Golden Canyon Trail follows a gorge cut though brightly-colored sandstone that begins on the valley floor at 160 feet below sea level, and winds its way up as far as Zabriskie Point. With Badwater under water, and both the Devil’s Golf Course and Artist Drive inaccessible due to the recent rains, we decided that this trail might be a good way to spend the afternoon.
The temperature was in the mid-70’s, though for two pale-skinned Mainers who left the dead of winter behind it felt like it was even hotter. The shadows in the canyon provided some welcome relief, but the higher we climbed the more open it got, making it feel as though we were baking in the sun. This is February… I cannot imagine trying to hike here in July when the temperature regularly reaches into the 120’s during the day.
The trail is fairly easy at first as it meanders upward – all around is evidence of the power of the elements on the land. The earth has been stripped away by both water and wind to reveal sedimentary layers of rock that have also been subjected to the power of some serious geological forces. As we climbed further up the trail the path got narrower and steeper – here’s Sam climbing up part of the trail around the back side of the famous Manly Beacon. Though the lower part of this trail is considered relatively easy, as we continued a little higher we got more of sense of what it is like to hike in the desert sun. It was a good afternoon.