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.
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.
|Rating:||Strenuous remote day hike and rock-scrambling|
|Access:||Canyon Overlook Trailhead/parking lot (just to the east of the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel on Route 9)|
|Time Required:||10-14 hours|
|Length:||8 miles round-trip|
|Elevation Change:||1000-ft ascent out of Gifford Canyon, 700-ft descent into Hepworth Wash, 600-ft ascent to Bridge Mountain Arch.|
|Technical Challenges:||Numerous downclimbing/scrambling/climbing obstacles, route finding in steep and remote territory, the one exposed climb in the chimney with a recommended rappel back down.|
|Equipment Needed:||150' rope, webbing and quicklink, GPS, map, headlamp.|
|Permit Required?||Only if done as a multi-day hike.|
|Seasons:||Spring through fall, although summer can be very hot.|
Please see the map below to reference the numbered points.
|Bridge Mountain Arch via Gifford Canyon.
Note: While viewing the map, click on the map to return to this page.
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 Zion wilderness permit for any overnight trip in this area.
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.
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."