Veer north .8 mile to reach Double Arch for a cool perspective of the valley from the two 20-foot-wide windows. Retrace your steps to Trail #203 and continue south on #201 to the trailhead. Contact 

(3) Indian Moccasin/ Whitetail Trails Loop, Natural Bridge State Park, Wisconsin
Nab Wisconsin’s largest natural bridge on this 4-mile loop in one of the states’s least-visited parks. Start from the picnic area, following the Indian Moccasin Trail. Reach 35-foot-long Natural Bridge at mile .6; below the arch, see the Raddatz Rockshelter, the oldest-known site of human habitation in the upper Midwest (12,000 years old). Researchers believe Paleoamericans stayed in the 1,800-square-foot hut while heading north to hunt mastodon and musk oxen. (Don’t touch.) Rare plants like purple cliffbrake sprout from the surrounding walls. Continue to the Whitetail Trail at mile 1.5; take it back to the trailhead.