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Golden Canyon

Death Valley National Park

February 24th, 2008

2.5 miles
400 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:53

Rating: 6/10

Directions: From Furnace Creek in Death Valley, take Highway 190 south. Turn right onto Badwater Road. The signed parking lot will be on your left.   View Driving Map


It was quite windy as we prepared for the hike in the full parking lot. The lot provides a nice view of the valley and the Panamint Range on the other side. The wind was visibly kicking up dust and sand in the valley below. I figured the canyon hike would protect us from the wind. It mostly would.

Death Valley dust storm

There are trail guides at the trail head for 50 cents, as well as a bathroom. The trail guides refer to 10 numbered posts which you'll find along the trail. We started off on the hike just after 11am under sunny (but windy) skies.

The first thing you'll notice is pavement. Not right away, but a few minutes up the trail is a chunk of pavement, remnants of the road that used to wind up the canyon. A flood back in February 1976 destroyed the road, and they never rebuilt it. Instead, you get to walk it.

Rock formation in Golden Canyon

Further up the trail you'll start to see interesting rock formations. It's quite barren, however, devoid of almost any vegetation. Just rock and dirt everywhere. For some reason it reminded me of the Star Trek scene where Kirk is battling the Gorn. Although that actually had some vegetation, if I recall.

First glimpse of Red Cathedral

There are lots of small side canyons you can explore, but we just stayed on the main path. Eventually we started to get our first views of Red Rock Cathedral, rising over the yellow canyons in a contrasting red.

Closer look at Red Cathedral

Nathan underneath rock formations

We reached the last numbered sign, number 10. There's a trail intersection here, with the right fork leading up to Zabriskie Point (which I'll mention in the trip report tomorrow). We continued straight, all the way to the Red Cathedral wall. The path gets narrower and narrower until there's nowhere else to go. We turned around and found some shade in a little slot near the big wall, where we sat down for lunch for almost an hour. There's really not much in the way of shade, so take advantage of any you can find.

Red Cathedral

Jean and Nathan heading toward Red Cathedral

After lunch we turned around and headed back downhill to the car. Along the way I saw a few small bushes I hadn't noticed on the way in. I thought one of them was the only living plant in the canyon, but as it turns out there were lots of them I hadn't noticed. Maybe I was too busy looking up at all the barren walls. In all, it's not the most rewarding hike you'll ever do, to say the least. But it's a decent hike to do, especially if the valley wind prevents you from doing other hikes comfortably.

A look back from Red Cathedral

Golden Canyon

Jean and Nathan hiking down the canyon

Two hikers passing rock formations

Back to trip report.


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