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Phipps Wash - Grand Staircase Escalante

Summary: A nice and fairly easy hike to a scenic arch and the Escalante River.
Directions: From the small town of Escalante, drive east on Utah State Highway 12 towards the town of Boulder. Drive exactly 1.1 miles past Old Sheffield Road to a pullout between mile posts 71 & 72 and park on the right side of the road. Note: Old Sheffield Road lies between mile posts 70 and 71 just before a sharp left turn and series of yellow and black arrow signs. The GPS coordinates for this parking area are: 12S 461095mE 4178256mN
Alternatively, if you do not want to park next to Highway 12, Rudi Lambrechtse (referenced below) suggests parking a short ways down Old Sheffield Road. You will have to negotiate a steep slick rock slope though, if you choose this second parking area.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car - paved all the way
Navigation: Moderate
Length: 11 Miles
Date Hiked: November, 2002
Weather Conditions: Cool and sunny
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the Highway 12 car pull off, simply head east down the shallow wash. It's a bit brushy at first, but that soon passes and before long, you will reach a junction with a short side canyon that enters from the right (GPS: 12S 461687mE 4177541mN). This is the spot you would enter had you come in from Old Sheffield Road. There is a pour off and pool where these two drainages meet. Head left and continue down the sandy drainage. The drainage heads towards the east and about 30 minutes after leaving your vehicle you will reach a large dry fall of 80+ feet that blocks your path. The fall is easily bypassed by following a use trail around on canyon right. The path leads around the slick rock then descends to the canyon bottom once again via a sandy hill. Just below this point you will arrive at the junction with Phipps Wash (GPS: 12S 462721mE 4176696mN). Turn left and head down this wide and sandy wash. The canyon isn't terribly interesting, but the towering, varnish streaked canyon walls are nice. After slogging a while, water begins to surface and vegetation proliferates. It's a bit bush wacky at first as you head through the willows, but soon becomes nicer. A short walk will bring you to a large flat camp site under a tall, overhung alcove (GPS: 12S 463477mE 4177996mN). A bit beyond, you will reach a side canyon that enters from the right (GPS: 12S 462721mE 4176696mN) which contains Phipps Arch. To visit the arch, follow the foot trail to the side canyon and begin climbing the slick rock slope on the downstream side of the canyon. The path begins climbing towards the northeast, then negotiates a few ledges to a 6' tall sandstone pillar. Watch for cairns as the path heads north, up a few more ledges, then northeast once again. In the upper levels of the canyon, which contain large pocketed sandstone domes, is the arch (GPS: 12S 463883mE 4178860mN). When ready, head back to Phipps and continue down canyon another half hour to the confluence with the Escalante River. Here Phipps, which had gone underground, surfaces again, to enter the Escalante in a wide, sandy delta, covered with cottonwood tress. If you spotted a car, it's only about a mile up the Escalante to Highway 12 (you'll get your feet wet), otherwise, return the way you came. 
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife completed the hike to the arch and Escalante and back from Highway 12 in just under 6 hours.
Maps: Trails Illustrated - Canyons of the Escalante
Books:  Hiking the Escalante - Rudi Lambrechtse
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Varnish stained walls
in Phipps Wash.
The east side of Phipps Arch.
The west side of Phipps Arch. Grass & sand.