Golden Canyon And Gower Gulch Loop Hike
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Death Valley Hikes

Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Loop Hike

  • 7.5 miles - Moderate Effort
  • 3-4 Hours (Total)
  • Can Get Very Busy
  • 1,250 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 705 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

what does this mean?

The Golden Canyon to Red Cathedral to Zabriskie Point to Gower Gulch loop hike is the 'best of' hike in Death Valley. It offers classic Death Valley geology, epic viewpoints, a dose of history, and enough mileage to make it a proper hike. If you are only doing one hike at Death Valley, this is the route to pick.

In this Guide:
  • The Best Way to Do the Golden Canyon Loop
  • Where to Park
  • Printable Directions & Maps
  • What You'll See on the Hike

When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

Where is the Golden Canyon Loop?

Golden Canyon Trailhead
The hike starts and ends at the Golden Canyon Trailhead, less than 10 minutes south of the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Use this trailhead address: Golden Canyon Trailhead, Badwater Rd, Furnace Creek, CA 92328.
Godlen Canyon Parking Lot
There's space for a dozen cars and three campers at the lot. Overflow parking is generally on the shoulder and sides of the lot.

There's a primitive toilet at the lot, but no water. Fill up before you get here.

Gear For the Hike

Gear 2022 8

I waste my time with lousy hiking gear so you don't have to. Only the winners get onto my gear page. There's no fluff, sponsorships, or promotions. It's just gear I personally use, have tested, and recommend. Right now I'm liking my inReach Mini 2, Garmin Epix, and Lone Peak 6 shoes.
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My February 2023 Top Gear Picks

Heat has killed hikers on the Golden Canyon Trail. People who don't take Death Valley's conditions seriously die every summer. I'd give the hike a pass if the high temperature is above the 80F mark.

Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Loop Hike Trail Maps

Golden Canyon And Gower Gulch Loop Hike 3
These trails are popular and well-marked with trail signage.
Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

Free Nav Tools:  GaiaGPS - AllTrails

Guides to Help You Navigate

Hike Sections

LandmarkDistanceElevation
Golden Canyon Trailhead0-120
Red Cathedral1.5380
Zabriskie Point4705
Gower Gulch to Start7.5-120

3D Map

Golden Canyon Hike Map
The hike goes in a clockwise loop, first to Red Cathedral, then back and past Manly Beacon to Zabriskie Point, and then down Gower Gulch to the start.

Hike Route Directions

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Golden Canyon And Gower Gulch Loop Hike 2
The hike starts at the canyon entrance, found at the far end of the parking lot.
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Hike up the main part of Golden Canyon. Avoid the side canyons.

Are you a Star Wars fan? Golden Canyon is where R2D2 got tased by Jawas in the first Star Wars movie.

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You'll see chunks of pavement from the road that once ran through Golden Canyon.
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As you hike up the canyon you'll start getting views of Red Cathedral in the distance.
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At about 1 mile in you'll reach Red Cathedral Junction. Continue straight up Golden Canyon to visit Red Cathedral. After we see that, we'll return to this junction and continue up the trail to Zabriskie Point.
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When the canyon narrows, take the hole through the rocks; it's easier than the climb above.
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Here we are at Red Cathedral. Enjoy it and then turn around, doubling back to the last junction.
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On the way back you'll get great views of Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley and another great hike.
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You'll also get great views of Manly Beacon, which we'll hike under shortly.
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At Red Cathedral Junction make the left toward Zabriskie Point.

Use the trail markers on this next section to find the correct path. There are dozens of markers between here and Zabriskie Point.

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There's some uphill as you hike toward and then under Manly Beacon.

Manly Beacon is named after William L. Manly, who, in 1849, scouted a path out of this area for trapped pioneers. When they left this area behind, they allegedly looked back and said, "Goodbye, Death Valley" and that's how the area got its name.

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The path past Manly Beacon is fairly epic.
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At about 2.8 miles in you'll reach Badlands Junction. Make the left toward Zabriskie Point Trailhead.
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Follow the trail maker signs through the badlands, eventually climbing up this rise.
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At the top of the rise you'll see Zabriskie Point in the distance.

Chris Zabriskie was a big wig at the Pacific Coast Borax Company, which mined borax throughout this area. Many of the geographic points around here are named after the companies executives.

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When you come to the Gower Gulch overlook, hike down and make the hard left at about 3.3 miles.
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After making the left, hike up the canyon as it winds up toward Zabriskie Point. Avoid any smaller unofficial side trails.
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At the top of the climb, make the hard right and hike up past the parking lot to Zabriskie Point.
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Enjoy the views, which are some of the best in the park.
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Hike back to the junction at Gower Gulch, and follow the gulch downhill.
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Hike down the main path of Gower Gulch, also named after a Pacific Coast Borax Company executive.
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At about 5.2 miles you'll see the junction with the connector trail on the right. Continue straight down Gower Gulch.

 

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Look up in the hills for old borax mines. You can still buy borax, although today it comes from nearby Boron, CA.

Today most commercial borax comes from the mine in Boron, CA, or from mines in Turkey.

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At about 6.4 miles in you'll emerge back onto Badwater Basin.
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Stay right as the trail winds back toward the north.
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Follow the trail along the flat section that parallels the road.
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And soon you'll arrive back at the parking area. That's it!

Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!).

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