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  • Hiking Death Valley National Park  by Bill and Polly Cunningham

    Hiking Death Valley National Park

    by Bill and Polly Cunningham (Falcon Guides)
    Hiking Death Valley National Park  by Bill and Polly Cunningham
    This guide is the sourcebook for those who wish to experience on foot the very best hikes and backcountry trips Death Valley National Park has to offer. Hikers are given many choices from which they can pick and choose, depending on their wishes and abilities. There is no better place in which to actually see the raw, exposed forces of land-shaping geology at work. Those interested in history and paleoarchaeology will have a field day. This book is designed to enhance the enjoyment of all who wish to sample the richness of Death Valley National Park on their own terms. Travel is best done on foot, with distance and destination being far less important than the experience of getting there.

    © 2017 Bill and Polly Cunningham/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

    Trails from the "Hiking Death Valley National Park" Guide Book
    57 Trail Guides

    Two short hikes feature spectacular views from high on the edge of the Panamint Range overlooking Death Valley. Eureka Mine provides a view of a miner’s life in the last century. At the parking area, you have arrived at a spectacular spot in the Panamint Range, looking out at Death Valley. An information sign at the trailhead provides the history of the Basque miner who developed the Eureka mine and created this road to share the view. After your trip through the rolling foothills, this perch is breathtaking.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.6
    The drive up Echo Canyon to the trailhead is spectacular, much like Titus Canyon, with a visit to an early twentieth-century mine site to break up the trip. The view from the edge of the Funeral Mountains is breathtaking, a peak experience without the ascent. This hike, with an elevation gain of less than 700 feet spread over 3.6 miles, ends on a peak above the Amargosa Valley. A mountain view without the mountain climb! The drama of Echo Canyon is behind you, but the view ahead is worth the walk. From the trailhead your pathway lies in the gravel wash through the tight gap. Out of the wash and on the desert floor, the winding route is an old jeep track. If you happen to lose the old roadbed, keep following the drainage and you’ll spot it again.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.2
    Close to Furnace Creek and right off the busy Artist’s Drive, this 4.5-mile outing takes you swiftly into dramatic solitude, with the vivid strata of colorful volcanic formations rising above the canyons. Review your crayon vocabulary before this hike so you can describe the colors! At 2 miles from the dip, you can finally see the Death Valley floor far below. The canyon has descended 600 feet since the hike began at Dip 1. Here you take a sharp right turn to head back uphill in the adjacent canyon. Here too a plethora of flowers blooms in the spring with enough moisture.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.5
    The Ashford (Golden Treasure) Mine was discovered in 1907 and was sold a few years later to supply gold ore to the Ashford Mill. The early years were probably its most productive, since the mine sold for more money than it ultimately yielded. The inefficiency of the mill was at least partly to blame. For more information about the history of mining in Death Valley, visit the Borax Museum (free admission) at Furnace Creek Ranch. An extensive mine site with several intact buildings lies up a remote and narrow canyon. The rocky mining road has become a hiking trail, leading to the historic early twentieth-century mine site.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
    This is a perfectly flat hike on a boardwalk that leads you onto the salt flats at the hottest and lowest point in North America and the lowest elevation you can drive to in the Western Hemisphere. This vast bed of salt lies 282 feet below sea level.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
    This highly varied canyon changes dramatically from open desert to colorful narrows with a small arch and interesting formations in between.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.6
    This is a challenging full-day hike with an elevation gain of 3,200 feet to the apex of an iconic, aptly named peak in the southern Grapevine Mountains. From the parking area Corkscrew Peak dominates the skyline several miles away to the northwest. The route begins toward the right (east) side of the peak. There isn’t an official trail, but most of this popular climb is served by an easy-to-follow user-created trail, except at the very beginning. Recent flooding has erased portions of the trail in the Boundary Canyon wash.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 8
    This short, easy hike offers magnificent panoramic views of the highest and lowest points in the continental United States. Surrounded by some of the most dramatic and colorful relief found anywhere, you also enjoy the astounding vertical relief of being nearly 6,000 feet directly above the lowest spot in the nation at Badwater.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
    This is a short hike to a delightful moist microclimate with multitiered waterfalls tucked away in a scenic canyon. Darwin Stream is the only permanent water in this area of the park. Flowing from the China Garden Spring, Darwin supplies the town of Panamint Springs with water via a pipeline, which is visible on both the drive and the hike to the falls. This year-round water source sustains dense willow and cottonwood thickets in the valley and canyon as well as a thriving population of birds. Swifts and red-tailed hawks soar overhead.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 2
    This is a short but challenging hike/scramble to the summits of two of the three prominent Death Valley Buttes at the southern foot of the Grapevine Mountains. The vistas are among the most dramatic in the Park. This is an adventuresome hike where looks can truly be deceiving. As you drive past the south side of the buttes, their ascent appears quick, easy, and straightforward. Not so. The trek to the summit of Red Top is a serious one and should only be attempted by those experienced in off-trail route-finding on steep, rough terrain.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.6
    Desolation Canyon is a highly scenic but less crowded alternative to the nearby Golden Canyon. This short hike features moderate canyoneering to a high pass over-looking the Artist’s Drive Formation. The deep, narrow, colorful canyon provides a feeling of solitude, with broad vistas from the overlook. This is an enjoyable and highly scenic canyon hike for anyone, but it is especially appreciated by those without a four-wheel-drive vehicle in that access is just o ff the paved highway. Despite its proximity to both the Badwater Road and Artist’s Drive, the narrow canyon provides a deep feeling of intimacy and solitude. The entire out-and-back trip offers a superb opportunity to observe the dynamics of badlands erosion, which is everywhere, from mud-filled gullies to bizarre eroded shapes overlooking the canyon.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
    In a remote desert valley, against the scenic backdrop of the colorful Last Chance Mountains, lie the Eureka Dunes. These are the tallest sand dunes in California and the second highest in all of North America, although their constantly shifting nature would make that tough to measure. Your cross-country walk to their summit will be a soft sandy stroll. The Eureka Dunes are a fascinating island of sand in a desert sea, within the northern portion of the park. From a distance this 1- by 3-mile mountain of sand seems to hover over the remote Eureka Valley floor. Although not extensive, these dunes are the tallest in California and the second-tallest in North America after the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
    This twisting, deep canyon in the colorful Grapevine Mountains features one of the most spectacular canyon narrows in the park. Do not attempt this hike if wet weather appears likely. Fall Canyon is highly susceptible to ash flooding. You could easily be trapped in one of the narrow stretches of the canyon by a raging torrent if caught during a mountain storm. From the parking area at the mouth of Titus Canyon, hike north on an unsigned but easy-to-follow user trail, climbing gradually across several low ridges and gullies. At 0.5 mile the trail enters a side wash and then swings to the right (north) toward Fall Canyon.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 16
    For the Death Valley canyon collector, this short hike is a must. With dramatic elevation gain and cool labyrinthine slots running deep into a cleft of the Black Mountain range, Foundry Canyon will challenge any hiker’s range of adjectives. From the parking area on the east side of Badwater Road, head up the sandy wash wending its way up the alluvial fan toward the Black Mountain range. With good scouting and a bit of luck, the creosote-dotted path will take you all the way to the canyon mouth, 0.6 mile away. We discovered this route on our way down from the canyon, and it was vastly more pleasant than the heavily cobbled route we stumbled up.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
    A fascinating journey through geologic time passes through rocks of different ages as the elevation increases then loops back down to the floor of Death Valley past borax-mine tunnels. The first section is an educational geology nature trail. The scenery of the extended trip includes a colorful lake bed, exposed strata and alluvial-fan formations, and spectacular scenery of the Panamint Range from below Zabriskie Point. An excellent interpretive trail guide to this Golden Canyon nature trail is available for 50 cents at the Golden Canyon trailhead. Ten stops in this geology guide are keyed to numbered posts along the trail. Golden Canyon was once accessed by paved road. Then in February 1976 a four-day storm caused 2.3 inches of rain to fall on nearby Furnace Creek—one of the driest places on earth where, for example, no rain fell during all of 1929 and 1953.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 6.5
    This out-and-back canyon hike winds through water-carved grottos and narrows of polished rock to a high, dry fall. With careful driving a passenger vehicle can negotiate the road to the wash on the Grotto Canyon hike. The soft gravel of the wash for the mile to the canyon entrance requires high clearance and four-wheel drive. No signs or markers punctuate the end of the road, but severe washouts end vehicle access just before the first dry fall. Conditions in this canyon change with each flood. At times the gravel is deep and the dry falls are easy to scale, but often floods have scoured the gravel away, making exploring more of a challenge. Like the other Tucki Mountain canyons, Grotto is a very broad canyon, up to 200 yards wide in many areas. Deeply eroded canyon walls stand like medieval castle ramparts, with short serpentine pathways in their lower reaches. The narrows at 1.8 miles bring welcome shade after the journey up the graveled canyon bottom.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
    This short hike on a loop trail leads to a nineteenth-century industrial site on the valley floor. The endless borax flats are an overwhelming sight. This desolate site was the scene of frenzied activity from 1883 to 1888, not in the pursuit of gold like so much of the other mining activity, but of borax. Used in ceramics and glass as well as soap and detergent, borax was readily available here in Death Valley. Borax prices were highly mercurial due to soaring supply and moderate demand in the nineteenth century, so the industry was plagued by sharp boom and bust cycles. Here at the Harmony Works, the years of prosperity were typically brief. For more information about the history of mining in Death Valley, visit the Borax Museum (free admission) at Furnace Creek Ranch.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 1
    An exploratory hike into a piñon-juniper canyon below Panamint Mountain cliffs takes you into a remote canyon within bighorn sheep habitat, ending at a small spring. This hike provides exploratory opportunities for history bus ff or anyone who might enjoy a destination-less ramble in a lovely remote canyon high above Death Valley. Although the spring is usually a mere trickle, the area contains dense piñon-juniper vegetation thanks to its mountainside setting. The elevation makes the hike suitable for a summertime outing in the Wildrose region of the park. Also, when the wind is intense on the ridges of the Panamints, the Hummingbird Spring valley offers some protection.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3
    This out-and-back hike follows a scenic stream up a canyon to the historic ruins of Hungry Bill’s 1870s ranch deep in the Panamint Mountains. The original Hungry Bill’s Ranch in upper Johnson Canyon was first developed in the 1870s by Swiss farmers who sought to grow fruits and vegetables to sell to the residents of Panamint City, over rugged Panamint Pass in Surprise Canyon. The mining camp had its brief heyday from 1874 to 1877. By the time the Swiss farmers were ready to sell their produce, bust had followed boom and the market had vanished! Later the ranch was occupied for many years by a Shoshone Indian named Hungry Bill, whose huge appetite matched his great girth.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.8
    These remote sand dunes in a spectacular wilderness setting rise more than 150 feet and are trapped against rugged hills in the extreme southeastern corner of the park. From a distance the dunes appear taller than they are, making them even more impressive. Both the drive and the approach are relatively easy. The dunes are a picturesque and worthy destination in themselves, with added bonuses of expansive views and interesting mining ruins. Their isolation, hidden from paved roads by stark desert mountains, is a key attribute. This all adds up to an enjoyable romp in a giant sandbox. The dunes stretch more than 2 miles on a north–south orientation on the sunset side of the rugged Saddle Peak Hills. At roughly 1,300 acres they are the smallest dunes by area in the park. Their entrapment against high mountains fulfills one of the three conditions for dunes; the others are sand, of which there is an endless supply from nearby washes and canyons, and wind—also endless, especially during spring. The Saddle Peak Hills provide a dramatic backdrop to the remote Ibex Sand Dunes.
    Death Valley, CA - Hiking - Trail Length: 3

    State Log Book

    Jul 2019