This 6-mile round trip hike starts above the banks of the Colorado River east of Moab, Utah, and travels up a scenic canyon alongside a much smaller stream. The trek terminates at a stunning 243-foot long natural bridge, the sixth largest natural rock span in America. The level dirt trail to Morning Glory Bridge ascends just 330 feet and offers plenty of serenity along the way.
Why is it called Negro Bill Canyon? William Granstaff settles in Moab in 1877, becoming the first non-Caucasian pioneer to do so. He had success ranching in the area that now bears his name. William Granstaff Campground adjacent to the trailhead inherited his given name, while Negro Bill Canyon took a more colorful title. If they ever decide to change the name, Granstaff Canyon has a nice ring to it.
The creek meanders down Negro Bill Canyon
This single-track trail begins to the left of a year round stream that produces plentiful plant life in Negro Bill Canyon, including poison ivy. Be on the lookout for those irritating leaves-of-three, especially if you venture off trail. The start of the hike is remarkably level allowing quick movement into this beautiful canyon. The steep walls of this north-south running trench provide good early morning and late afternoon shade.
The trail widens 0.4 miles from the start, showing evidence that the canyon was previously open to 4X4 vehicles. An outcropping on the left side of the trail looks as though it may have once been inhabited or at least used for storage. Continue along the east bank of the shallow creek. At 0.85 miles, the first noticeable elevation is gained as you ascend a short rise in the canyon floor. Enjoy the nice views up and down canyon, and continue toward Morning Glory Bridge.
Looking down Negro Bill Canyon
At the 1.15-mile mark, a path spurs off to the left, traveling a short distance into an indentation in the canyon wall. Green hanging gardens give the bump-out an alluring look, and this is a great place to test your echo (if you are interested in that sort of thing). Be on the look out for poison ivy if you trek this way.
The main trail continues south into the canyon. Just under a mile and a half from the start, you will cross the shallow creek for the first time. Get used to rock hopping. There are nine more crossings to come. Signs mark the trails as it flip-flops back and forth across the creek. Nevertheless, determining the proper path is tricky at times. If you end up on a false trail, simply backtrack to the correct route and continue upstream.
One of the ten creek crossings
Halfway through the creek crossings, the canyon bends to the left, and a side canyon heads off to the right. This is not the side-canyon containing Morning Glory Bridge, so proceed up the main channel. After 2.6 miles, at a more prolific Y in Negro Bill Canyon, you will cross the creek for a tenth and final time. The trail now embarks up the side canyon to the right, ascending the final 150 feet to Morning Glory Bridge.
The side canyon containing Morning Glory Bridge
The natural bridge crosses the back of the canyon, narrowly separated from the rock wall behind it. This makes the landmark less prominent from a distance, but quite dramatic up close. Morning Glory Bridge is sometimes called Morning Glory Arch by those who believe it to be an alcove arch rather than a natural bridge. That debate is for geologists and erosion enthusiasts, but no matter how you label the impressive span, it is one monumental sight.
Morning Glory Bridge
Another curious feature lies just below the arch. A stream of water can be seen and heard flowing directly out of a fracture in the rock face. This adds to the magic of the spot. After taking a moment to relax beneath the sandstone bridge, return the way you can for a 6-mile round trip trek. Negro Bill Canyon is protected by the Bureau of Land Management, and no fee or permit is required to hike to Morning Glory Bridge.
A Canyoneering team rappels off Morning Glory Bridge
Desert Evening Primrose along the trail
To get to the trailhead: From Highway 191 in the city of Moab, head east on Scenic Byway 128 along the Colorado River. After three miles, turn right into the marked parking lot for Negro Bill Trailhead. There is a bathroom and an information kiosk near the start of the trail.
Trailhead address: Utah Route 128, Moab, UT 84532
Trailhead coordinates: 38.609736, -109.533617 (38° 36′ 35.04″N 109° 32′ 01.02″W)
Use the map below to view the trail and get directions:
This half-mile hike visits a swimming hole that offers refreshing escape from Utah’s summer scorchers.
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Writer’s note: Signs at the trailhead label the distance to Morning Glory Bridge at both two and 2.5 miles. Most publications describe this as a 4-mile round trip hike. My GPS tracker recorded the distance to the bridge at 3 miles. Five to six miles round trip is probably accurate for this hike.