Sipapu Bridge Hike…and a Secret Ruin

It’s not supposed to be cold and windy in southeastern Utah at the end of April.  I’d envisioned clear blue skies, warm sun, and hiking in shorts and short sleeves.   What we got was highs in the 40s, and 25 mile an hour winds.    But the bright sun made it all OK.


Really, all these layers and it’s almost May?

We were at one of my favorite little parks: Natural Bridges.  I’d read about a ruin near Sipapu Bridge that the Park Service doesn’t tell you about, and I wanted to check it out.  And yes, if you ask about this little ruin at the visitor center they’ll tell you they can’t say anything about it.     (But it’s not really that hidden, so I’m going to tell you how to get there:  go to Sipapu Bridge and take a right – upcanyon.  Hike a little less than a mile and you’ll see the ruin on the left.)     It’s a sweet little ruin, with some nice rock art as well.

The hike to Sipapu Bridge is fun, too.  After finding the secret ruin we continued on to Kachina Bridge and then hiked across the mesa top to return to the car, which makes a perfect day hike.  You can also take a bigger loop and see all three of  the bridges, which is well worth it.

It’s not easy to make out any of the bridges from the top:  they need the empty sky behind them to put them in perspective.  But it’s still impressive to look down on these huge structures spanning the canyon:


It’s always a treat for those of us from the mountains to get to start a hike going downhill.  The Sipapu trail includes three ladders, which adds a little challenge.  (Especially when you’re hiking with a friend whose broken arm is still mending…luckily she turned out to be quite skilled at going down ladders one-armed!)


Once we reached the canyon floor the wind calmed down, and we could start shedding layers.



We headed upcanyon, enjoying the warmth and sunlight.   After about 20 minutes we found the hidden ruin.  You see the pictographs first.


The ruin is fairly small, but it includes some interesting details.


Inside this room is a small enclosure that surrounds a peephole.


No one seems to know what these little holes were used for.  They’re fairly common, but you don’t seem them at every ruin.    Everyone’s first thought is that they’re defensive, but you really couldn’t shoot an arrow through that little hole.  Here’s what you see through the hole:


Who knows?

Some details from the ruin:




The ledge makes a dandy picnic spot before exploring the rest of the ruins that are a bit harder to get to.




See the door still propped against the wall?

See the door still propped against the wall?

This ledge also includes some interesting petroglyphs:


Looking at the setting of this little dwelling gives you a good idea of why they chose to live in this spot, doesn’t it?




About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
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17 Responses to Sipapu Bridge Hike…and a Secret Ruin

  1. avian101 says:

    Great pictures! 🙂

  2. Gary Holmes says:

    Whenever I read about secret ruins I think about The Professor’s House. Did you read that in college?

    • westerner54 says:

      I don’t think so. I went on a Willa Cather binge when I lived in Brighton, I remember, and read The Professor’s House then. I need to reread O Pioneers now that I have so more experience with the prairie!

  3. Lyle Krahn says:

    Looks like a great place.

  4. We won’t get there this year. Looking forward to northern New Mexico this fall, though.

  5. Nancy says:

    What a fabulous adventure to hike and find such wonderful ruins. We have some here in Arizona and we just love exploring them. Great photos!

  6. Thanks for taking me on this hike to see places I’ve never been and likely never will be. Those ruins are quite intriguing.

  7. Jeff Katzer says:

    Very interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jeff VERKOUILLE says:

    Those “nobody knows” holes were for vigas, horizontal ceiling timbers that project through the walls of the structure. The Spanish adopted the Native American design, hence the term. If you had gone just another half mile or so upstream you’d have found an even more impressive ruin with a perfectly preserved kiva.

  9. Pingback: Another Secret Ruin | Off the Beaten Path: Hikes, Backpacks, and Travels

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