Accessed via a dirt road south of CA-190 off Badwater Road is another remarkable Death Valley geologic formation – Natural Bridge. Although the road is typically well-maintained and accessible by most vehicles, we read that washouts and deep ruts can occur. Yep we can sure attest to that – it was a very bumpy two mile ride to say the least as you can see in the video below!
The red arrow on the map below shows the relative location of Natural Bridge:
Once arriving to the parking lot, doing an about face allowed us to be bedazzled once again by the magnificent views of the distant snow capped Panamint Mountain range and Telescope Peak. Never tire of that spectacular vista!
And then it was time to climb! Although there is no specific trail leading from the parking lot, it is a 15 minute gentle but constant gradient hike along a pebbly wash to the bridge formation.
As we rounded the last canyon turn, suddenly, there it was! A massive structure 35 feet high and 35 feet wide spanning the canyon walls! Wow! Very cool!
So how was this bridge formed? According to the National Park Service website, over thousands of years, flash flood events have carved the canyon which Natural Bridge spans today. At some point, the water changed course slightly and ran just north of the present location of the bridge (look for this diversion as you hike). This diversion lowered the level of the canyon just above the location of the bridge. Eventually, the water returned to its initial, straighter course, forming a hole under the span of the bridge and eventually lowering the floor of the canyon even more, creating the bridge and leaving it high and exposed.
Although it wasn’t particularly crowded on the day we visited, a family with several small children were walking ahead of us so we had to wait for them to leave for a decent photo op.
As we headed back to the parking lot by late afternoon, the canyon walls were awash with vibrant colors. So pretty!
Check out the rest of our photos here.
And there’s still more geological wonders to come!