Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult – Heat can be an issue, take lots of water and be careful of flash floods in the wash. Hike at your own risk.
If you don't have an off-road vehicle, you have to walk an extra two miles, so I will give you the simplest route but the farthest to walk. Start out by traveling north on Main street in Washington, UT. Continue driving under the freeway overpass and north through the four-way stop.
You will come to the end of the road with an access gate blocking the road as it turns to dirt. You will now need to continue on foot, (unless you know how to access this road from the new Washington exit 13). If you can find this same road and drive on the dirt to the end, you will cut approx three to four miles round trip off this hike.
After your two-mile hike, you will come to a dirt parking lot with a gate and a fence that separates Washington City from the Red Cliffs Reserve – this is an excellent trail for horses, by the way. I have done so on horseback a few times and on foot more
then a dozen times.
Once you step over the fence, the adventure begins. You now have no choice but to walk, that's what we are doing this for though, right – the exercise. So start out by walking north on the same dirt road you have either walked or drove on up to this point. You will continue about a quarter mile and you will see another road that takes off to the right, or north east.
Take that road and follow the power line all the way down into the wash. You will pass a pump house on your left once you drop down into the wash. Now is when the work begins. Your road will end once you enter the wash. It becomes very soft, deep sand. It is really a beautiful hike but the sand can make it tough. The wash itself is part of what makes this hike so beautiful. The sand hills, and sandstone ledges are amazing.
Follow that wash all the way until you come to a large open area where you can see the wash going to the left, (north) or another wash going to the right or (south). Straight in front of you, or east, you will see a horse or walking trail heading right up the hill out of the wash. Follow this trail. It will do a moderate climb up a sandy hill and then drop you down between some rocks on a slippery sandstone and sand trail.
Continue on this trail east. It splits and winds north and south a few times and you can either stay in the wash or follow the sandy horse trail but continue east. I always use the black cinder cone looking peak as my reference of where I am headed to the east.
Once you get bottlenecked into the canyon to the east, directly below the small cinder cone looking, dark-colored peak, you will have access to viewing Elephant Arch. Now it is not a large arch, but the entire hike is what makes this an experience to remember. As close as I can estimate, this hike is 4 to 5 miles round trip, 6 to 7 if you choose to walk from the end of main street Washington.
Plan on taking your time and spending a good half a day on this hike. Take plenty of water, snacks and good hiking shoes. Make sure someone knows where you are headed, and enjoy the beauty this canyon has to offer. Beware of snakes and lizards, and if you're lucky, you will see a desert tortoise.
For more info on this hike and other hikes e-mail me at [email protected]