Boating + Hiking: How To See Rainbow Bridge On Lake Powell

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I’ve been to Rainbow Bridge on Lake Powell twice.  It’s one of those things you have to see on Lake Powell eventually.  I won’t lie.  I didn’t love it. 

It’s not my favorite thing on Lake Powell.  It’s not my favorite place to go in Utah.  But it is cool to see and you should definitely go to Rainbow Bridge if you’re visiting Lake Powell.

Working at Lake Powell meant I definitely had to go see it.  When the opportunity presented itself, I said sure.  Why not?  We set out around 9 AM and headed straight there. 

From Bullfrog at North Lake Powell, it’s 2 -2.5 hours to get there and we only had so much time with the boat, so we had to go right there and back.

The first time I went it was so hot, it was tough being out in the sun too long.  The second time, the weather was a thousand times better, cooler I mean, and we got to see a helicopter take off from in the canyon!  

They landed right on the trail to airlift someone out for dehydration.  This is a real thing people, drink water!  Let’s get to what you’re probably here for now.

Travel Services I Recommend:
AllTrails – This is my favorite hike tracking app.
America the Beautiful – The national park pass is essential. – This is great for finding and booking hotels.
Get Your Guide – I recommend Get Your Guide for booking tours.
National Park Obsessed – This is the best national park planner.
Skyscanner – Skyscanner is great for finding and booking flights.
Enterprise – This is my rental car recommendation.
See all my resources here.


Where is Rainbow Bridge on Lake Powell?

Rainbow Bridge is in Forbidding Canyon (not Forbidden, Forbidding)


How to get to Rainbow Bridge on Lake Powell

There are a few ways to get to Rainbow Bridge.  You can either rent a powerboat for a day, take a boat tour from Wahweap, or take your own boat. 

If you’ve got a houseboat rental with jet skis or a kayak, you can use those, too.  I wouldn’t take a houseboat though.  I’m not actually sure if you even could take one back there.

Renting a boat on Lake Powell

If you’re just passing through as part of a bigger Utah road trip, this is going to be the best option for you.  Whether you’re in Bullfrog or Wahweap, you can see Rainbow Bridge in a day, but you won’t have much time to see anything else.

Boat tours on Lake Powell

If you don’t feel comfortable driving a boat or just don’t want to rent one, they can be a little pricey, then consider a boat tour to Rainbow Bridge.

How much is it to see Rainbow Bridge?

It’s free, but you’ll either need to pay for a boat rental, gas for your own boat, or a boat tour.


Hiking to Rainbow Bridge

There are two ways to hike to Rainbow Bridge: by land and by sea.  One is easy, the other is more difficult and about 12 times longer.

By lake

As of March 2022, there is no dock access to land here. You can park and use the bathroom but you need kayaks or something to get to the shore and hike to Rainbow Bridge.

This is the easiest and most common way to see Rainbow Bridge.  In Forbidding Canyon, around mile-marker 50, the home of Rainbow Bridge, there is a dock where you can park your boat then hike the 1-2 miles to Rainbow Bridge. 

The exact distance will depend on the water level at the time.  Go prepared for a slightly longer hike, just in case.  It’s a pretty easy hike, I’ve seen tons of people do it in flip flops, just make sure you stay hydrated.

By land

This is not a hike for beginners or the casual hiker.  It’s about 30 miles round-trip and you should plan to spend 1-3 nights on the trail, depending on how much you want to hike during the day. 

There are two routes in, north and south, that you can choose between, but you’ll need a permit from the Navajo Nation no matter which you take.  You’ll have to carry it with you.

You can hike to Rainbow Bridge and take a boat out, but you need to plan ahead for that and you would also need a ride back to the trailhead.  Here is a great guide for backpacking to Rainbow Bridge.


What to bring to Rainbow Bridge

Sunscreen – You definitely need to wear sunscreen out on the lake.  Trust me.  I’ve seen plenty of bad burns come through the lobby.

Water – Drink a ton of water, especially if you’re out in the sun a lot or hiking.  You don’t want to be the one flying out because of dehydration.

Snacks – My preferred boat snack is Doritos.  It’s really almost the only time I eat them.  Beef jerky and trail mix might be healthier and more energizing.

Hat – Gotta keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face.  Make sure you get something that you can keep on your head, like a baseball style hat.  Or something adjustable like this hat.

Sunglasses – It’s bright an will help with the wind in your face.

Chums – These will keep your glasses from falling off into the lake.

Boaters Guide to Lake Powell – This is a great guide if you’ll be spending a lot of time on the lake and want to get a better idea of what you can do.  The print is small and close together but it is very helpful.

Lake Powell map – This is a must for any Lake Powell trip.

Is Rainbow Bridge worth visiting?

Yes, but if you only have one day on Lake Powell, I would choose other things over this, like Cathedral in the Desert.  If you’re renting a houseboat, you should have plenty of time to see it.


Other important things to know

  • If you go to Rainbow Bridge from Bullfrog, you’ll have to get gas at Dangling Rope before you head back.
  • Make sure you drink enough water and wear plenty of sunscreen.  I promise you want to do both.
  • There are bathrooms on the dock.
  • Ask the park ranger about the dinosaur track near the bridge and they can point it out for you.
  • It won’t be as busy if you go earlier in the day, but that might be tough if you aren’t already out on the lake nearby, like on a houseboat.
  • You don’t need fancy hiking shoes if you go by boat.  Most people do the hike in a swimsuit and flip flops.  If you do want good hiking/water shoes, consider Chacos.

Have you been to Rainbow Bridge?  What did you think of it?  Do you want to go?  What is your favorite place on Lake Powell?

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