Neon Canyon, Escalante National Monument, UT


I've been lured to Escalante before. I remember the first time I saw a photo of the Golden Cathedral, and I had to convince myself it was real. Anxious to see it myself, I recruited a few friends, and we set off to spend the day hiking and wandering, but without any ropes. We arrived at the mouth of Neon Canyon and the Escalante was in complete devastation from the floods of 2006. After pounding through downed cottonwoods and debris, we made our way up to the Cathedral. The scene was simply breathtaking, yet somewhat unsatisfying. I couldn't help but imagine what other marvels were to be found farther upcanyon. I promised myself I would make a return trip as soon as possible.


The obligatory group photo. Left to Right – Gary, Brandon, Dan, Dave, Skunkman, Penny, Doug, and Ryan.

Fast forward to September, and a plan was hatched. Thanks to Dave and Penny, a nice crowd was assembled for the weekend to bag both Neon Canyon and Choprock Canyon. The plan was to spend three nights at Fence camp, and tackle Neon on Friday, Choprock on Saturday, and hike back out Sunday morning. As a special treat, we had a cameo appearance from Skunkman Mike and Gary from Nawlins, who graciously packed in 2 liters of wine and the memorable squeeshy bowls. Eric and Chris would join us late that night, hiking in with headlamps, constantly trying to locate the next pink ribbon Penny had carefully tied to trees to help mark the trail.

We made it to camp shortly after nightfall, and enjoyed the company of our new friends. We waited up, hoping the last two members of our group would arrive. With the sounds of laughter and banter slowly fading, and the bottles of wine empty, the two latecomers made it into camp around midnight, and our group was complete. A casual start in the morning, farewell to the Nawlins crew, and we were on our way. I was amped to finally see this place.


Shortly after the first crossing of the Escalante River, on our way to Neon Canyon, Escalante National Monument.


Eric photographing some of the amazing panels along the Escalante River.


Such a pretty flower.


Fantastic desert varnish near the mouth of Neon Canyon. Utah is so cool.


Dave leading the crew up the ramp to the canyon rim.


Eric checking out the canyon below.


And down we go, into the canyon proper.


Mr. Christopher Reeves, enjoying a nice long swim in Neon Canyon. Escalante has been getting rain lately, so the canyon conditions were absolutely fantastic. The water was tip-top full, and relatively warm.


Doug Noel getting acquainted with one of the hundreds of little creatures that granted us passage through their canyon.


Doug and Chris doing more swimming. The very high water made for a very casual and enjoyable romp.


Ryan, Penny and Dave, enjoying the scenery.


Penny and Dave have this keep-your-hands-dry-at-all-costs technique mastered. Under water, they are kicking their legs as if they are riding a bicycle, and it slowly propels them down canyon. I prefer the backstroke myself.


Penny, frustrated by the enormous amounts of testosterone surrounding her, decides to fight back.


Wyoming Dave, hands still dry.


We were treated to impressive light, and the canyon revealed its namesake in unbelievable fashion.


Brandon exiting one of the many swims.


Human logjam.


Dave hanging out in the Neon section. This section was just fantastic.




Eric starting down the iconic last rappel.


Penny on the Cathedral Rap, Neon Canyon, Escalante National Monument.


And last, but not least, Ryan coming down into the Cathedral. A picture perfect ending to a simply stunning canyon.