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Golden Cathedral Trail

Garfield County, Utah

based on 4 reviews



9.27 miles

Elevation Gain

1398 ft

Route Type



Added by Thomas Burton

Golden Cathedral is a very neat rock formation located in the heart of the Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. It is a little difficult to get to but a really special place.

From highway 12, drive south down the hole in the rock road for about 17 miles to a dirt road on the left that is well marked for Egypt. Follow that dirt road 9.9 miles to the Egypt Trailhead. There is a BLM trail register at the trail head. After that, take one of the numerous ways down to the Escalante River. We decided to go down Fence Canyon and camp at the Escalante River for a night but you could also just head straight for the mouth of the canyon using a topo map to find a safe way to descend down to the Escalante River.

Finding the mouth of Neon Canyon wasn't too difficult because it is one of the only canyons that has a mouth on the left side of the Escalante River as you are looking down river. We did have to bushwhack a little in order to make it. Once in Neon, the trail was easy to follow and there were no problems.

It is a pretty short hike from the entrance of Neon Canyon to the Golden Cathedral. It only took us about 30 minutes. Dogs are allowed to visit the Golden Cathedral but must be kept on leash. Form there return the way you came.

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Dog Friendly
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Swimming Hole

Golden Cathedral Trail Reviews

Completed - with an overnight stay in Fence Canyon, late fall, 2023. Trail was poorly marked from the parking area throughout the entire way to Neon Canyon. There were two issues with markings: 1) There were too many cairns placed along the trail leading to who knows where? Not sure if it was intentional to mislead, or careless people thinking they were helping others take "their" trail, which was (to them) the best way, despite the abundance of other cairns nearby. If you're following the legit GPX track (i.e. GAIA or similar) expect the cairns to NOT be in the correct locations. 2) Many of the cairns that might have originally been properly placed along the route were knocked down. This might be related to #1 above, or just visiting Kalifornians ‘re-wilding’ the trail. Either way - not appreciated. Take a GOOD tracking app with you, and maybe a backup as well. Carry an InReach, or other satellite communicator, as there is no phone service in the canyons. Water wasn’t really an issue. Day temps were in the 70’s, and nights dropped below freezing. We took a liter of water each, and refilled our bottles at the Escalante river (filtered, of course). If you have no way to filter your own water, you must carry enough to make the trip in and out. The entirety of the trail consists of slick rock, and deep, loose sand. The rock is grippy if you have the right shoes (trail runners recommended) but the sand just wears you out. There’s no shoe that will help with walking in the sand. Some estimates I saw of doing this out-and-back in 3 hours are grossly exaggerated. A young couple who started the same time as we did (around 11:30am) and passed us at the base of the parking area, never made it all the way to the Cathedral. We met them again around 5:00pm on their way back, just as we were making our third water crossing towards Neon Canyon. They said they never made it to the Cathedral, but decided to turn back in order to make it to the parking lot before dark. Though my wife and I are both in our 60’s, and carrying backpacks loaded for an overnight stay (@25lbs each) we pressed on from there and were able to make it to the Cathedral around 6:30pm. That left us enough time to enjoy it a while in solitude, and still make the five water crossings back to Fence Canyon, along the river, where we set up camp for the night. The water crossings are hard to predict. Accounts of people who did this hike in the spring reported chest-deep water. We thought we might be rock-hopping, given we did the hike so late in the fall. Well, we were wrong! What we experienced were water depths to about 30 inches, enough to get shorts wet, even if they’re pulled up pretty high. Expect the crossings to be about 40 feet across in the late fall, and icy cold… like ‘your legs go numb instantly’ cold. We brought water shoes, which was a wise choice, so we had warm, dry shoes to change into after we got done with the crossings. Getting in and out of the river was difficult as well. The banks are quite steep, with very little to grab onto to pull yourself up. The longer you stay in the water, the less your legs want to cooperate in getting you out of it. All-in-all, the trip was enjoyable. We had no time constraints, so we took our time and took lots of pictures. This hike is easily doable for pretty much any age, as long as you’re in reasonable health. On our first day, along with the younger couple mentioned earlier, we were the only humans in the area. Since that couple didn’t stay overnight, we had the entire Fence Canyon area all to ourselves. It was quiet, and peaceful. Just the way we like it. No crowds. No other human noises. Perfect.

Great hike but be prepared for a full day. We started around 8am and it took 10 hours but we explored some other points of interest nearby, if you’re just going to the cathedral and back it should be around 6-8 hours. There will be cairns along the trail but having a map or digital route to follow is highly recommended, especially if you aren’t going up and down Fence Canyon. Save some energy for the climb back to the parking area, it’s not so bad going down with fresh legs but it feels long at the end when you’re hungry and thirsty!

And you have to do your homework. Crossing 25-Mile-Wash on Egypt Road might be difficult in a normal passenger car, and even impossible after rainfall. The hike down Fence Canyon is easy, The trail is well marked with cairns. Getting down to the river might require some root finding skills. Depending on the weather, the crossing of the Escalante river might be difficult. After recent rain falls in the water may reach up to your belly. The hike back to the parking lot is quite a climb and can be strenuous and hot if you go there in the afternoon, so, be sure to make an early start. If you do this as a day hike, plan for about 4 to 6 hours. Better check back with the BLM office in Escalante concerning the road, river and weather conditions before you start !

The trail was steep in some areas. Do your research before you go it's not the best marked trail and it's easy to pass it. Highly recommend water shoes and plenty of water. I would plan a minimum of 7 hours to hike and explore on the way.

Leave No Trace

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