Neon Canyon - Escalante
LENGTH: 8-10 hours
GEAR: Standard Technical Gear - Pothole Skills/Tools
MAPS: Egypt, UT; Silver Falls Bench, UT
RAPPELS: 3 to 25 m ( 83 ft. )
WATER: Often a fair bit of swimming. Bring a good wetsuit.
SEASON: Spring, Summer, Fall
Neon, and more specifically the Golden Cathedral, may be one of the most photographed spots in Escalante. The last rap into the cathedral is amazing, but the canyon above is equally beautiful. This is one not to miss.
Warning!!! Neon contains keeper potholes! Go with several people, and be prepared for pothole escapes. Generally a partner assist is the best method for dealing with them, although a pack toss may be useful on the first keeper pothole.
Getting ThereHead east out of the town of Escalante about 5 miles on highway 12 until the well signed Hole in the Rock road. From the mileage sign on the Hole in the Rock road (0.3 miles from the highway), travel down the Hole in the Rock road for 16 miles to the signed Egypt 3 turn off on the north side of the road. Follow the Egypt road 9.9 miles to it's end at the Egypt Trailhead. The Egypt road has a few rough spots, and is recommended for high clearance or 4 wheel drives.
Next, head up Neon canyon a short distance (10-15 minutes) to a bend and the first and only likely place to climb out on the left (LUC). There is a good trail here to follow that winds it's way up to an overlook above the river. Here the trail splits. Right parallels Neon on a bench, left continues along the bench above the Escalante river. Go right, and parallel Neon canyon admiring the views.
A short distance above the Cathedral is a drop in point, but continue on the trail to a better drop in higher up. The drop in you want will come before a major side canyon. You should countour around a small side canyon, then see the larger canyon coming in around the bend. The easiest drop in is to work your way down to a slickrock bench above the canyon floor. Just upstream from the shallow canyon your contoured around is a crack that provides an easy downclimb to the canyon floor. (2.5-3 hours from the car).
Head down Neon, suiting up at the first pool you come to. This section can have lots of wading and swiming depending on the season. The narrows are fairly shallow here, and beautiful. The canyon opens a bit in spots, then opens fairly well before a drop into a dark slot. This drop goes into a keeper pothole. If the pool is full, you can likely downclimb in, swim across, and get out. If not, you have a couple of options:
Option 1: A group of 2-3 can likely shoulder stand this obstacle. A chockstone at the top provides an anchor to rap in if needed.
Option 2: A bolt on the left, down canyon from the pothole is sometimes available, and provides a rappel in below the pothole. To access it, climb out 5 m ( 17 ft. ) UP canyon from the pothole on a slabby upclimb. Once up over the first tricky spot, it is an easy walk to the bolt. The rap length is about 8 m ( 27 ft. ).
Option 3: Highly skilled people can chimney over this pothole with big exposure and penalty points, then chimney down on the other side. (not recommended, except for the very highly skilled.)
Continue down canyon through more beautiful narrows and pools. The canyon will open a bit before a 8 m ( 27 ft. ) downclimb. This downclimb is a bit big, and can be rapped from a chockstone if people are uncomfortable with it. The narrows continue with a few easier downclimbs until you reach the final major obstacle.
Right before the Golden Cathedral is a pothole that can range from full and a walk across to very deep and hard to exit. The down canyon side does not lend itself well to a pack toss. A group of 3 or 4 is recommended to enable partner assists if needed. In spring of 2007, we found the keeper about 2 m ( 7 ft. ) deep with a log wedged up on the side you could climb to exit the pothole. Be prepared! Getting into the pothole, in low water, is tricky, but an arch can be slung providing an anchor for a short rappel in.
From the pothole, a short wide section leads to the final rap off a large boulder into the Cathedral. Bring 12 m ( 40 ft. ) of webbing in case this anchor needs replaced. The rap is about 25 m ( 83 ft. ). Coil the ropes after the rap, walk down to the Escalante river, and follow the approach trail back to the trailhead.
Note: For those that like to backpack, Neon is often done as a 2+ day backpack. Most hike down the Fence canyon trail to the river and camp, then do Neon from there the next day. The Escalante river is beautiful in this area, and a nice place to spend a day or two exploring.