Funeral Slot Canyon (Death Valley NP) 24-Jan-2020

Hiking in Funeral Slot Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

There are probably a lot of deep slot canyons in Death Valley National Park, but not many of them are particularly long or readily accessible. Funeral Slot Canyon, located 3.5 miles northwest of Furnace Creek Ranch, is an exception. We had planned to hike it in September 2018 but had to take a pass when we found the trailhead at Texas Springs Campground closed. Which was for the better since it was way too hot then to be walking six shadeless miles in a wash just to see a really, really narrow canyon. This year we arrived when the campground was open and the hiking weather excellent.

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Desolation Canyon (Death Valley NP) 26-Sep-2018

Desolation Canyon Death Valley National Park California

After yesterday’s adventure on Mount Perry, we decided that a fun, but shorter, hike was called for. The less than four mile round-trip hike up Desolation Canyon, whose trailhead is just four miles from Furnace Creek, seemed ideal (and it was). This hike reaches into the Black Mountains and features a few narrow sections (but not true “slot” canyon narrow), a touch of scrambling, some colorful rock formations, and ends with a nice view out over Death Valley. We were able to complete it before the air temperature got much above 85º F (29º C) – it would eventually top out at 110º F (43º C). When the weather is cooler, you’re advised to do this hike in the afternoon, when the sun highlights the colorful rock formations. That would have been nice but we were happy to be in the shade for most of the hike.  

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Golden Canyon (Death Valley NP) 14-Feb-2017

Death Valley National Park California

Per Digonnet’s hiking guide, Golden Canyon is “…one of the most easily accessed and busiest hiking destinations in the park…” (which may explain why it’s never been high on our list of hikes).  But having vowed to hike where we have not hiked before,  we selected the Golden Canyon~Gower Gulch Loop – including tourist-rich Zabriskie Point – as the third hike for our 2017 visit to Death Valley National Park.  Having noticed on our way back from Willow Canyon that the Golden Canyon trailhead parking was overflowing by early afternoon, we resolved to get an early start for this loop.

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Death Valley Days 11/15-Mar-2013

Death Valley National Park California

Last week was our (almost) annual pilgrimage to Death Valley National Park in California in search of heat and dryness. March in the Valley can be fickle – cold and rainy has happened in past years – but this year didn’t disappoint. Amongst the usual tourist activities (a tour of Scotty’s Castle, a drive through Titus Canyon, and a long, bone jarring drive to the Racetrack), we got in some actual hiking. All of these hikes are at or above 3,000 feet so temperatures ranged comfortably between 50º and 75º F, usually with a mild wind. But full sun and very low humidity (8%) called for lots of sunscreen and water.

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Death Valley Days 1/4-Mar-2011

Death Valley National Park California

Once again we slipped the damp caresses of an Oregon winter to wallow in the harsh, but sunny, landscape of Death Valley National Park. Even with soaring gas prices ($5.18 at Furnace Creek!), the trip was, once again, worth it. Plus this year we were joined at times by our friends Wayne & Diane and Alan & Janet, so this one was an extra special get-away. We allowed ourselves plenty of time each day to enjoy the sunsets while sipping appropriate adult beverages on the patio of the Furnace Creek Inn (liquid intake being an important part of desert hiking). Overall, another great trip – cloud-free sun most days, daytime air temperatures between 65º and 75ºF, plus fun hikes. Definitely a winter refuge for these water-logged, sun-starved Oregonians.

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Death Valley Days 20/24-Feb-2010

Death Valley National Park

I spent a lot of time hiking and climbing in Death Valley National Park back when I lived in California and today’s Park was then just a Monument. Then we moved to northern Oregon and talk of a “winter get-away” suddenly gained a lot of traction.  Despite time-off from work being at a premium, we finally managed to spend a few days sightseeing and hiking in Death Valley – where there was a great deal of sunshine and only a tiny bit of rain (despite it’s being a wet year in California).

Sightseeing

We spent one day just warming up (literally and figuratively) by doing some classic tourist stuff: Scotty’s Castle, the Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite, Rhyolite itself, the bar at the Furnace Creek Inn, etc.

Death Valley National Park
Scotty’s Castle
Death Valley National Park
The Glass Bottle House in Rhyolite
Death Valley National Park
The Goldwell Open Air Museum in Rhyolite

Darwin Falls

Then we overcame inertia for a hike at Darwin Falls, which is west of Death Valley near Panamint Springs (and one of my favorite hikes in this area). The hike starts on an old road in a dry wash which looks as though it hasn’t seen water in ages. The old road is actually an old toll road to the mines at Darwin, California.

Death Valley National Park
The mouth of Darwin Wash

However, after less than a mile, the old road goes uphill to the left while a use trail continues on up the now narrowing sandy wash. Soon we came to open water,

Death Valley National Park
Water in Darwin Wash
Death Valley National Park
Water in Darwin Wash

and then the first waterfall, which is about 30 feet high.

Death Valley National Park
A small waterfall in Darwin Wash

A lot of people stop here because the canyon has narrowed and there’s no obvious trail on which to continue. But there is a moderate (a few 3rd class moves) scrambling route on the left wall (facing up canyon) that got us up to the level use trail to the upper falls.

Death Valley National Park
Climbing the canyon wall in Darwin Wash
Death Valley National Park
The LovedOne makes some moves to get up the wall

After a short walk, we reached the base of the upper falls, which is actually a series of pools and drops totaling at least 100 feet. These are the lowest falls and pool in the upper fall complex,

Death Valley National Park
The lower part of the upper falls

and this is looking down from the top of the falls. We reached this point by hiking up a scree chute on the right canyon wall – no climbing, just loose rock.

Death Valley National Park
Looking down the upper part of the upper falls

The water runs here year-round but the intensity of the falls (and they can be spectacularly intense) varies considerably in response to rain events upstream.

Mosaic Canyon

This is a readily accessible canyon near Stovepipe Wells, which includes both ridge walks and slots.

Death Valley National Park
Along the ridge above Mosaic Canyon
Death Valley National Park
The narrow defile in Mosaic Canyon

Fall Canyon

This is another very accessible narrow canyon in the Grapevine Mountains north of Furnace Creek.

Death Valley National Park
Twisted geology in Fall Canyon

The water (when there is any) polishes the rock on the canyon walls into an amazing array of abstract images.

Death Valley National Park
Water polished rock in Fall Canyon

Here the “falls” are typically dry and only about 20 feet high, but are steep and slick. There’s a use trail around them if you want to go further up-canyon, but we didn’t.

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The falls in Fall Canyon

Badwater & Dante’s View

I convinced The LovedOne to get up real early so I could attempt to photograph the reflection of Telescope Peak (11,050 feet) in the waters at Badwater (-282 feet) – one of the iconic photographs in Death Valley. However, just as the sun started rising, a photography tour group parked on the road, marched out to the edge of the water, and set up their tripods and themselves in a line across the view. After a Zen moment searching for inner peace, I restored my karma by taking a picture of the photographers taking the iconic shot.

Death Valley National Park
Photographers become the iconic shot

Later we drove up to Dante’s View for a more unobstructed view of Telescope Peak.

Death Valley National Park
Telescope Peak over Badwater Basin from Dante’s View

The body of water here is ephemeral “Lake Manly” – a water feature that exists only in those years when there is unusually high rainfall in the Valley – they’ve had several inches so far this year. These wet years are also when you can expect a “super bloom” of wildflowers in and around the Valley.

Death Valley National Park
Lake Manly in Badwater Basin

Sky Gazing

The rest of the time we just spent wallowing in the huge expanses of sky and land that constitute Death Valley and the Mojave Desert.

Death Valley National Park
Near Rhyolite, Nevada
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley from Fall Canyon
Death Valley National Park
Clouds
Death Valley National Park
Badwater Basin, Death Valley
Death Valley National Park
Sunset from the Furnace Creek Inn

This was also a trip in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary (hence the Furnace Creek Inn), which Nature decided to help us celebrate in a unique way.

Death Valley National Park
I ❤ your spines…
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