Upper Cathedral Wash

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 3438 - 3720 feet
Cellphone: 0-3 bars
Time: 1 hr. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Cathedral Wash
Fee: $20/vehicle
Attractions: Scenic wash




The Upper Cathedral Wash trail is located in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area near Lees Ferry, Arizona. The trail begins at the point where Cathedral Wash passes under the Lees Ferry Road and continues up the wash toward the Vermillion Cliffs. This post follows the main channel of the wash for 1.5 miles before turning around at a large boulder jam which was about 600 feet from the boundary of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.


To get to the trailhead follow the directions for Lower Cathedral Wash. Both hikes begin from the same pullout along the Lees Ferry Road.


The trail begins along the shoulder of the wash and heads upstream. The magnificent Vermillion Cliffs provide a most beautiful setting for the hike.


After a short distance the route enters the bottom of the wash where it remains for the rest of the hike. The only trail markers are an occasional cairn. The wash has several forks that all might be fun exploring but the route taken for this post stays in the main channel. The first fork comes up at the 0.21 mile point where the main channel follows the right branch.


At the 0.31 mile point there is another fork where the right branch is once again followed.


The last fork of any concern comes up at the 0.73 mile point where this time the left branch is taken. We explored the right branch for a short distance also but not enough to get an idea of how far it could be followed.


The wash gets much deeper and narrower as things progress towards the Vermillion Cliffs. It is hard to gauge where the high water mark is but flash flooding might pose a danger in the narrower passageways.


The boulder jam that turned us around is actually behind the boulders in this photo. If we could have made it another 2 tenths of a mile we would have reached a road which was our original goal. It may not have been too difficult to scramble over the boulder and continue a little further but for us this was the turn around point.


It doesn't take much to block the canyon in some of the narrow chokepoints.


Cathedral Rock, for which the wash is named, is just across the Lees Ferry Road from the trailhead. The shorter point on the left is named Sunset Rock.


The Upper Cathedral Wash trail is nothing at all like that of the Lower Cathedral Wash but it is just as pretty in its own way. For those that would like to do more exploring on Google Earth it looks like going to the left at the first fork might also be worth following. Official trails around Vermillion Cliffs are hard to come by so hikes like Upper Cathedral Wash are good finds. The hike doesn't show up on the Glen Canyon or Vermillion Cliffs websites but the Lower Cathedral Wash does. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.