By: Barbara Lilley
On Thanksgiving weekend 1971, the long drive and hike down to Rainbow Bridge from the Navaho Reservation was made by Ed Tracey and five others. Thursday afternoon they packed the 8 miles down to the first water in Cliff Canyon, arriving just before dark. Friday they hiked the remaining 5 miles to Rainbow Bridge and climbed it (impressing tourists who had arrived by boat), returning to their camp in Cliff Canyon for the night. Saturday morning they packed out, arriving at the car in a snowstorm (weather had been good the first two days). For others interested in making this well worthwhile trip, the following information is offered to supplement the Vitz/Haven reports.
As only the last one and a half miles of the road to abandoned Rainbow Lodge are in bad shape (and deteriorating more each year), it is really not worth risking damage to your car to attempt to drive this portion in other than a 4-wheel drive vehicle. (Fortunately, Ed has one!) The obvious stopping point is by a well where there is lots of parking room. The start of the trail is not obvious; being unable to find it cost us about an hour's time. From the end of the jeep portion of the road, where there is a single building, go uphill about 200 feet to where the ruins of more buildings are located. As you pass the first of the foundations, bear to the left, watching for ducks by the foundations, with the last obvious duck located under a tree. From this point head west, at right angles to the gradient of the slope, and in about 100 feet you should encounter a post and a huge pile of rocks. From there the trail is no problem.
To climb Rainbow Bridge, a rope is required. The trail passes under the Bridge; continue downstream about 300 yards to a point, where several benches and a map of the Bridge are located. Cross the stream here and climb about 150 feet up a steep fan (lots of foot trails lead here) to a sloping rock slab leading diagonally up and left. Ascend this slab to where some good footholds have been cut in the rock and climb up to the plateau. Follow this plateau upstream (lots of ducks) to where the plateau overlooks the Bridge. There is an eye-bolt in the rock to which a fixed rope can be tied for the 60 foot descent on small hand and foot holds to the Bridge itself.
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