Hidden Bridge Canyon is a hard-to-reach place hidden away in the Cottonwood Mountains which contains Death Valley's most spectacular natural bridge and some beautiful narrows which have colorful patterns. Difficulties encountered on the hike include figuring out the location of the canyon, route finding to use one of several different routes to get to Lower Hidden Bridge Canyon, and having enough daylight to get back to your vehicle if attempting this as a long 20 mile day hike. Route maps and GPS coordinates are not provided in order to avoid a large amount of increased visitation to this area and to protect fragile formations.
Hidden Bridge Canyon truly is one of the most amazing places in Death Valley and has perhaps the single best natural feature in the park. The hike through Lower Hidden Bridge Canyon (which is covered in this report) starts with a beautiful short set of narrows. After going through these, a very basic dry fall must be climbed and that leads into the chamber-like room which contains Hidden Bridge, which is made out of solid rock. The natural bridge here is the second largest natural bridge in the entire park. An exploration of Hidden Bridge Canyon (as I found out later) can be divided into three different hikes. The first hike explores Lower Hidden Bridge Canyon and allows hikers to see Hidden Bridge, the canyon's namesake. The second hike would bypass the lower canyon and explore the middle canyon. And the third hike would come in from above and explore the upper canyon. I have done all three hikes and have written three separate reports about them (this report and reports for both Middle Hidden Bridge Canyon and Upper Hidden Bridge Canyon). To help protect the area from increased visitation, I was asked by NPS staff members not to give out the location of Hidden Bridge Canyon here on my site or by e-mail. I can tell you that it is hidden away in the vast waterless, wilderness expanse of the Cottonwood Mountains somewhere in between Marble Canyon and Dry Bone Canyon. Before you think I'm trying to hold things back from fellow hikers, please understand that I was only given knowledge of this canyon on the condition that I did not share maps or directions with others. Thankfully, I was given permission to share photographs of this place, which obviously is unknown to even the majority of Death Valley regulars. At the time that I originally wrote this report back in 2009, there were no other photographs of Hidden Bridge Canyon or Hidden Bridge anywhere else on the internet and the location was not covered in any guidebook. If you happen to find either Hidden Bridge Canyon or Big Fall Canyon during your own hikes, please do not post the exact location of these canyons on the internet. Help honor the requests of NPS staff members by protecting this area and safeguarding it for future generations of hikers to enjoy. As a side note that I'm adding during a 2015 update to this report, the cautious approach of NPS staff members was proven to be a good idea. It was noted by others who have visited Hidden Bridge that vandalism has occurred to the major dry fall behind Hidden Bridge. Apparently, a vandal decided to try to chop footholds into the dry fall in order to climb up it. This act of vandalism was completely unnecessary because Hidden Bridge's dry fall can be bypassed fairly easily by backtracking out of the canyon, climbing the southern ridge, and dropping back into the middle canyon. This bypass route is documented in my Middle Hidden Bridge Canyon report. So for future visitors to Hidden Bridge, please do not vandalize the area in any way. It ruins the beauty for those who will come after you.
Here is some background information that I was given by NPS staff members on the discovery of Hidden Bridge that you might be interested in reading. In the early 1990s, a young geologist mapping the Cottonwood Mountains approached a Park Ranger and asked him if he knew about a fairly large natural bridge in the remote wilderness between Marble and Dry Bone Canyons. The ranger had neither heard of nor read anything about such a natural bridge, so he obtained detailed information about the bridge's location hoping that one day he could locate the bridge himself. After a couple of years without finding anyone with previous knowledge of the "Hidden Bridge", the ranger finally backpacked into the remote, waterless section of the Cottonwood Mountains searching for the undocumented natural bridge. After a long day of searching, coming up empty-handed and discouraged, the ranger proceeded traveling down the side canyon he had entered planning to camp closer to the mouth of a larger canyon. Encountering dry falls that made travel difficult, the ranger hiked around the dry falls and entered the canyon again just at the right spot to finally encounter the well-hidden natural bridge. For over a decade, the location of this remote natural bridge was shared with just a few others with no one else visiting it. In more recent years, as more hikers have explored the remote sections of the Cottonwoods, about a half dozen people are known to have located and visited this "Hidden Bridge" (as of 2009) tucked away in an unassuming side canyon. I have added some additional pictures to this trip report which were taken on my second visit to Lower Hidden Bridge Canyon three years later. Our hikes took place on March 16, 2009 and March 9, 2012.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT