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Golden Cathedral

Southern Utah Wanderings | Canyons of the Escalante
Monday, October 6, 2014

After spending the weekend in The Gulch and then spending Sunday night camped up on the Egypt Bench, we got started hiking in the faint dawn light before sunrise Monday morning from the Egypt trailhead on our way down to Neon Canyon on the other side of the Escalante River. Our main destination for today would be the impressive alcove known as the Golden Cathedral and a few nearby petroglyph panels. From the trailhead we descended the steep sandstone ramp and then hiked cross-country while watching the sun rise before descending into the Escalante River Canyon down a large sand dune.

The first light of the day strikes nearby sandstone domes.

Sunrise Hike by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Looking back towards the trailhead we had started from…at the top of the sandstone bench.

Trailhead View by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A slab had broken off this rock formation making it look like an arch from the distance.

Broken Slab by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Warm morning light on our cross-country hike.

Light on Sandstone by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

On our way to the edge of the canyon we climbed up ot a higher point to watch the light strike the landscape around us.

Egypt Sunrise by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A very small mushroom-shaped rock we passed along the way.

Mushroom Rock by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Looking down on the Escalante River from the edge of the canyon before our descent.

Escalante River Canyon by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After descending down to the river we found a path through the vegetation along it’s shore and easily crossed right across from the mouth of Neon Canyon. We then hiked up the canyon until we reached the Golden Cathedral. This short section of Neon Canyon was very beautiful and there were plenty of other scenes to photograph along the way. I managed to walk through a patch of poison ivy that happened to be in it’s colorful fall display along the trail and was worried that it would cause issues on the remainder of the trip. Luckily, it never affected me. We had the canyon to ourselves for well over an hour as we waited for the nice reflected light to fill the Golden Cathedral and we didn’t meet anyone else until we were hiking back out of Neon Canyon.

Hiking up Neon Canyon.

Neon Hike by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A little slot between a large boulder and the canyon wall just before reaching the Golden Cathedral.

Final Slot by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

There were nice reflections on the calm water of the pool inside the Cathedral.

Calm by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

View back down-canyon from the Cathedral.

Boulders by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Pool by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The amazing and beautiful Golden Cathedral.

Golden Cathedral by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

View from the Cathedral of the large canyon wall reflecting the nice light inside.

Pool Reflection by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Jared taking a photo of the collapsed potholes above gives a little scale to this place.

Photographing the Golden Cathedral by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Just another angle…

Collapsed Potholes by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I’ve seen enough photos of aspen trees while moving the camera vertically this fall, so I decided to try it with stripes of desert varnish on our way out of the canyon.

Desert Stripes by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Plenty of reflected light in the canyon with stripes everywhere.

Zebra Wall by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Reflections and reflected light were around every bend.

Neon Reflection by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

We were still too early for fall colors in this canyon (aside from the poison ivy), but the vibrant green vegetation was still nice.

Green by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After exiting Neon Canyon we visited two petroglyph panels along the river before hiking back up Fence Canyon to the trailhead. We hiked down the river to visit the first panel. We thought it would be easier to cross the river at the mouth of Neon Canyon and then hike down on the other side where we would try to find another place to cross again. This turned out to be a bad idea since it was a bushwhack getting back to the shore of the river and we had a hard time finding a good place to cross. We did eventually make it across again and found the petroglyphs.

While there were many petroglyphs found at this site, they were very faint and hard to see. These were some of the better ones.

Downstream Sheep by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

On our way back from the first site we decided just to hike up the Escalante River which was a much better idea. Jared leads the way…

Escalante River by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When we reached the mouth of Neon Canyon again we followed the trail upstream towards Fence Canyon and stopped by another panel of petroglyphs with some historic graffiti. This was a much bigger panel and the petroglyphs were easier to see and photograph.

Neon Petroglyphs by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Unusual by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Atlatl Panel by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Historic Graffiti by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The trail to Fence Canyon was a little tricky to follow since we had not come down it and it wasn’t as well-used as I thought it would be. We managed to find our way to the mouth of Fence Canyon after a few more river crossings where we stopped for lunch before climbing back up to the Egypt trailhead. It was a long hot slog under the midday sun with little shade to be found along the way, so we took our time on the climb back up.

Jared at our deepest crossing of the Escalante.

Deep Crossing by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

We came across some muddy banks along the river and then noticed someone had put up a warning.

Muddy Banks by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

View down Fence Canyon towards the Escalante River after climbing out of it.

Fence Canyon Overlook by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After reaching the trailhead again, we drove a short distance to our campsite where we decided to spend another night instead of moving elsewhere. We had some dinner and then made a last minute decision to drive over to the Devil’s Garden to catch the sunset. We barely made it and didn’t have too much time to photograph the formations before the sun dipped below the Kaiparowits Plateau.

Devil’s Garden Hoodoos by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Metate Arch by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Devil’s Garden Sunset by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Devil’s Garden Dusk by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When the sun was long gone and the Earth’s Shadow had disappeared we drove back to camp in the dark and went right to bed so we could wake up the next morning and start all over again.

>> Golden Cathedral Photo Gallery


  1. Jason Sylvester
    Jason Sylvester October 22, 2014

    outstanding, thank you

  2. Doug Schumacher
    Doug Schumacher October 23, 2014

    Great shots, I was hoping that you would do some of Neon and Cathedral canyons. I was there the week or two before you, had floods couldn’t go to those but went to Devils garden, Zebra slot and tunnel.

    • Randy Langstraat
      Randy Langstraat October 23, 2014

      Thanks Doug. Stay tuned for some photos from Zebra and Tunnel when I get a few more trip reports done 😉

  3. John Spurr
    John Spurr October 31, 2014

    Really nice! I tried to take that hike in 2013, but, being old and decrepit, I made it only to the Escalante and had to turn around. Didn’t get an early enough start. I understand there’s a nice panel near the mouth of Choprock Canyon.

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