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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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