January, 2016 – I’ve seen many natural bridges in my RV travels, but I never miss a chance to see them since they always delight me. Especially since this was an easy access one (1/2 mile hike), I wasn’t about to miss it while visiting Death Valley National Park!
This is the dirt road after turning off of Badwater Road. It’s about 1.5 miles and was in decent shape. And just heading toward those gorgeous mountains makes it worthwhile.
There were some wildflowers poking up that day, but not as profuse as they got later (see Desert in Bloom for one of my favorite days here).
Start of trail from the information board. It whet my appetite with the promise, “Many faults of varying size are exposed within the walls of Natural Bridge Canyon, recording the events which formed Death Valley during the past several million years.”
And it’s not like you get bored along the way because the scenery is always incredible. There is a slight incline, but not very strenuous.
Getting closer, the promise grows sweeter…but I also was reminded of what I read at the trailhead and tried to imagine the flooding that does happen here:
“Canyon and Bridge Formation: In spite of Death Valley’s arid climate, infrequent storms have produced erosive flash flooding. Over the course of thousands of years, these floods have carved canyons and produced features such as Natural Bridge. It is hard to imagine flood-borne torrents, each lasting only a few hours or days, periodically scouring a channel through the rock of this ancient alluvial fan. Meanwhile up canyon, the Natural Bridge was also being sculpted by the erosive force of water.”
When I first caught a glimpse of it, I was glad some people were there to give an idea of how massive this canyon is as you go under this perfectly beautiful natural phenomena.
Almost there and I could already tell I wanted to go at least a little farther after passing through.
I was glad I did because look what I found. I had read this was called a chute, but it felt holy to me, like a cathedral.
From the info sign: “Waterfalls? As you walk up the canyon, you may notice smoothly rounded vertical chutes in the rock walls. Thousands of years ago, prior to extensive deepening of Natural Bridge Canyon, smaller “tributary” streams flowed into the main channel that has carved the canyon. As time passed, the greater erosive force of flashfloods in the larger channel caused it to deepen more rapidly than smaller tributaries.”
Starting to head back, you get a glimpse of the mountains across Badwater Road.
On the road back, I got a hint of what a desert mirage looked like. At first I thought this was water since it was all shimmery and I wondered where it came from because I didn’t notice it on the way up. It’s actually salt flats like I saw up the road at Badwater Basin. Weird feeling!
All Malia’s Miles Death Valley pages:
Hikespeak: The 2-mile round trip hike up Natural Bridge Canyon is a great trek for those interested in learning about the geological history of Death Valley National Park. Also, the natural bridge is just cool to walk under.
Hiking Death Valley (NPS) – Uphill walk through narrow canyon. Large natural bridge at 1/2 mile.
Bird and Hike.com – has pictures past the point I went.