Escalante River Trailhead to Maverick Bridge and Phipps Arch
Overview: This rewarding day hike combines a walk along the Escalante River, including at least one ford, with an ascent of dry Phipps Wash and a visit to two distinctive natural spans, Phipps Arch and Maverick Bridge.
Start: Escalante River Trailhead
Distance: 6.6 miles, round-trip
Approximate hiking time: 4 to 5 hours, round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate; Class 2 and 3 friction pitches to reach Phipps Arch
Trail surface: Good boot-worn trail along Escalante River; wash route in Phipps Wash; slickrock route to Phipps Arch
Trailhead access: 2WD (paved access)
Best seasons: Apr through early June; Sept through Oct
Canine compatibility: Leashed dogs permitted
Water availability: Available from the Escalante River, but since this silty water must be settled and treated before drinking, bring your own
Hazards: Fording the Escalante River can be hazardous during high-water flows; exposure to steep drop-offs and slickrock friction pitches en route to Phipps Arch
Permits: Not required for day hikes
Topo maps: Calf Creek USGS quad; Trails Illustrated Canyons of the Escalante
Finding the trailhead: The prominently signed Escalante River Trailhead is located west of UT 12 immediately north of the Escalante River bridge, 14.6 miles south of the UT 12/Burr Trail Road junction in Boulder, and 13.3 miles east of Escalante.
After crossing beneath a highway bridge, the trail follows the bench on the left side of the river, passing through shady groves of cottonwood and other rich riparian growth. At the first major bend in the river, at 0.8 mile, you reach the bank of the river. Here you must ford the refreshingly cool river, which is about calf-deep in normal flow and has a modest current.
Your trail walk resumes on a shady bench opposite the ford, but this bench soon pinches out where steep Kayenta slickrock reaches into the river. Depending on the water level, you can either friction walk above the river or wade in the shallow water at the river’s edge for about 30 yards.
To find Maverick Bridge look for a prominent Navajo tower that juts skyward up ahead. At the foot of that tower a major side canyon opens up on the right, 2.2 miles from the trailhead.
To explore Maverick Bridge, leave Phipps Wash and ascend into this canyon via its sandy wash. Runoff from a side canyon carved an opening in the ceiling of a small but deep alcove, isolating this thin sliver of slickrock. The undercut cliff below the bridge offers a shady refuge on a hot day. After exploring Maverick Bridge, return to Phipps Wash and head for Phipps Arch.
Phipps Arch penetrates a Navajo Sandstone dome, with a span of about 100 feet by 30 feet high. Its shaded interior provides a welcome refuge from the sun, where you can comfortably enjoy inspiring vistas. An expanse of red and white Navajo slickrock dominates the landscape in the north and southwest, with a compliment of wooded benches and mesas in between. Slickrock domes surround the arch and rise just above eye level here on the rim of Phipps Wash.