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Golden Canyon / Gower Gulch Loop - Death Valley National Park

Summary: A short self guided loop hike with views of Manly Beacon, Red Cathedral and colorful badlands, located south of Furnace Creek.
Directions: From Furnace Creek and CA 190, drive south on Badwater Road for 2 miles to the signed Golden Canyon trailhead on the east side of the road.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car
Navigation: Easy
Length: 4 miles
Date Hiked: November 2004
Weather Conditions: Warm and sunny
Required Skills: None
Hike Description: From the trailhead, parking lot and bathroom, pick up a pamphlet which contains details of the Golden Canyon trail (cost = $0.25). Follow the canyon wash east into Golden Canyon, which is composed mainly of soft, yellow mudstone. It's easy walking as you head up the rather wide wash which features brown plastic numbered signs which correspond to a couple paragraphs in the trail guide which describe the geology and natural history of the area. It's a one mile hike to the last of these signs (#10), though you can continue up the wash for another 1/4 miles for closer views of the Red Cathedral, a scenic cliff face which borders Golden Canyon to the east. After viewing the Cathedral, return to the last sign post and follow the Gower Gulch Trail south as it climbs up through the mudstone with some nice views of colorful badlands to the west. The path climbs moderately steeply up and under the prominent peak of Manly Beacon, then drops down through a series of washes (marked at frequent intervals by brown plastic trail signs) to a junction with the left branching Zabriskie Point Trail (closed due to erosion when I was here). Stay straight at the sign and enter a wide rocky wash. Follow the large wash down stream past a number of old mines which were used to extract borax and talc. Signs in the area warn of the dangers of entering abandoned mine sites. The wash continues west, descending a few easy drop offs as it goes until ending in a 40 foot dry fall with views down into Badwater Basin. The path skirts the dry fall on the right and then follows the foothills, somewhat faintly, heading north back to the parking area.
Rating (1-5 stars):
The author and his wife completed the loop described above in 2 hours.
Maps: Trails Illustrated - Death Valley National Park
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.

The golden rock for which the
canyon is named.
Red Cathedral.
Badlands on the way to Gower Gulch. Trail beneath Manly Beacon.