Phelps Canyon

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 40.49000°N / 111.696°W
Additional Information Route Type: Hiking, Mountaineering, Skiing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Sign the Climber's Log

Phelps Canyon Trail #046 Overview

IMPORTANT!!!!! As of July 3rd 2012 a fire broke out at the base of Phelps Canyon and quickly raced up the canyon almost to the summit. As of now, July 12th, the fire is still buring but is thankfully 95% contained. THIS AREA IS CURRENTLY CLOSED TO ALL TRAFFIC, AND WILL BE FOR SOME TIME....POSSIBLY MONTHS.

There are several ways to climb Box Elder Peak. The harder to find, more senic and the most direct route from the Dry Creek Trailhead in Alpine is Phelps Canyon. Thanks to the efforts of the Forest Service, this once not so obvious "hard to find the turn" trail has now become an easy find due to a new sign at the Phelps Junction. However the Phelps Trail will still send you zig zaging, traversing, tree hopping, tree ducking, bushwacking and route finding. However, the views of the Alpine Ridge and Box Elder's extensive terracing can make up for all the suffering involved. Late summer, fall and early winter are the best times of year for this route. In the spring and summer you can expect some bushwacking in sections and in the dead of winter the route is quite difficult to follow. Overall Phelps Canyon is well worth the me.
Sharing a beautiful sunset with the summit of Box Elder PeakA beautiful sunset from the summit
The Alpine Ridge....A view of the Alpine Ridge from Phelps Canyon

More Box Elder TerracesSome of Box Elder Peak's extensive Terracing efforts
A Box Elder Peak Mountain Goat close upA Box Elder Billy Goat up close

Getting There

From I-15 get off at the Alpine Exit. Turn tward the hills and drive into the town of Alpine. Take a left at 5300 West and you should come up on a round about. Go to Main St. and continue driving till you reach 200 North. Take a right and head a couple of blocks up to 200 East. Make a left onto 200 East and follow this road all the way to the parking lot.
The last of the light......The last of the light above Phelps Canyon
A sunset over Utah LakeA beautiful sunset over Utah Lake from the top of Phelps Canyon

Phelps Canyon Trail #046

Start up the very wide, obvious and horse poop covered Dry Creek Canyon Trail. Follow this trail for 10 to 15 minutes and then start looking for a trail that makes a sharp 160 degree right turn. In the past this unmarked junction was very hard to find. However, thanks to the efforts of the Forest Severice, a new sign has been installed marking the point where you should make the 160 degree right turn into Phelps Canyon.
 Dry Creek Canyon TrailWhen you see this view you are getting close to the sharp right turn
The sharp right turn....The sharp right turn. Now this trail is well marked with a new FS sign.

At first the Phelps trail will traverse across the foothills, barely gaining any elevation. Soon the single track will turn into the base of Phelps Canyon. From here, using switch backs and steep uphills, the trail begins to gain some serious elevation. In the summer these sections can have some side growth but it is still very easy to keep on the correct trail.
Heading up Phelps CanyonBrad heading up Phelps Canyon

After crossing some old river basins the trail will head up to the "High Meadow". You will know your at this meadow because it is the most open part of the whole canyon and its at the base of one of the few pine tree forests in Phelps Canyon. Take in the views of the valley below as well as the scenic Alpine Ridge and then begin yet another steep section of climbing up through the pine tree forest. At one point, while traversing across the forest, you will come up on a couple of massive downed trees covering the trail. From here you will have a choice of 2 trails. Take the trail that is below you to the left. Continue hopping some more trees until the upper ridge is reached. From here it is an easy walk to the head very well marked head of Phelps Canyon.
Lone Peak from the slopes of...........The end or beginning (depending on how you look at it) of the Phelps Canyon Trail
The Alpine Ridge...Another view of the Alpine Ridge from Phelps Canyon
Hiking up Phelps CanyonBrad exiting Phelps Canyon with the summit of Box Elder Peak in view.

For those looking to summit Box Elder you may continue up this ridge as it gets ever steeper. There is no official trail up this ridge so keep to the right as you head up it, for it is much less vegitated on that side. At first this section will start out gentle but that all soon changes. Near the upper half the views improve, however the footing does not. As the slopes get steeper and steeper the shale rocks become more loose with each passing step. Do you best to follow a very faint Billy Goat/Human trail near the top to aviod the bushwaching. Once at the top of the ridge you should see a dead/white tree that looks like a clock that has its hands on 12 and 3. This is an important marker for those looking to repeat this as their decent route. From this point head straight up along the mellow and very scenic ridge to the summit.
Box Elder PeakBox Elder Peak. Stay slightly to the right side of this ridge.
Box Elder s TerracesSome of the more impressive Box Elder terracing efforts
Climbing the last of Phelps Canyon on Box ElderBrad hiking the last section before the summit of Box Elder Peak

Red Tape

NO Mountian Bikes
NO Motorized Vehicals
NO Camping within 200 feet of any water source
NO Groups bigger than 10
NO Picking of Wildflowers
Delphinium on Box Elder PeakDelphinium commonly grows along this trail in huge fields.
Some Phelps Canyon floraSome flora on the trail
A whole field of Delphinium on Box Elder PeakA whole field of Delphinium on Box Elder Peak

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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Ben Mathews - Aug 10, 2018 5:27 pm - Hasn't voted

trail gone in burned over area

We tried crossing the burned area from the top and soon lost the trail. Between numerous downed trees and an extremely faint trail, I wouldn't try this without a gpx to follow.

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