Perhaps should have taken to heart some of the online reviews (not on HAZ), but instead allowed the words of the BLM ranger to sway our decision to do this hike. The return trip was a sandy slog (that often felt like one step forwards, two steps back) alternated with 35 - 45 degree sandstone. Personally, we didn't find the potholes/arches to be that magnificent. But, that's just us.
On the third day of our four trip, we made the long drive to the Egypt TH. The ten mile road is a bit rough and a high clearance vehicle is a must. Don’t take a passenger car here.
We hit the trail around 10:20am and started the hike. The route makes a steep drop off the rim as you head east for Neon Canyon. I didn’t do any research for this hike but thankfully Karl did. He had a GPS route that included a direct route that leads straight towards Neon Canyon. This turned out to be a great option. The overland route follows a defined use trail through a mix of deep sand and sandstone. We continued on and eventually dropped to the Escalante River where we made our first crossing in knee deep water. Once over the Escalante we found ourselves at the mouth of Neon Canyon. From there it’s roughly one mile of easy hiking to the Golden Cathedral. This section went by fast and next thing we know we’re there. The Golden Cathedral is just spectacular! The rock rises up and wraps around forming a ceiling with two holes. Words can’t describe how amazing this place is! The only way it can be better is if a group rappelled down.
After we took a break at the Golden Cathedral, we started the hike out and followed the standard hiking route. The route heads north and follows the Escalante River. There were five wet crossings through the cold water that was mostly knee deep. One spot came up to our thighs but wasn’t too bad. After the crossings we turned west and started the hike up Fence Canyon. After a mile or so we left the main trail with the plan to check out the canyon. We continued on a bit but our use trail was swallowed up by brush so we decided to cut our losses short and we returned to the main trail. The rest of the hike out was uneventful and we were back to the Egypt TH around 3pm.
The Golden Cathedral is truly magnificent! It wasn’t in our original plan but I’m glad we changed our itinerary and made it happen. It was the perfect day hike! Afterward, we returned to the Hole in the Rock Road and found a campsite near the Zebra Slot TH. We’re doing one more hike the next morning and then returning to Phoenix.
We had not planned on doing this hike originally but we managed to adjust our plan and make this one happen. We both agreed it was the best choice and high on the priority list. Fortunately I had downloaded the route just in case although it's possible to do without a route but helps while traversing the flat sandstone section between canyons. As John mentioned we went in the direct route that is not the standard but still able to follow to the confluence of Neon.
We hiked up Neon about 1 mile and enjoyed the Golden Cathedral of Neon. It's really a cool place and pictures and words really can't describe this geologic feature. You just have to see it for yourself. There were not very many people either for such a popular hike so we had some peace and quiet to enjoy the setting.
After that we headed out but went back the standard route to the north along Fence Canyon. However, with the standard route it requires five Escalante crossings as opposed to one for the way we hiked in. None of the crossings were too difficult but water was colder than expected. Once across the last crossing the route is easy to follow all the way back to where the paths converge near the trailhead. It was cool to do this hike taking too different routes out and back to Neon and definitely worth making it a loop hike.
average hiking speed 2.26 mph
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.