Trail Guide: Hiking Death Valley’s Golden Canyon (2-3 miles / 300′ / 1+ hour)

Trail Guides

The first (or last) marked stop on the road to to Badwater is for Golden Canyon, an easy rated hike but with a name like that and a 90+ degree day, it seemed like just the route to wrap up my day trip visit and get a little stretch before the push to Vegas.

Golden Canyon Trail

The Golden Canyon Trail is nothing but views as you walk a natural made trail right through the middle of mountains.

Golden Canyon starts exactly as the name says, and frankly, most people would probably do just fine wandering up a 1/10th of a mile to where building sized boulders make for great photos that are just as golden as any spot near the “end.” But of course, there is a trail, an end-point and a view so, with plenty of water, loads of food and a very important layer of sunblock freshly applied, off I went.

The trail is designed as “interpretive” with a guide to various marked points. While the markers are impossible to miss, I only saw about half of them actually up, but it’s pretty easy to sort out most of the stops anyways.

Details of the guide aside, the first real “woah” moment comes about 1/4 mile in as the red cliffs of Red Cathedral… the “end point” come into view… judging from how many people I passed and did not see again, I suspect plenty more turn here, deciding it’s not worth a little clearer view to endure the heat.  For those who continue on, it’s more of the same canyon experience as the red rock faces get closer and closer (to be clear, that’s a good thing.

Golden Trail's Rock Faces

Always look around you as you go… This rock cropping is nothing special on the way up but one of the best features you’ll see as experienced on the return.

The end point is stated at a mile but as the trail continues on and markers lead on further, I wandered about 1.25 and 300′ in before stopping for a few photos. Navigation is a bit tricky in the end as markers fade away and other floods have added their own routing options…. watch the footsteps of the path.

Golden Trail's End Goal

Golden Trail’s End Goal can be seen about a quarter mile in, or keep going 1.25 miles to stand under it.

Books list this as an easy hike but, given that it has an elevation gain (almost all near the end), is 2 miles in length and totally sun-exposed, I’d rate it as moderate simply because of how the heat makes every step work (hence the and/or statement)…. Out here nothing is a stroll in the park.

Quick Facts:

  • Official Rating: Easy
  • My Rating: Walk up the hill
  • Start point: Marked trailhead with its own lot
  • Distance: 2.0 mile round-trip (out & back) / 300′ gain / 1+ hours
  • Look for: The building sized boulders and faces along the walk
  • Recommended time: Highly exposed & hot, hot hot… early or late (with flashlights)
  • Facilities: Parking, restrooms and no water

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