Grandstaff Trail Negro Bill Canyon Trail Moab Utah

This 4.65-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 300 feet and offers plenty of serenity along the way.

Previously, this trail was called Negro Bill Canyon Trail, but it is now referred to as Grandstaff Canyon. William Grandstaff was an African American prospector who settled 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 Grandstaff Campground adjacent to the trailhead inherited his given name, while intially Negro Bill Canyon did not. Change came eventually. Grandstaff Canyon has a nice ring to it!

Grandstaff Canyon Trail Negro Bill Canyon Moab Utah
The creek meanders down Grandstaff Canyon

This single-track trail begins to the left of a year-round stream that produces plentiful plant life in Grandstaff 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 1/3 of a mile 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. the first noticeable elevation is gained around the half mile mark, as you ascend a short rise in the canyon floor. Enjoy the nice views up and down canyon, and continue toward Morning Glory Bridge.

Grandstaff Canyon Canyon Moab Utah
Looking down Grandstaff Canyon (fka Negro Bill Canyon)

At 0.85 miles from the start, 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. A mile 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.

Grandstaff Canyon Creek Moab Utah
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 1.85 miles, at a more prolific Y in Grandstaff Canyon (Negro Bill Canyon), 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.

Grandstaff Canyon Negro Bill Canyon Moab Utah
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
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 4.65-mile round trip trek. Grandstaff Canyon (Negro Bill Canyon) is protected by the Bureau of Land Management, and no fee or permit is required to hike to Morning Glory Bridge.

Morning Glory Bridge
A Canyoneering team rappels off Morning Glory Bridge
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 Grandstaff 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: 38.6098, -109.5336 (38° 36′ 35.3″N 109° 32′ 01″W)

Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.
Trail Map

View Grandstaff Trail to Morning Glory Arch in a larger map
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These photos were taken in June of 2010. Click to enlarge.
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Tagged with · Bureau of Land Management · Creeks · Desert Canyons · Free Trails · Moab · Natural Bridges
Distance: 4.65 miles · Elevation change: 300 feet

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18 Comments on Grandstaff Trail to Morning Glory Bridge in Moab, Utah

  1. […] it’s a fairly easy guide, Hikespeak has wonderfully detailed instructions to guide you along the […]

  2. […] activities we did. I started the morning off with an hour long trail run at Negro Bill Canyon, which was incredibly gorgeous, and shaded. When its already 90 degrees at 8 in the morning, shade […]

  3. […] We didn’t venture far from the homestead, however, as time didn’t allow it, but we did find some great hiking close-by. […]

  4. […]  Click here for more information on the Negro Bill Canyon Hike […]

  5. Alicia wrote:

    Nice blog post! I was looking around at others blogs about this hike right after I posted mine, and came across yours. Looks like you went when it was nice and green! We went yesterday and it was overcast and the trail still had quite a bit of snow. -Alicia @

  6. Kirsten Barksdale wrote:

    Can we camp back in the by the Arch or at any point along the trail?

  7. […] after lunch we headed to  Negro Bill Canyon Trail. See my post from yesterday about the story of how we found out about this trail. Well by now […]

  8. The first time I did this trail, in 2009, the sand was too hot for my dog’s paws so I waded the creek instead. The canyon and trail were still called Negro Bill, which I thought was an odd name for a BLM-managed trail. I did this trail again at 7am a few days ago to avoid the hot sun as I was with my two dogs, who appreciated the creek nearby. It hasn’t changed much since my first hike, although there are more trail markers. I also wore my Keen sandals to make fording the creek easier, although there are stones to hop on for those with hiking boots on. The trail and canyon were renamed the William Granstaff trail and canyon and new signs at the trailhead reflect the change. This is definitely a must-do hike while in Moab and I highly recommend staring this hike early as parking is limited!

  9. don wrote:

    can you take a bicycle down the trail

  10. […] Morning Glory Bridge: This is one of my favorite hikes, I even mentioned it in my last post. Morning Glory Bridge is an easy hike with some river crossing. It’s great in the summer because it is mostly shaded. Be warned, your dog will come back happy and muddy from this hike, so be sure to bring along some towels for the drive back. […]

    • Amber Coffey wrote:

      Hi! I’m headed to Moab tomorrow and have this trail on my list for the weekend and was wondering if there is a lot of snow on the trail?

  11. Vera Seline McLeran wrote:

    Negro Bill canyon name has been changed to “Grandstaff canyon trail”

  12. Morgana Ricardo wrote:

    This was one of my favorite hikes while staying in Moab for 3 months. I hiked this beautiful trail on multiple occasions from the end of March through the end of June. I always discovered something new and saw the flowers bloom and foliage change. Bottling up some spring water at the end of the trail is an added bonus. You do walk through the creek multiple times, so having my hiking in my keens was perfect. The next time I visit, this will be my first hike.

    Morgana Ricardo's ratings for this hike: Morgana Ricardo gives a rating of 5Morgana Ricardo gives a rating of 5Morgana Ricardo gives a rating of 5Morgana Ricardo gives a rating of 5Morgana Ricardo gives a rating of 5
  13. KateLynn wrote:

    Can someone tell me if the water that runs through there is safe for dogs to drink??

    • Reggie wrote:

      I drank a cup from the the spring today. I will let you know how I feel tomorrow. LOL

  14. Staci wrote:

    Are you allowed to fish along this trail as long as you have your license?