If you have read articles or watched Youtube videos on trips to Rainbow Bridge by boat, chances are they are based on the period before Lake Powell’s water levels really declined. This trip occurred in March 2022 so you should be reading fairly recent info based on my publishing date. I hope to upload the YouTube video on this recent experience soon!
We wanted to see Rainbow Bridge by boat from Lake Powell. It happened to be at one of its lowest levels: 3523.53 feet since it started decreasing back in 2001. Its normal capacity is 3700 feet.
How to see Rainbow Bridge by Boat from Page, Arizona
We had to dock the boat on the shoreline and hike through some interesting terrain about three miles to the boat dock at the monument. This blog will tell you how to visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument at Lake Powell and what to expect for your boating trip. I will share our journey which started at Wahweap Marina in Page, Arizona.
This was Day One of my first time visiting Lake Powell and Utah itself. Be sure to keep reading for the tips and resources.
Where is Rainbow Bridge National Monument on Lake Powell?
Rainbow Bridge was established as a national monument in 1910 and is located in Forbidding Canyon, in Utah. This beautiful arch spans 275 feet with a height of 246 ft, standing as the tallest natural bridge in North America and the second tallest in the world after the Xianren Bridge (aka Fairy Bridge) in China. It is located between the 49 and 50-mile marker on Lake Powell. If you are arriving from Wahweap Marina, it will be on your right. Directional signs will lead you to the monument; in our case, to the muddy shoreline a few miles out. We traveled with a friend, Captain Scott, an experienced Captain who has lived in Page, Arizona most of his life. The last time he had been to Rainbow Bridge was almost a year ago.
4 Reasons Why You Should See Rainbow Bridge by Boat.
You can visit this beauty by land but this is a 30-32 mile round trip hike and you will need to plan for a couple of overnights along the way. Plus, you will need to purchase a pass from Navajo Nation. I haven’t hiked it but I understand this is not a hike for beginners.
As you may have guessed by now: There are no roads to Rainbow Bridge.
Reason #1: A boating round trip can be done in one day.
Reason #2: The second reason to see Rainbow Bridge by boat is that, aside from your boat rental and gas, getting to Rainbow Bridge is free. There is no admission and no permit needed to dock your boat there.
Reason #3: The lower water levels revealed incredible canyon walls and artifacts from activities going back several decades. We also spotted shipwrecks, oars and a Pepsi cola can from the ’70s.
Reason #4: Your sanity. Being on or near water is therapeutic and good for stress.
We didn’t even know if we were going to be able to see Rainbow Bridge until we got there. We had to safely get off the boat without sinking in the muddy quicksand. Keep reading! Fortunately, we made it work, but if you stop and turn around, you will at least come away with beautiful lake memories!
If you are looking for a relaxing experience, depending on when you go, the stillness and beautiful colors of the lake will make this a trip you will never forget. Past Antelope Canyon Marina, you may get the entire lake and Rainbow Bridge to yourselves as we did!
Should You Visit Rainbow Bridge During This Period of Low Water Levels at Lake Powell?
It depends on how adventurous you are. I’m not a huge risk taker and I have a fear of drowning. I went in half-blind, not fully prepared for this trip since I agreed to go last minute. But knowing we had an experienced captain taking us, put me more at ease. Looking back now, I am so glad I did.
Sometimes ignorance frees you up to enjoy the journey.
At the time we were there and while I write this, boat tours to Rainbow Bridge were and still are, canceled. As of July 30, 2022, the water level was down 17.68 feet from one year prior. (Source: Lake Powell Water Database) I recommend renting a speed boat but if you are not an experienced boater, hire a charter with a captain.
Note: There was no gas fills en route to Forbidding Canyon so you need a boat with at least a 50-gallon tank to make the round trip from Wahweap Marina. The boat we took had a 60-gallon tank so we were good.
The National Parks Services website will give you updates. In March 2022 (and at the time I am writing this), due to low water levels of Lake Powell, they warned: “No dock access to the shoreline of Rainbow Bridge. Boats and small vessels beach at your own risk”.
Well, we did but we went with an experienced captain, prepared with safety precautions. You can check status updates on Rainbow Bridge and the boat launches at the marinas here: https://www.nps.gov/rabr/planyourvisit/index.htm
The Wahweap main boat launch was closed so we had to use the Auxiliary Launch Ramp.
Keep reading for tips and recommended supplies to prepare for your boat trip and hike to Rainbow Bridge.
How to See Rainbow Bridge by Boat from Wahweap Marina, Arizona.
Ok now that you read this far, you may agree that boating your way to Rainbow Bridge is a good choice. You can approach Forbidding Canyon from the north (Bullfrog Marina) or from the south (Wahweap Marina in Page, Arizona), as we did.
This is how to see Rainbow Bridge by boat from Wahweap Marina. It is a 50-mile journey along the shorelines. We left the Auxiliary State Line Launch Ramp at 7 am (when it was really chilly) and returned at 5:30 pm (when the sun just finished beating down on us). It took about 3-4 hours to get there, including stops for photo ops and bathroom breaks at Antelope Canyon Marina and a few floating toilets (they were surprisingly clean). We spent about 3 hours hiking in, enjoying the monument, and hustling back to the boat before the afternoon winds kicked up. We returned to Wahweap around 5:30 pm, hungry, and tired, some of us sunburned but exhilarated from the day’s experience.
Prepare for a long day if you want to soak in the sights of Rainbow Bridge and the incredible canyon views from the water.
How Long is the Hike to Rainbow Bridge from the Boat Dock?
At the end of March 2022, we had to dock the boat at the shoreline- 2.5 to 3 miles from the monument, due to decreasing water levels.
Things to Know About Hiking to Rainbow Bridge from the Shoreline- Our Adventure Began Here.
If you want to see Rainbow Bridge by Boat, kick off your sandals and put on your water-resistant shoes when you dock at the shoreline. Make sure you check to see how far your feet or legs will sink into the mud to determine if this journey to the bridge is safe. Captain Scott got us all safely off the boat and onto shore but we had 3 more obstacles to pass: the first one was not even 20 feet from the shoreline. It was a muddy soft path right by the canyon wall. We almost turned around but found a solution.
We Found Wreckage From a WWII Aircraft Which Came in Handy!
We found what Captain Scott figured was wreckage from landing strips from a WWII airplane. They were coated with quagga mussels and looked like they could crumble in your hands. They had some firmness left so we laid them down over the shallow mud river and one by one made a run for it. Only one of the big guys in the group slipped off and sunk a leg to mid-calf in the mud. So overall we did well!
Next, we encountered the narrow soft white sand bank next to the low canyon wall. Some of us had to crawl on hands and knees. Taller individuals and those wearing backpacks will find this more challenging. Slipping off this bank meant you could tumble into the quicksand mud river.
Finally before the solid hike to the Rainbow bridge: crossing the actual river further down, hopping stones, and using our walking sticks to gauge the ground’s softness before stepping. This was the easiest crossing since canyon walls do not confine you.
Tips for Your Hike to Rainbow Bridge from Lake Powell:
The best way to do this is to walk quickly and tighten your core to keep your weight resistance down.
Make sure you cross a different path from the person in front of you. The terrain softens more after each person walks over it.
You will need to cross these same points back to your boat so keep this in mind.
Double anchor your boat if the shoreline is really soft and muddy AND especially if the winds pick up. You don’t want to return from the bridge to find your boat sailed away.
After the river crossing, it’s a beautiful, easy-to-moderate hike to Rainbow Bridge.
What to See at Rainbow Bridge and During Your Hike from Shoreline.
There are no toilets or recreational facilities at Rainbow Bridge, so stop at the last floating toilet before Forbidding Canyon.
If you plan to see Rainbow Bridge by boat, be prepared to dock at the shoreline, approximately 2-3 miles away from the monument. Once you arrived at where boats once docked you will walk on the paved walkway within view of the bridge. Around the last corner you will end up on a trail and the Bridge will be right in front of you. You will see a couple of sun shelters with benches, a few signs, and information about the Navajo land. There are a couple of paths to walk around however there is a sign advising visitors to avoid walking under the bridge out of respect for the Navajos.
Past the bridge, you will see the majestic Navajo Mountain (snow-covered when we were there in March). See the photo above.
It was so quiet and serene. Only five of us, the bridge, and whatever animals and reptiles were nearby. Soak it all in and take tons of photos. Depending on the season, the afternoon sun brings out the bold colors, but you want to leave well before dark since desert animals and critters start surfacing and the winds pick up.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings.
I interviewed Captain Scott a month after this trip for the blog and he revealed to me that he spotted signs of recent activity by rattlesnakes, mountain sheep, and beavers. He didn’t see any imminent danger so he didn’t alarm us during the hike, which now I realize why he kept insisting we stay on the paths.
Can You Take A Rainbow Bridge Boat Tour From Wahweap Marina This Year?
If you want to see Rainbow Bridge by boat, unfortunately, there have been no boat tours operating for several months. But you can charter a private tour with a captain or rent your own boat. Check with Lake Powell Resorts and Marinas for rentals: https://www.lakepowell.com/marinas/powerboat-watercraft-rentals/
How to “Plan and Pack” for Your Boating Trip to Rainbow Bridge.
A well-equipped boat, with all the emergency and maintenance supplies. Bring a waterproof bag to seal your contents inside.
Clothing layers including a jacket for the boat.
A sun-protective hat – I prefer the Omni-Shade protection from Columbia which has never failed me, including their sun-protective shirts. They are moisture-wicking. You definitely want a hat with a drawstring to keep it on your head on the boat and in gusty winds.
Sunglasses – polarized and full coverage for your vision.
Sunscreen, I wore this mineral-based sunscreen on delicate skin areas (neck, ears, face). Right now, For body protection, I recommend this SPF50- sun and sport mineral-based sunscreen.
Chums for your sunglasses so you don’t lose your glasses to the wind.
Water shoes or waterproof hiking shoes. That day I wore a version of these Columbia water shoes which gave me a good grip and dried fast. However, I just started wearing the Escape Thrive Ultra Trail Running Shoes and so far, I love them for stability and grip on rough and dirty terrain.
Extra supply of food to leave in the boat, including a cooler with ice.
Use a wrist strap tether for your phone – the winds on the boat ride can whip your phone right out of your hand.
36800 mAh Solar, waterproof backup battery charger – one that also has a flashlight.
Walking or hiking poles. I use the Urban Poling Urban Poles Series 300 (pictured above) for the best ergonomic grip, and stability. These are the aluminum Nordic walking sticks for fitness and sport. The stability “Activator poles” from Urban Poling are most popular with my patients who have any hip issues, back pain, or brain challenges. All Urban Poling products are lightweight and I love the interchangeable tips. We forgot our hiking poles but were lucky to find sticks at the shoreline, likely left behind by previous visitors and we did the same in return for the next ones!
In your backpack:
First aid kit.
Your medications, including inhalers and antihistamines in case of a bite or sting.
Kinesiotape – because you may need this in case of an ankle or knee sprain, for example. Don’t take chances- get the extra sticky water resistant because of sweat and water exposure. Scissors are in the first aid kit, linked above.
Electrolytes: Bringing a rehydration formula is essential because especially in the hot sun, you will lose minerals through sweat faster than you can replace with just your food and water. Avoid headaches, muscle cramping, and passing out with clean-sourced electrolytes. They should include amino acids for tissue support during activity. My only recommendation currently is the one my patients and I use, ATP Ignite from Xymogen. It is NATURALLY sweetened with stevia (comes in citrus or mixed berry) and also contains antioxidants, glutathione, amino acids, and caffeine combined with pterostilbene for higher bioavailability (similar to resveratrol) and longer caffeine effect. This is great for people trying to reduce coffee intake. You can get this on my Wholescripts store (register HERE) and use the one-time coupon code: NA05-DIAS for 5% off your entire order. Here, you can also shop over 100 quality brand nutritional products.
Snacks: food bars, trail mix, grass-fed beef jerky sticks.
Include some Himalayan Pink or Sea salt crystals to pop in your mouth when your muscles ache and your body gets tired.
Your own garbage bag.
Flashlight/headband flashlight – to stay hands-free when needed.
Lifestraw in case you need to draw from a river source.
Emergency Weather Radio with a flashlight, SOS siren, solar-powered emergency radio with a hand crank, and USB ports to charge your gadgets. I bring this on all road trips.
Extra pair of socks.
Bear horn – it has a sound level of 115 decibels heard half a mile away. You may want this in case you find yourself at close range with coyotes or grumpy mountain sheep.
About Communications and Signal:
There is no cell service at the Rainbow Bridge. On the lake, the service is very spotty.
Tip: It is best to save battery power and keep your phone on airplane mode until you really need it.
Things to Know about Rainbow Bridge.
Rainbow Bridge is in Navajo Nation. This is a sacred, religious site. There are signs requesting we refrain from approaching or walking under the bridge. Please pick up after yourself and leave no trace.
There is a dinosaur footprint near the base of the bridge. Look carefully on the slated path.
The best time to go is as early as possible in the day. Season-wise it will depend on whether or not boat tours are operating again (not likely for a long time due to the water levels).
Parks Passport Holders: If you are traveling from Wahweap Marina, you can get your passport stamped at the Glen Canyon Conservancy office in Page, AZ, and the Glen Canyon Dam Visitors Center if it’s open. You can also check the other marinas.
Many people are wondering how much work is involved in taking your own boat trip to Rainbow Bridge. I won’t lie; it is a full-day event and not for the weary. Although the sun beats down on you, the boat ride is most relaxing when the waters are calm.
If you end up boating and then hiking to Rainbow Bridge let me know in the comments below! Did you enjoy the journey? Feel free to share your own experience whether you hiked through Navajo territory or ventured on the lake to Rainbow Bridge!
If you are over the age of 40, you may certainly feel the stress and challenges of this kind of excursion. Visit my blog page to see how I overcome these challenges and what inspires me to get out there.
This blog is not sponsored. Captain Scott is a friend who happens to be a Master Near Coastal certified (up to 200 miles offshore). At the time of our trip, he was documenting the water levels and changes to Lake Powell for his personal records. He invited us to come along and visit Rainbow Bridge at a time very few were able to access it by boat.
Melanie Dias, DC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate programs, which are affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com and other affiliate sites.
This website and blog post are for informational purposes only. Please check with your medical physician before implementing any suggestions or consuming products mentioned in this post and on this website.
Visit my website for more information on healthy travel stories, tips, and resources: https://restorativetravels.com/
Wahweap Marina: https://www.nps.gov/places/wahweap-main-launch-ramp.htm
Water Recreation Advisory: https://www.nps.gov/glca/learn/news/lpp.htm#onthisPage-0
Lake Powell Water Data: http://lakepowell.water-data.com/
Real-time updates on Lake Powell: https://www.lakepowelllife.com/gcnra-weekly-low-water-update-2/
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