Hike to Rainbow bridge via Cliff Canyon, Arizona
There are actually two routes to hike to Rainbow Bridge. This describes the Southern trail that starts at the ruins of Rainbow Bridge Lodge. From the scenic ruins, follow the road (East) as it narrows into a trail. Watch for the plentiful cairns along the entire length of this trip in order to stay on trail. The trail dives in and out of canyons, displaying wide open views of the stark high desert landscape around. There are multiple trails in this area, so keep an eye on your map to make sure you're headed towards Yabut pass.
After about 4.5 miles, the trail completes a climb to Yabut pass. After enjoying the high views of Cliff Canyon, you'll begin the descent down to the canyon floor. As you walk along Cliff Canyon, you'll notice a change in vegetation. Water will eventually surface in Cliff Canyon, which nourishes the more lush plants in this canyon. There is some bushwhacking in this section, but nothing too serious. Again, watch for the cairns to stay on the easiest route.
The next landmark is painted rocks, which marks the turn to the North East and Redbud pass. Before heading to Redbud pass, take the time to study the North wall here for some well preserved petroglyphs. There is also the remnants of what appears to be an old corral. Redbud pass narrows significantly, even ending in a climb into Redbud Canyon. There is some scrambling needed here.
Redbud canyon is very similar to Cliff Canyon. Water is present in this canyon as well and the trail here heads back towards the North West as you get closer to Bridge Canyon. At the intersection to Bridge Canyon, make sure you don't zone out on the trail and miss the turn. If you are headed East, you've gone too far.
From Bridge canyon it is a short walk to Echo Camp. There are some ruins here from a camp that used to service tourists hiking along this very same trail. From this point, you can start to see glimpses of Rainbow Bridge in the distance.
Rainbow Bridge itself is a magnificent way to end such an epic hike. Enjoy the rewards of your effort, then hike the remaining mile to the boat dock and your shuttle.