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Hiking Guide: Golden Cathedral

Golden Cathedral



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.

The Escalante River
The Escalante River, upstream from Neon Canyon

Quick Facts

  • 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.

Below Golden Cathedral Trailhead
Below Golden Cathedral Trailhead

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.

Max (the author) crosses the Escalante River
Max (the author) crosses the Escalante River



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.

Get Directions



Grand Canyon Trust – Golden Cathedral Trail


Max (the author) poses in front of Golden Cathedral
A hodgepodge of Native American and cowboy petroglyphs near Golden Cathedral
A hodgepodge of Native American and cowboy petroglyphs near Golden Cathedral
Kim crosses the Escalante River
Kim crosses the Escalante River
Desert wildflowers in early May
Desert wildflowers in early May
A desert spiny lizard
A desert spiny lizard



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