Golden Canyon to Red Cathedral to Gower Gulch Loop Trail


Multiple trail options to see a variety of very interesting geology depending on how much time and energy you have. This hike is a great way to explore what Death Valley has to offer.

Distance (RT):  5.8    
Time:                    3-4 hours
Start:                    Parking lot at the end of Golden Canyon Road just off Badwater Rd
Difficulty:           Moderate
Elevation Gain: 1040 ft
Fee:     $30 Park Entrance Fee

This is one of the most popular hikes in Death Valley, so don’t expect to have the mountain all to yourself. We hiked the loop clockwise direction which is the recommended way from most hikers. We took a lot of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a sack lunch and snacks for this hike. The canyon is fairly wide in most places and only gradually climbs (except for one or two places).

We decided to go to Red Cathedral because the red cliffs just looked so cool from a distance. When we actually got to the cliffs and we couldn’t see the contrast of the red with the other colors it wasn’t as neat, but we followed the path to get to the lookout. While there weren’t any dropoffs, Jeri with her fear of heights had to take it very slow. The views from the lookout were very nice. The colors in the pictures just don’t do it justice.

Coming back from Red Cathedral and continuing the main trail begins a decent climb, a narrow trail with steep’ish edges leads to the top. I joked with my kids how fun it would be to sled down this hill with snow. The guy you see in the background was running the trail, we saw him at two different places so he looped us on this nearly 6 mile hike – WOW! We noticed a a trail at the top that we didn’t take because we weren’t sure where it went, but it looks like it is another overlook.

On the way down, you can either head to Zabriskie point (adding another 2 miles to the hike) or just continue down. We opted to head back.

This section of the trail was all in what appeared to be a big wide wash basin. There weren’t any overlooks or views in this section, but still some unique rock formations. Some of the mountains had red rocks on top of the white hills making it look like they spewed lava rocks. This is the exit of the canyon and the deep ravine the water left as it flowed towards the valley floor. The edges of the ravine were as tall as 10-12 ft in some places.

There isn’t a lot of life out here, but it’s still a beautiful and fascinating place.

Back at the parking lot, we used the restroom and headed off to start our next adventure.

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