I read that Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah was one of the best places to view the stars. One of my goals for this adventure has been to find someplace with low light pollution and incredible stargazing. Since the park was the first certified International Dark Sky Park back in 2007, I had high hopes for this destination!
The road to the entrance of the park was the worst we had trekked through yet! It was narrow, extremely windy, and had long high-percentage declines. Oh, and it was open range the whole way so… watch out for cows! Even worse, we had no cell phone service, it was dark as hell, and if you remember from my ITASCA STATE PARK BLOG, our headlights are not very good at doing their job! I was surprised there weren’t hand impressions left on the steering wheel from all the white-knuckling!
We were relieved when we saw the sign indicating the entrance to the park. Gina pulled Harvey the RV over in front of the sign, and we decided to boondock there for the night. I quickly stepped outside to view those beautiful stars I had been promised by the internet. To my disappointment, my eager eyes were met with overcast skies blocking most of the stars. A few troopers found a way to shine through, but in the end, the view was nothing more than what I could find back in my hometown in Wisconsin. Sometimes I feel if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.
The only reason we made the trip to National Bridges was so we could view the stars. I hadn’t researched much else about the park, so when we went to sleep that night after a short, sad stargazing session, I had no idea what the next day would bring. Boy, did the views of southern Utah really make up for that disappointing night! We woke up early and drove deeper into the park, hoping there would be some sort of hiking trails or sights to see. I can only describe Natural Bridges National Monument as a mini version of the Grand Canyon. Yep. Beautiful.
A one way 9-mile road called Bridge View Drive looped through the park with several pull off spots. Each pull off area had a short hike to its own overlook of the canyon and the natural bridges. Some areas had trail heads that would lead a hiker all the way to the top of, or base of, the natural bridges. Unfortunately, dogs weren’t allowed on those trails, and we could not take the longer hikes feeling guilty about the pups back at the RV. One of the hikes, however, called Sipapu Bridge Trailhead, was only a .6 mile hike to the bridge! Gina and I decided that a .6 mile hike wasn’t too far, so leaving the dogs behind didn’t make us feel so guilty.
The hike was full of switch backs along the side of the canyon. There were some areas with man-made stairs and even one section where we had to climb down a ladder. About halfway through the hike, we found ourselves walking on a shady edge of the canyon. A large buzzard flew out of a tree just in front of us. It was nice to observe and admire the bird in flight without Gina geeking out about Shirley getting snatched up haha. As we trekked further down the trail, we began to see more buzzards…two…three…four… before we knew it, we had SEVEN VULTURES flying above us in a circular pattern. I figured we were getting close to a nest, so they were just protecting their territory.
I assured Gina it was okay to push on…I mean, we weren’t little doggies. We’d be okay, right? We continued walking, this time a little more cautiously. With every circle they made while in flight, they came a little closer to us. One of them flew down really low, and with that, we had had enough! We high tailed it back the way we came. Once we were about 100 feet away, I turned back and noticed all of the buzzards had settled down, not a single one in the air. Google later told us they LIKELY wouldn’t attack, but I’m all good with not finding out for myself. The Natural Bridges National Monument is a place Gina and I will return to in the future (sadly, without Roxi and Shirley) so we can hike all the way out to the bridges. Next time, I’ll bring a stick.
Because we had ZERO cell phone service, we used our handy dandy Atlas (Shout out to Noz for the gift!) to navigate our way out of the area. We took State Hwy 95 north. While driving down the road, I saw a sign that said Hwy 95 “Scenic Byway”. Scenic Byway, huh? That sounded exciting!
The scenic views while driving down Hwy 95 in Utah left me speechless. In fact, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I even teared up a little bit. Yeah, I’m dead serious. It is THAT GORGEOUS. It’s gorgeous and humbling, incredible, out-of-this-world, unbelievable… I can truly say, with 100% certainty, that southern Utah has the most amazing landscape I have ever witnessed. I know it’s still early into our US tour, but I have been to some pretty beautiful places in the past. Southern Utah, though, was something else. I apologize for the lack of photographs; we were just truly enjoying the view!
I know it isn’t Florida, or California, or Jamaica, or some other exotic place that most people like to visit for vacation, and I know telling people (Insert hillbilly voice) “I’m going to Utah for vacation!” doesn’t really have that exciting ring to it. But I encourage you to change it up a bit and plan to visit southern Utah, specifically near the scenic byway. It truly feels like you are on another planet. It’s also a wonderful place to take the whole family, especially if you have a couple of teenagers who are convinced they’d die if they put their cell phones down for even a second. I’m not saying they’ll necessarily appreciate the beauty, but they definitely won’t have cell phone service, so there’s that haha!
PS: Unfortunately, our generator wasn’t (and still hasn’t been) working properly, so we were unable to visit the other National Parks in southern Utah, such as Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, etc. All the RV sites in those parks did not have any electric hook ups, and there was no way we’d be able to leave the animals in the RV roasting in the heat. Though we needed to skip those parks for now, we plan to visit them on our way back east.