Sandstone is the material, and the Escalante River the sculptor here across more than 1,500 square miles of fantastically eroded territory in southern Utah. Slot canyons, hoodoos, natural arches, deep gulches, and sheer cliff walls reward intrepid hikers who explore this remote, carved landscape.
Our image features a highlight of the area—an enormous natural bridge within Neon Canyon called the Golden Cathedral. Visitors with solid canyoneering skills rappel through pothole arches in the formation’s overhang to finish their exploration of Neon Canyon. And while Golden Cathedral is the star attraction, Neon Canyon is stunning in its own right—it lives up to its name when light falls on the canyon walls, turning them a blazing orange.
The Golden Cathedral is THE iconic photo of the Grand Staircase-Escalante area. This is the place you’ve seen in books, calendars, and posters. It is a stunning natural bridge in lower Neon Canyon that will take your breath away!
For canyoneers, see the Neon Canyon for doing the canyon as a technical canyoneering adventure. Hikers will find this a lovely amble from Egypt Bench, down to the Escalante River, and then a short hike up Neon Canyon to the Golden Cathedral proper. The hike CAN be done as a day hike but makes for an even more pleasant backpack. Camping along the river is sublime, and wandering up or down the river and visiting side canyons makes for a delightful wander.
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.
The Golden Cathedral Trail is a 9.1 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Escalante, Utah that offers scenic views and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, and nature trips and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
The Golden Cathedral is an incredible sandstone alcove featuring an awe-inspiring triple pothole arch located deep in the wilderness of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Located in remote Neon Canyon the unmarked route to The Golden Cathedral traverses through rugged desert terrain for nearly 4.5 miles one way requiring excellent navigation skills. This hike is only suitable for adults in good physical condition.