Hike to Horse Collar Ruin at Natural Bridges National Monument

    5.0
    3.2 miles 500 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

    Added by Katie Lyons

    Horse Collar Ruin is an exceptionally preserved area of ancient cliff dwellings. This short out-and-back or loop hike can give adventurers a glimpse into the past of Natural Bridges National Monument.

    Natural Bridges National Monument is one of Utah's many geologic wonders. While this monument is primarily known for its bridges, it also has an impressive collection of cliff dwellings known as Horse Collar Ruin. The dwellings have passed the test of time after being abandoned by native people more than 700 years ago. Exploring this area gives you a brief glimpse as to what life was like in the late 1200s, as well as a new way to experience Natural Bridges.

    Start your hike at the Sipapu Bridge trail head. The trail descends down into the vast canyon still being actively carved by the river that flows through the monument. The trail is steep in places and ladders and hand rails have been put in place to help hikers down to Sipapu Bridge. This is your first stop on your anthropological tour of Natural Bridges, and the second largest natural bridge in the United States. After stopping to take a few pictures, continue along the trail for about another mile.

    This next section of trail crosses the river several times. It is possible to cross on the rocks, but it is much easier to avoid getting wet if you wear waterproof hiking shoes. After about .9 miles, the ruins will be visible to the right of the trail. They are about 50' above the standard hiking trail and hard to miss.

    To get to the ruins, head right and cross the river once again. There is a quick and easy sandstone scramble to get to the site, so make sure your wear quality shoes (Chacos and other similar shoes not recommended). When you get to the ruins you can take pictures or simply appreciate the dwellings that line the cliff side. To keep the ruins preserved for future explorers, please be respectful and do not touch or go inside any of the ancient structures.

    After you've thoroughly checked out the area, continue back down to the main trail. Again, there is a short scramble to get down, but this is not difficult at all if proper caution is taken. You can complete the full bridges loop (8.6 miles RT), hike back the way you came, or hike up the Kachina Bridge trail and walk on the road back to the Sipapu Bridge trailhead.

    If you want to experience Horse Collar Ruins but don't have much time to hike, you can also do the overlook hike which is about 2 miles shorter round trip. The overlook is about 500' above the ruins so your view won't be quite as good, but this abbreviated version of the hike is perfect for families with small children.

    Horse Collar Ruins is like a smaller, hidden gem version of Mesa Verde. The lack of crowds sets this area apart from other areas with similar anthropological wonders, and encourages explorers to take a hands on approach to adventuring and learning about the past. Horse Collar Ruin is a perfect day trip, and a not to miss feature of the always incredible Southern Utah. 

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    Horse Collar ruin

    I love places like this, looks amazing - I would love to visit this some day

    Leave No Trace

    Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

    We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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