Navajo Guides, Pack Horses, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Lake Powell.
Hike and camp with horse pack support on the traditional pilgrimage route on the north side of Navajo Mountain to Rainbow Bridge. This trip starts in Bluff, Utah with motel orientation at 7:30 p.m. Our first day finds us on a half day hike at Navajo Mountain to the old Rainbow Lodge site and then camping at the guest Hogan of the Rose Atene family. The next four nights we spend out on the trail and take a boat ride out the last day to Hall’s Crossing with return transportation to Bluff, Utah. There is an option to start/end in Moab traveling with CFI staff. A rare cultural experience you won’t want to miss!
Rainbow Natural Bridge is the Earth’s largest and most beautiful natural bridge. Set amid some of the planet’s most rugged and spectacular canyon country on the Utah/Arizona border, this area long remained isolated from the world. Even the Navajo did not know of the great span until the mid-19th century. When they stumbled upon it, they interpreted its symmetrical curve as symbolic of the rainbow and deemed it a sacred place, associated with life-giving rain and rain-making rituals. Only in 1909 did the “official” discovery by literate Anglo-Americans take place and even then, expedition members could not agree on exactly who was the first to discover what, a controversy that continues to the present day.
We will begin in the evening with a hotel stay and orientation in Bluff, Utah. The following morning we’ll travel by van to Navajo Mountain, explore the old Rainbow Lodge site and meet our Navajo guides later in the evening and camp near their home in a guest hogan, a traditional log and earth dwelling. The next morning we begin our hike down the “Wetherill Trail” named for trader and guide, John Wetherhill who guided notaries such as Teddy Roosevelt and Zane Grey in the early part of the 20th century. Later it was improved by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s but has had little upkeep since.
Total hiking distance on the Rainbow Trail is approximately 14 miles to Rainbow Bridge and Lake Powell. We take a slow pace due to trail challenges and to have time to see some cultural sites and take in the stunning beauty of this place. Our route is very rocky in spots with light stream crossings.
The hike is moderate to strenuous in nature, covering 3-4 miles per day with elevation drop and gains of about 500 feet. There will be time for additional side hikes from camp for those who wish.
Hikers carry day packs with most of their clothing, drinking water and lunch for the day. The pack string travels separately and carries our sleeping and other personal gear, food and kitchen. Camp life is filled with stories of Navajo culture, geology and history by CFI staff and time for personal reflection.
The hike ends at Lake Powell, and on the last day board a boat and travel to Hall’s Crossing. There we are met by a van and return to Bluff by 4:00 p.m. or to Moab by 7 p.m.
This is a very authentic cultural and hiking experience for lovers of the Colorado Plateau and one of CFI’s premier trips over twenty years. Heavy rains had washed out sections making it hard for our trips; AmeriCorps trail work in recent years thanks to financial help from previous trip participants, is allowing us to open up this trip with the Atene family once again.
“This remains perhaps the most remote and little known region in the conterminous United States today.” Dr. Don L. Baars, geologist, in Navajo Country: A Geologic and Natural History of the Four Corners Region.