Hiking GuidesUtah

Elephant Arch Hiking Guide

Elephant Arch in Red Cliffs Desert Reserve

Overview

Elephant Arch is a natural sandstone arch in Southern Utah, appropriately named after its uncanny resemblance to an elephant’s profile. This is most apparent when viewing the arch from its southeast side.

The trailhead is just a few miles from St. George and Washington, but gets overshadowed by more sought-after trails in nearby Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park. Still, among the trails in Red Cliffs Desert Reserve it is one of the most popular.

Aside from the arch, this hike is filled with satisfying views of the surrounding desert. To the north is Red Cliffs, a band of red, orange, pink, and white rock formations pushed up by the Hurricane Fault, which runs from Washington County all the way down to the Grand Canyon.

As a backdrop, the Pine Valley Mountains rise behind Red Cliffs to elevations of over 10,000 feet. During the winter months, they are often covered in snow, providing a distinct contrast to the barren red lands below.

Kim sitting on Elephant Arch in Red Cliffs Desert Reserve
Kim sitting on Elephant Arch. March 2015

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 4 miles out and back
  • Hike Time: 2-3 hours
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 400 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Description

From Mill Creek Trailhead, follow the jeep trail for 1/4 mile or so until you reach a junction with Bone Creek Trail. Bear right here and follow alongside the power lines until you reach a small fenced structure. Drop down into the sandy wash below and continue eastward. This wash is called Bone Dry Wash and has a fitting name most of the time. During and after heavy rain, this wide drainage becomes a roaring river – something to keep in mind before entering.

Continue up the wash for about a 1/2 mile, then look for a marked trail to the right called Elephant Arch Trail. From here you will ascend over a sandy hill then back down to another smaller wash. Above and to the right, you can then scramble up to the now visible Elephant Arch. To see the “elephant”, you will need to walk underneath the arch and view it from the other side.

Looking north from Elephant Arch
Looking north from Elephant Arch. January 2017

Location

From St. George, get on I-10 northbound then take exit 10 and turn left onto 3050 East. Cross below the overpass and take your first right onto Buena Vista Boulevard. Continue 1.2 miles then turn left onto Main Street. Soon, Main Street turns into an unpaved road. Continue on this road for 1.5 miles until you reach Mill Creek Trailhead.

Get Directions

Map

Elephant Arch Map

Resources

Guidebooks

Topographic Map

Photos

Posing underneath Elephant Arch
Me (the author) posing underneath Elephant Arch. January 2017
Sandstone blobs above Elephant Arch
Sandstone blobs above the arch. January 2017
Red Cliffs and the snowcapped Pine Valley Mountains from Mill Creek Trailhead
Red Cliffs and the snowcapped Pine Valley Mountains from Mill Creek Trailhead. January 2017

 

 

 

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