This was our second destination arch of our spring 2013 Utah trip, after Colonnade Arch. And as you can tell from the photo, this is one beefy arch.
From what I can figure, there are at least three trailheads from which you can reach Phipps Arch:
- the UT 12 crossing of the Escalante river
- off of Old Sheffield Rd at Little Spencer Flat
- off of UT 12 between the overlook and the Escalante river
As we had three days of hiking in front of us in the Grand Gulch, we opted for #1 as it’s the shortest. But it is also the wettest route — the trail requires fording/wading the Escalante three times. When we hiked it was 12″-18″ deep.
Otherwise it’s not a particularly demanding trail. It runs even with the river and Phipps Wash, only becoming more difficult when the trail heads up to the arch. You’ll have to have decent map reading skills because you can’t see the arch from down in the wash. And finding the trail up can be tricky. Even after you’ve found the correct side canyon, the trail starts up immediately where the side canyon hits Phipps Wash — go up the side canyon much at all and you’ve gone too far. The only difficult spot on the trail up is one place where you’ll pull yourself up on a ledge.
Phipps Arch itself makes the effort worthwhile. This might be the antithesis of Delicate Arch — an arch whose adjectives include “chunky,” “girthy,” “massive,” and “beefy.” And there’s some exploring you can do on either side of the arch to give you different vantage points.
Not that it’s all that spectacular, but since you’re in the neighborhood you might want to drop by Maverick Natural Bridge. Just head downstream and it’s the next large side canyon to the west. Just a note, the USGS topo map for this area misplaces Maverick Natural Bridge.
We’ve been visiting the Escalante/Boulder area for a number of years, yet this was the first time on this hike. We’d have hike this years ago if I knew about it. I highly recommend making the effort.