About Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge could very well Yellowstone National Park’s only significant natural arch or bridge, and it took us three trips to the reserve before we finally got a chance to see it.
Typically early in the Summer, grizzly bears would frequent the trails that would lead to the Natural Bridge thereby resulting in the trail’s closure.
That prevented us from making a visit to this eccentric formation back in June 2004.
When we came back to Yellowstone in August 2017, we simply ran out of time.
However, on our latest visit in early August 2020, we finally made it a point to fit in a visit this place (on the same day we happened to take part in a grizzly bear jam closer to the east end of Yellowstone Lake).
Anyways, I considered not having this write-up because I didn’t expect there to be a waterfall here.
However, when I heard the sound of falling water (even though Bridge Creek’s volume wasn’t strong), I guess that was enough to warrant having this write-up.
Although my wife and daughter were concerned about having a late dinner, that prevented me from fully exploring the entire trail around the Natural Bridge.
That could have at least let me get a more top down look through the span as well as more looks at the cascading stream going right through it.
Instead, I wound up with partial views of the hard-to-see stream so the pictures I have on this post doesn’t do it justice.
In any case, our hike (more like a stroll) to the Natural Bridge was on the order of 2.8 miles round-trip, and it took us a leisurely 90 minutes.
Two Ways to Hike to Natural Bridge
It turned out that there were actually two different ways to hike to Natural Bridge.
We did our hike starting from the Bridge Bay Marina, which was near the Bridge Bay Campground by the northwestern shores of Yellowstone Lake.
The trail briefly went north from the Bridge Bay parking lot before skirting by the Bridge Bay Campground.
Then, the trail went southwest through a forested dirt path flanked by trees showing signs of bear scratches (where some bark had been scratched off).
After about 0.9 miles from the Bridge Bay Parking Lot, the trail then merged with a wider trail that seemed like a former road.
Anyways, the remainder of the hike was another half-mile, which meant doing the hike from the Bridge Bay Parking Lot meant that the overall out-and-back hiking distance was 2.8 miles.
There was a more straightforward trail that began opposite the Gull Point Drive, and it was pretty much along the aforementioned wide former road almost the entire way.
It was about a half-mile from the trailhead by Gull Point Drive to the trail junction with the Bridge Bay Trail discussed above.
If we add another 0.2-mile from the nearest parking area to the Bridge Creek Trailhead, then it would take 1.2 miles one-way to get to the Natural Bridge (or 2.4 miles round-trip).
By the way, we saw quite a few people on mountain bikes on this wider trail as it was wide enough and flat enough to support bikers.
From the Trail Junction to the Natural Bridge
The final half-mile between the trail junction and the Natural Bridge was pretty straightforward as it followed the wide former road before reaching a signed junction.
Going right at this junction brought us onto a narrower use-trail leading to the base of the Natural Bridge.
However, I did notice that this trail kept going up and around the right side of the Natural Bridge’s span.
Since I saw people standing behind the bridge’s span, I’d imagine that this was a sanctioned trail that looped around the span, and eventually rejoined the main Natural Bridge Trail.
Maybe next time we’re fortunate to do this trail again, I will take more time to more thoroughly explore the Natural Bridge and its cascade on Bridge Creek, while also exploring the shorter (and wider) trail.
Natural Bridge resides in Yellowstone National Park near Cody in Park County, Wyoming. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit the National Park Service website.
The hike to Natural Bridge could begin from one of two different trailheads (both in close proximity to each other).
First, we had to drive towards Bridge Bay, which was about 81 miles west of Cody along the US14.
From Cody, we’d have to drive nearly 51 miles to the East Entrance of Yellowstone, then we’d continue for about 26 miles to the Fishing Bridge Junction.
Next, we’d turn left onto the Fishing Bridge-West Thumb Road and go about 3 miles to the Marina Drive turnoff on the right (the Bridge Bay Campground was also at this turnoff).
Then, we’d follow the road to the Bridge Bay Marina.
Overall, this 81-mile drive would take about 2 hours.
For the other trailhead by Bridge Creek, instead of turning right at Marina Drive, we’d continue straight for another half-mile to the parking area on the left just past Bridge Creek.
After parking the car there, we’d then have to walk back over Bridge Creek and pick up the Natural Bridge Trail directly opposite Gull Point Drive.
The Fishing Bridge Junction was about 15.5 miles (30 minutes drive) south of the Canyon Junction, about 21 miles (30 minutes drive) northeast of the Fishing Bridge Junction, about 78 miles (over 90 minutes drive) west of Cody, 99 miles (over 2 hours drive) north of Jackson, and 55 miles east of West Yellowstone, Montana.
For geographical context, West Yellowstone was 58 miles (at least 90 minutes drive) south of Gardiner, Montana, 90 miles (over 90 minutes drive) south of Bozeman, Montana, and 321 miles (about 4.5 hours drive) north of Salt Lake City, Utah.
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