Coconino National Forest

Coconino National Forest’s Devil’s Bridge is geologic formation you’ll never forget.  The 1.8 mile round-trip hike from the trail head is well worth the effort. After all, you’ll be hiking though one of the most diverse National Forests in the country, home to thousands of acres of ponderosa pine forests that give way to alpine tundra of the San Francisco Peaks (12,633 feet) and the awe-inspiring red rocks of Sedona.

Ever wonder how a feature like the Devil’s Bridge, or the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park formed? Let’s just say it a byproduct of the perfect geologic cocktail coming together, or as we biologist’s like to call it, the goldilocks phenomena. Essentially, three factors come together. First, you need sandstone to be weathered with just the right amount of rain (just a few inches- no more, no less), which then soaks through the porous sandstone, and forms by erosion in the summer, and freezing and melting in the winter, eventually creating a series of cracks that may turn into fins. Over time, an alcove can be formed by thousands of years of erosion, which in turn, may begin to form a temporary arch. Keep in mind, the arches we know and love today may only last a mere 50 to 100,000 years depending on the climate.

So, consider yourself lucky to have sandstone arches to explore because studies suggest these arches may not have existed 100,00 years ago and may not last another 100,000 years. Now you have one more reason to hit the trail and explore the West’s red rock deserts!

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