Grand-Staircase Escalante has no shortage of exceptional hikes, but the Golden Cathedral has to be in my top five.
At the lower end of Neon Canyon, near its confluence with the Escalante River, your journey’s end brings you to three arches formed by potholes that had their bottoms erode away. This has resulted in a magnificent natural attraction, where beams of afternoon light shine down through the arches onto a shallow pool of water.
The 9-mile out-and-back hike is challenging. You will need good navigation skills and be prepared to wade across the Escalante River.
- Distance: 9 miles
- Hike Time: 5-7 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,100 feet
- Fee: Free
- Dogs: Yes
- Difficulty: Hard
Hiking to Golden Cathedral
In May 2014, Kim and I day hiked Golden Cathedral. Our friends Jason, Sable, and David arrived later than us and hiked in with backpacking gear to spend the night.
At the time, I didn’t use Gaia GPS on hikes. Instead, I relied on a map and compass. In those days, I got lost more often and had a harder time finding my way around the backcountry. This was one of those hikes.
A little over a mile in, we followed footsteps in the sand and veered off to the right of Fence Canyon. Once we realized we were headed in the wrong direction, we turned around and found a trail that took us down to the canyon bottom.
After braving chest deep water crossings in the Escalante River’s cold springtime waters, we made it to Neon Canyon and scooted our way to the Golden Cathedral without any problems.
From Highway 12, follow the unpaved Hole in the Rock Road for 16.5 miles, then turn left onto BLM 240 aka “Egypt Road”. Follow it for about 9 miles then turn right and drive down to the Golden Cathedral Trailhead parking lot.