Description: This unmarked route begins with incredible views of the Escalante River Canyon, Boulder Mountain, and the Henry Mountains. From the rim, the route drops down steep slickrock into a drainage at the head of Phipps Wash. In Phipps Wash, the route follows the sandy wash bottom with high sandstone ledges on both sides. A side canyon on the right leads to Phipps Arch. Another side canyon on the left leads to Maverick Natural Bridge. The wash ends at the Escalante River. Follow the river upstream along a signed trail. At one point, you must cross over to the opposite side of the river. Continue along the signed trail back to the Hwy 12-River trail head. Be sure to stay on the signed trail as the route crosses private land.
For a shorter and easier hike, begin and end at the Hwy 12-River trail head. Follow the signed trail downstream from the trail head and then retrace your route for a 5-mile round trip. For more information, detailed maps, and current conditions contact the nearest GSENM visitor center.
Type of Trip: Usually done as a day hike, but could be done as an overnight backpack. Not recommended for horses because of steep descents down the slickrock to the head of Phipps Wash. Several loop hikes, described in popular guide books, can be done in the Phipps Wash area.
Mileage: Approximately 6.0 miles one way from the drop-in point on the Sheffield Road to the Hwy 12-River trail head. From the drop-in point, it is approximately 3.5 miles to Phipps Arch, 4.0 miles to Maverick Natural Bridge, and 4.5 miles to the Escalante River. It is 1.5 miles along the Escalante River from Phipps Wash to the Hwy 12-river trail head.
Trailhead Location: Drive 10.0 miles east of Escalante on Hwy 12. Turn right (south) onto the Sheffield Road (103). (This dirt road connects with Hwy 12 approximately 0.5 mile past the Head of the Rocks Overlook.) There are several possible places to start the hike off of the Sheffield Road. A good place is 0.75 mile south of Hwy 12 at a dispersed camping site on the left (east) side of the road. At this point, it is possible to drop down off of the rim and continue down the slickrock to the head of Phipps Wash. The trip ends at the Escalante River trail head on Hwy 12, 14.0 miles east of Escalante. Return the way you came if you don’t have two vehicles.
Water Availability/Hiking in Water: In Phipps Wash, water can occasionally be found in large slickrock tanks and small pools in the sandy wash bottom. There is often a small intermittent stream in the bottom of Phipps Wash near the Escalante River. Water is available in the Escalante River. All water should be treated before drinking. Along the Escalante River from Phipps Wash to Hwy 12, there are three areas where you must walk in the river. The first two areas are located at points where the Escalante River flows up against sandstone ledges. Walk in the river in ankle deep water along the ledges to get back to dry ground. At the third spot, you must cross to the opposite side of the river. The water here is usually knee to mid-thigh deep.
Obstacles/Technical Features: This is an unmarked route. Hikers must be able to use topographic maps to find their way. Steep descents on slickrock and one pour-off to negotiate as you descend from Spencer Flat to Phipps Wash. A cairned route on the left side of the pour-off leads you safely around this obstacle. A steep cairned scramble up the slickrock leads to Phipps Arch.
Safety Concerns: The initial drop into Phipps Wash and the scramble up to Phipps Arch are steep and can be treacherous. The high slickrock benches offer little shade and are exposed to intense sunlight. Heat-related injuries and dehydration could be potential problems. Hikers must carry adequate amounts of water. Hikers must be extremely cautious during flash flood season. Due to the amount of river wading required, this hike is best done during warm weather months to avoid hypothermia. Biting deer flies can be bad in the late spring/early summer. Wear long pants to avoid bites.
Maps: USGS 7.5 minute quads: Tenmile Flat and Calf Creek