Navajo Guides, Pack Horses, Hike through a Bridge, and Boat Out
Hike and camp with horse pack support on the traditional pilgrimage route to Rainbow Bridge, the earths largest natural bridge, and sacred place to the Navajo culture. Trip starts in Bluff, Utah with motel orientation, day hiking at Navajo Mountain and one night in a Navajo hogan as guests of our guide Eric Atene and family. Three nights on the trail, and boat ride out the last day! 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, the bridge 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. Very few visitors make this traditional pilgrimage from the north side of Navajo Mountain along the Rainbow Trail. Many of the sites held sacred by the Navajo in these remote corners of Utah and Arizona have been violated by modern developments. Few of the old people remain who know the sacred stories and rituals.
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 Rainbow Trail. Total hiking distance on the Rainbow Trail is approximately 16 miles from the trail head to Rainbow Bridge and Lake Powell. Our route is rocky in spots with light stream crossings. The hike is moderate to strenuous in nature, covering 4-6 miles per day with elevation drop and gains of about 500 feet. We will cross several lovely stream canyons coming off the mountain.
Hikers carry only light packs with most clothing and lunch for the day. Eric’s pack horses travel separately and carry our sleeping and other personal gear, food and kitchen. Camp life is filled with stories of Navajo culture, instruction by CFI staff and time for personal reflection.
On the Rainbow Trail we’ll encounter an abundance of wildflowers and striking views of sandstone fins, domes and this remote canyon wonderland to the north, as we hike along the ramparts of Navajo Mountain, sacred to the Dine (Navajo) people. 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.
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 last fall sponsored in part by previous CFI participants is allowing us to open up this trip with Eric and family once again.
The route is known since the Anglo discovery of Rainbow Bridge in 1909 as the “Wetherhill” trail. John Wetherhill guided notaries such as Teddy Roosevelt and Zane Grey. Later it was improved by the Civilian Conservation Corpts in the 1930’s but has had little upkeep since.