Distance: 3.3 miles | Time: 1 hr 30 min. – 2 hrs 30 min. | Level: Moderate – Difficult
Hiking Cathedral Wash Trail wasn’t even on our itinerary until about 45 minutes before we started the hike. We had just finished the Horseshoe Bend hike for sunrise and needed another adventure for our day.
I checked the handy AllTrails app and within minutes we were headed south. Cathedral Wash Trail is an adventurous trail that leads hikers through towering canyons and onto the banks of the Colorado River.
Packed with adventure, views, and just enough challenge, Cathedral Wash Trail is the perfect addition to any trip.
In this guide, I will highlight what to expect hiking Cathedral Wash Trail, how to get there, what to pack, and nearby activities for the perfect adventure day.
Complete Guide to Hiking Cathedral Wash Trail
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Glen Canyon Entry Fees
Cathedral Wash Trail is located inside Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
Entry into the park is $30 per vehicle and can be purchased online or upon arrival. However, if you plan on visiting at least one other National Park during your trip I recommend purchasing an America the Beautiful pass for $80.
You can find more information here on which type of pass is best for your trip.
Getting to Cathedral Wash Trail
Cathedral Wash Trail is located south of Page, Arizona, near Marble Canyon. On a map, the trailhead looks like a hop, skip and jump from Page. Unfortunately, there’s no straight line connecting the two so getting to the trailhead takes about an hour.
While this may seem like an out-of-the-way trek, the views along the way make for an epic road trip and add to the allure of this hike.
Along this route from Page, you will drive through Antelope Pass. The pass is steep, curvy, and filled with sweeping desert views and narrow canyons.
Getting to drive through the pass is worth the one-hour trip in itself.
Historic Navajo Bridge
After a flat, long section of the drive, you come to another beautiful sight: Historic Navajo Bridge. The bridge was designed in 1929 to provide a route between Utah and Arizona.
Other than the ferry, which was dependent on the conditions of the Colorado River, there was no way to cross the canyon. Travelers were forced to travel upwards of 800 miles to get to the other side.
When it was built, it was the highest steel arch bridge in the world. A newer bridge has been built to accommodate the now larger cars and increased traffic, but the historic bridge still remains intact. I recommend making a stop here to walk across it.
The feeling of standing one thousand feet above the Colorado river is both eerie and incredible.
Lees Ferry Road
Once you cross the Navajo Bridge and turn onto Lees Ferry Road, you come to my favorite part of the drive. I quickly rolled the windows down and hung my head outside of the Jeep like a dog.
Lees Ferry Road is beautiful: desolate and grand all at once. I immediately turned to Cole and said, “Wow, I am so glad we decided to make this drive!”
Trust me, you will feel the same.
What to Expect Hiking Cathedral Wash Trail
The Cathedral Wash Trailhead is just a short drive down Lees Ferry Road. Make sure to have the trailhead pulled up on either Alltrails or Google Maps.
Do note that we nearly never had service during our three-week Arizona-Utah road trip. I recommend downloading offline Google Maps before your trip.
Trail parking is just off the left side of Lees Ferry Road. Even though the trail map looks as if it should start from the right side of the road, it does not. Stay on the left and follow the footpath towards the bridge. The path will lead you under the bridge and onto the trail.
From the beginning, the trail leads hikers straight into the canyon. At first, the red canyon walls are not too high. As you continue walking, however, the walls continue to rise all around you.
At a mellow grade, the trail steadily declines into the canyon for the entirety of the hike. While most of the trail is pretty easygoing, there are some semi-technical spots where hikers are required to navigate down into the slot canyons.
On Alltrails, Cathedral Wash Trail is rated as difficult because of these scrambly downhill sections. What makes these sections particularly tough is that there is no defined route.
Dry Falls Section
The first section that stops many hikers in their tracks is when the trail seemingly ends at a steep dry fall. I too was certain there was no way around it. Luckily, we had read enough reviews to know there had to be a way down.
With this section and many others like it along the trail, the secret is trial and error. Try a route and if it doesn’t feel safe or right, backtrack and try another one. The trail is safe and completely doable but it does take some patience and creativity.
While the trail isn’t necessarily dangerous, I would recommend doing this hike with a buddy. There were definitely some sections where I was glad to have Cole there for an extra hand.
Be on the lookout for rock cairns (stacked rocks) as they do help lead the way. Unfortunately, Cathedral Wash Trail is in fact a wash so it’s prone to floods. Rock cairns are not always present on the trail when you need them.
With that being said, do not attempt this hike during questionable weather or forecasted rain.
Once you’ve navigated your way down through the slot canyon you’ll come to the prize of the whole hike: the Colorado River. There is nothing more magical, in my opinion than the sight of water in the desert.
It seems so out of place and so pristine you can’t help but jump in — no matter how freezing. And trust me, it’s freezing.
Once the river came into view we followed it down to the right until we found an eddy. We spent an hour or so enjoying the water and basking in the sun.
During our time at the river, we saw a handful of other hikers come and go, as well as rafters. With so much room though to spread out along the bank it was easy to feel like we had the place all to ourselves.
Hiking Cathedral Wash Trail was a unique adventure I would do time and time again. Laying on our backs, drying out in the sun, was one of the most memorable moments from our whole road trip.
We uttered many variations of “How is this real?” that day.
What to Pack
Cathedral Wash Trail is packed with fun. You definitely want to make sure you’re prepared to take on the trail, as well as enjoy the Colorado River at the end.
Below are some things I recommend bringing along for the adventure.
Whether you think you’re a heavy water drinker or not, you should always have lots on hand when hiking in the desert. A good rule of thumb is to carry one liter per every two miles. Therefore, plan to bring at least 1.5 liters with you for Cathedral Wash Trail.
The trail is dry and hot. Make sure you’re staying hydrated especially if you plan to spend some time in the water.
Sunglasses, Hat, and Sunscreen
While the canyon walls help to keep the sun off the trail for most of the morning, you don’t want to forget your sun protection. Once the sun gets directly above the trail, the hike gets extremely hot.
There are no trees along the trail so pack some sunglasses, a hat, or sunscreen to help keep you protected and comfortable.
Plus, you’ll definitely want those sunglasses and sunscreen for the end if you plan on enjoying the river.
Good Hiking Shoes
As I mentioned above, the hike takes some scrambling and climbing at times. It’s crucial that you feel confident in your footing and that your shoes have good traction.
I would hate for you to have to turn around and not get to enjoy the river at the end. My go-to trail shoes are Saucony Peregrine STs.
A bathing suit is clearly optional, but I recommend one. As you can see from my photos, we jumped right in wearing our hiking clothes. While those clothes worked just fine, I would have loved to have a suit on hand. Walking back out in soaking wet trail clothes wasn’t the most enjoyable.
But, would I jump in fully clothed again? Absolutely.
Lastly, I never go on a hike without bringing a day pack. It’s always nice to have a place to hold your water, sunscreen, snacks, phone, camera, etc. The amount of hikers I see hiking without packs always surprises me.
For this hike in particular you are going to need your hands free to help you climb up and down. My favorite day pack I’ve ever owned is the Gregory Nano 16L.
I never adventure without it.
Nearby Adventure: Horseshoe Bend
Horseshoe Bend is an absolute must while in the Page, Arizona area. A scenic 45-minute drive from Cathedral Wash Trail will bring you to the iconic Horseshoe Bend section of Glen Canyon.
We actually did the Horseshoe Bend Hike for sunrise the same morning we hiked Cathedral Wash Trail. Talk about an epic day in Arizona.
Thanks to Instagram, Horseshoe Bend is no secret. Though, despite the crowds and hundreds of photos you’ve probably already seen of the unique canyon, it is absolutely still worth the hype.
The secret to enjoying Horseshoe Bend is hiking the trail for sunrise. By opting to hike in the early morning, you don’t have to worry about the parking lot being full, encountering hundreds of people at the canyon rim, or the brutal Arizona heat.
You also get to witness the desert at its most magical time of day. For more details, check out my complete guide to the Horseshoe Bend Hike at Sunrise.
Are you planning an epic Arizona-Utah road trip? Is hiking Cathedral Wash Trail on your Arizona Bucket list? If you have any questions about the hike or things to do nearby, drop me a message in the comment section below!
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