Thursday, July 23, 2009
This hike starts in the Grand Staircase-Escalante Nat'l Monument and enters
the Glen Canyon Nat'l Recreation Area.
The "Golden Cathedral" is aptly named. The triple arch (actually bridges=water erosion formed) which has formed in the ceiling of Neon Canyon certainly inspires reflection. And fun to get to! From the trail head, cross the thematically named "Egypt" desert area. I don't have a phone, a TV, or G.P.S, but look in a E-N-E direction from the trail head. The canyon heading in that direction is Fence Canyon. After scrambling down the initial sand and slab terrain, Fence will be the access to the Escalante River. From the Egypt trail head to the Escalante River is about 2 1/2 miles. The trail is not well cairned until about the 2 mile mark. However, the route finding is not difficult on the north side of Fence Canyon after descending the initial sandstone "steps".
After about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, you will get into the Escalante River (maybe waist deep in the narrow channel) and head downstream or right. I use a walking stick to search for deep pools or "suck" holes. You want to be upright. Soon the depth of the river diminishes to ankle deep as it widens. You will be in and out of the river on a fairly well-defined trail.
The first small canyon on the left is Neon Canyon (about 1 mile after entering the river). It is usually muddy, mainly from lack of sunshine, but not watery.
At the end of canyon hiking access (about 1/2 mi.) is a swell treat. Further progress after the "Cathedral" is for technical canyoneers.
Back the way you came, the trip up the "Egypt" sand dunes and slickrock is a little tough, but this trip is worth all of the trouble. Plan on hiking time around five hours with sightseeing, out-and-back.
Don't wear your good penny-loafers on this hike. You are getting wet for sure.
THE ESCALANTE RIVER DRAINAGE IS A DANGEROUS FLASH FLOOD AREA.
To get to the trail head: Take Hole-in-in-the-Rock Rd., which heads south from paved Rt. 12 just east of Escalante town, Utah. At 16 1/2 miles from the pavement, turn east or left on Egypt Road for 10 miles. If the road is passable, go for it. The trail begins at the Egypt Trailhead and sign-in sheet. Do not take the right turn at 9 miles (which is a claustrophobic slot hike if you like) or the left at 9 1/2 miles. I recommend a high clearance vehicle.
This is a well balanced hike with desert, river, and narrow side canyon. It is not appropriate for me during spring runoff. I don't swim.
Steve Allen describes the hike pretty well in his guide "Canyoneering 3". Neon Canyon is a section of a multi-day hike in the book. americansouthwest.net also has good info, as usual.
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