JOE’S GUIDE TO ZION NATIONAL PARKCitrusMilo.com
BRIDGE MOUNTAIN ARCH (Crawford Arch via Gifford Canyon)

Route Description Photos 1 2 3 4

Bridge Mountain Arch routeOverview:
The Bridge Mountain Arch is a fascinating, yet relatively unknown landmark, easily viewable from the Zion Museum in the main canyon. With the aid of the plaque outside the museum, look up to find the tall and thin freestanding arch high on the west side of Bridge Mountain (aka Crawford Mountain). The hike to the Bridge Mountain Arch is a long, strenuous seldom-done route that starts in the upper East Canyon. From the Canyon Overlook parking lot, the route goes up Gifford Canyon, climbs out the west side, then descends an east/west canyon down into Hepworth Wash. The route then leaves Hepworth Wash and heads northwest through a couloir to a climbing and scrambling section that takes you up and around to a view above the main canyon right by the arch.

Warning!
Before you attempt this hike, know what you are getting yourself in to. Although the round trip is less than 8 miles on a map, this is a long and strenuous hike with constant elevation changes and sections of rock scrambling. Allow approximately 10-14 hours for the entire hike. A map, GPS, and compass are essential to help with navigation. If you don't have any climbing or slickrock-scrambling experience, many sections of this hike (especially past the couloir saddle) could be terrifying and/or dangerous.  A 150' rope, harness, and webbing are recommended for the one technical climb at the chimney. Bring a lot of water and high-energy food and don't let yourself get stuck on the mountain after dark.

Detailed Description:
Please see the map below to reference the numbered points.

Bridge Mountain Arch Route Map Bridge Mountain Arch via Gifford Canyon.
Note: While viewing the map, click on the map
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  1. Bridge Mountain Arch routeThe hike starts at the Canyon Overlook parking lot. Scramble down the steep, sandy hill down into Pine/Cleer Creek. A little bit left (east) of the dry fall at the mouth of Gifford Canyon is a not-too-difficult scramble up and around in the wash just above the top of the dry fall. Hike up the pleasant Gifford Canyon for about half a mile, keeping an eye on the right (west) side of the canyon.
  2. Now the fun begins! It's time to scramble up the slickrock, heading roughly southwest to a large bowl above Gifford Canyon. You may see a few cairns here and there, but there is no one correct route; just find the path of least resistance. (Familiarity with slickrock scrambling can really help here. You should never hit any extremely dangerous or exposed section here.) Once you make your way up into the "bowl," the route becomes a bit more obvious; hike up and out the west side to a high sandy area with several trees.
  3. From the sandflat, hike east to get a good view of the east/west canyon. We will descend this canyon, but because of an impassible dry fall, we need to take a slight detour to get around it. Head roughly northwest, scrambling up a few more difficult rock formations. (So why are we going up if this section is supposed to be downhill?) Once at point 4, you will see a clear route south into the east/west canyon.
  4. Bridge Mountain Arch routeDescend south into the east/west canyon, scrambling down a few intimidating rock formations. Again, nothing should be too tall or exposed. Once you make it down to the canyon floor, things are a lot more level and easy. Head out to join up with Hepworth Wash proper.
  5. Now for the easiest part of the hike -- the pleasant stroll down Hepworth Wash! Hepworth Wash looks similar to Gifford Canyon; a beautiful open canyon with many trees, ferns, and grass.
  6. Roughly half a mile down Hepworth Wash, it's time to work again. Leave the wash and head northwest, looking for the couloir (lowpoint) between Bridge Mountain and the little mountain to the right of it. The uphill slog here actually isn't too bad. Once you make it to the couloir saddle, you'll see that we're starting to get a view of the main canyon.
  7. From the top of the saddle, you might look at the map and think "hey, we're almost there!" But take a deep breath; we're at the most strenuous part of the hike. Hike down the north side of the couloir; things are very sandy and loose here and several rock obstacles are awkwardly tall. (The sand is much more "fun" on the uphill return hike.) Bridge Mountain Arch route We do get a great view out to the main canyon in this section. As you start hugging the left wall and turning west, there is an exposed slab of rock that you must cross that could be dangerous if moist or slippery. Webbing or partner assists might help. Hike around and you find yourself at the base of the legendary chimney obstacle.
  8. The chimney obstacle is roughly a 40-foot climb. Although it probably isn't too difficult by technical climbing standards, it can be intimidating and a fall could have serious consequences. The best climber in the party should lead the way and then belay the rest of the party. Once you get up the lower part of the chimney, you can either move into the crack behind it and crawl up and out the ceiling or walk out on a more exposed shelf just above the start of the climb. A tree by the shelf functions as a good rappel anchor for the return trip. Past the chimney, work your way up some more shelf systems and rock obstacles (probably the most exposed and intimidating) until you make it to a beautiful sandy area between Bridge Mountain and the little mountain to the north.
  9. The final stretch is fairly easy; hike roughly southwest along the side of the mountain to make it to the arch. Without too much difficulty, you can also scramble up to the top of it. Return the way you came!

To Backpack or To Dayhike?
The Bridge Mountain route is probably more often done as a really long day hike, but if you want the chance to thoroughly explore the area, you might want to consider doing this as a backpacking trip. With all of the rock-scrambling, however, this route could be quite miserable with a big heavy backpack and two days won't buy you much more time to explore. A 3-day trip would be a much better option. There aren't too many reliable water sources in the area, so you will probably want to pack and cache all of your water. Note: A permit is not required for the day hike, but you do need a permit for any overnight trip in this area.

Other Options/Variations:
Bridge Mountain Arch route If the technical climb or the final exposed sections sound a bit intimidating, who says you have to hike all of the way to the arch? Alternatively, you could hike the route to Hepworth Wash all the way to its mouth for a beautiful view down into lower Pine Creek and the main canyon. Or an even easier variation: Simply hike up out of Gifford Canyon and explore the sandflats area. These shorter variations still take you through some marvelous scenery.

Joe's Spin:
This is an amazing hike with amazing views, but you really work hard for the beauty -- this is NOT a hike for the entire family! The point of this hike isn't just to get to the arch, it's really just a great excuse to explore some amazing and secluded slickrock territory. Note: For the "classic" description of this hike, see the old Brereton and Dunaway book "Exploring the Backcountry of Zion National Park."

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