8 Best Hiking And Trekking Spots In Death Valley, California

hiking in death valley
| 4 min read

Death Valley for some may just be a barren landscape with creeping creatures, however, this largest US National Park offers much more. It encompasses 3.4 million acres (137,593 hectares) with nearly 1,000 miles (1,609 km) of paved and dirt roads that give access to both popular and remote locations. It holds an allure like no other. Don’t let its name fool you, Death Valley is very unique and it is a haven for adventurous hikers and trekkers. Follow our guide below and check out our list of the best hiking and trekking spots in Death Valley, California, and get ready to tackle barren salt flats, rugged mountains, deep winding canyons, and spring-fed oases.

1. Little Bridge Canyon

Natural Bridge in Natural Bridge Canyon
Source: Photo by user Mike Baird used under CC BY 2.0

For experienced hikers and trekkers, the Little Bridge Canyon, though not popular, is the trail to embark. The trail is around 7 miles (11.2 km) and it has an elevation of 1,900 ft. (590 m) that takes about three to five hours to complete. This cross-country hike includes a natural rock bridge. The terrain is easy and the vegetation is sparse. Take note, though, that there is no trail but there are two routes to choose from. Pick the alluvial fan or go up the ravine. It will be worth the hike as exciting geology awaits you at your destination. The canyon is quite pretty with its colorful red and white rock on the walls. Make sure to select a cooler afternoon to stroll.

Little Bridge Canyon

Location: Death Valley, CA 92328 (CA-190 at milemarker 89 eastbound)

Website: Little Bridge Canyon

Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 55 USD for one year

2. Harmony Borax Works

Twenty mule team wagon Harmony Borax Works sw
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Generic1139 used under CC BY 3.0

Located 1 mile (1.6km) west of Furnace Creek on CA-190, Harmony Borax Works trail will provide the hikers with, not only a scenic route but a glimpse of history as well. This was the central feature in the opening of the Death Valley as the townsite and the plant played an important role in its history. Take the paved loop which is only 0.4 mi (0.6 km) and it has an elevation of 50 ft (0.8km), perfect for beginners! Rated easy in terms of difficulty, it will only take approximately 30 minutes to complete the trip. This loop will take you back in time and relive the history of the plant, details of borax processing and life in Harmony.

Harmony Borax Works

Location: Harmony Borax Works Interpretive Trail, Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park, CA 92328

Website: Harmony Borax Works

Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 55 USD for one year

3. The Golden Canyon

Red Cathedral(from Golden Canyon Trail)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Pierre Camateros used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Another hiking spot in Death Valley National Park is the Golden Canyon, with its trailhead located 2 miles (3.2 km) south of CA-190 on Badwater Road. This is one of the easily accessible and enjoyable hiking trails. The trail goes for 4.4 miles (7.08 km) and will take you two to three hours. This easy to moderate trail with an elevation of 721 feet (220 meters) will give you sandstone canyons, a great view of the Manly Beacon as well as the golden mudstone hills. It is recommended that you take your hike just after sunrise or before sunset for a truly magnificent experience.

The Golden Canyon

Location: 2 miles south of CA-190 on Badwater Road

Website: The Golden Canyon

Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 55 USD for one year

4. Salt Creek Interpretive Trail

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user JERRYE AND ROY KL... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you will be visiting Death Valley National Park during spring (February - April), it is a must that you follow Salt Creek Interpretive Trail. It is located 13 miles (20km) west of Furnace Creek on CA-190 and its unpaved Salt Creek Road is passable to sedans. Its best attraction is the salt creek which is home to the pupfish, that many have deemed interesting. The nice wooden boardwalk has interpretive signs along the way that will tell you of the fishes’ behavior, their adaptations, and how they relate to other pupfish. This easy to follow hiking trail is only 0.5 mi (0.8 km) and can be finished in 30 minutes.

Salt Creek Interpretive Trail

Location: 13 miles (20km) west of Furnace Creek on CA-190

Website: Salt Creek Interpretive Trai

Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 55 USD for one year

5. Gower Gulch Loop

Badlands, Death Valley
Source: Photo by user Andrew Smith used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Gower Gulch Loop is a moderately difficult trail, with lengths of 3 to 8 miles (5 to 23 km) and may take 1.5 hours to 4.5 hours depending on which route you will take.  The best trailhead is located 2 miles (3.2 km) south of CA-190 on Badwater Road. The route leading up to the Gower Gulch is gradually uphill but visually mesmerizing as several towers of golden walls surround the trail. A maze of canyons and badlands indeed creates hiking opportunities galore, and you have to look for small signs at each major intersection to proceed to the Gower Gulch section of the Golden Canyon trail loop.

Gower Gulch Loop

Location: Golden Canyon Trailhead located 2 miles south of CA-190 on Badwater Road

Website: Gower Gulch Loop

Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 55 USD for one year

6. Ubehebe Crater Loop

Ubehebe Crater Death Valley
Source: Photo by user Mike Baird used under CC BY 2.0

If you are looking for a challenging trail then take Ubehebe Crater Loop. It has a total length of 1.5 miles (2.4km), an elevation of 500 ft (152m), and takes approximately one hour to complete (round trip). The trail difficulty is rated moderate. It has exposed edges, hence, not recommended for those with a fear of heights. This trail may be flat and not that long but it will tire you out with the combination of the wind, heat and sand mix on the trails. The crater, located at the North End of the Death Valley National Park, is a maars volcano that was created by an eruption roughly 7000 years ago. The views along the rim, however, will leave you in awe. Choose from any of the three trails, but whatever you may choose, be assured of experiences and views like no other.

Ubehebe Crater Loop

Location: 8 miles (13km) west of Scotty’s Castle

Website: Ubehebe Crater Loop

Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 55 USD for one year

7. Fall Canyon

Fall Canyon - Narrows (3812585164)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Greg Willis used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Fall Canyon, which has an elevation of 2,460 ft (752 m), is 6 miles (9.7 km) long and can be completed at approximately 3.5 hours round trip. This moderate to difficult trail has routes that are for experienced climbers with the right gear. Following the trail will bring you to an amazing display of red and orange flora and interesting fauna like the chuckwallas that are either sunbathing or hiding between the boulders. It is a rocky slope, so be cautious.

Fall Canyon

Location: 11.9 miles north of CA-190 on Scotty’s Castle Road

Website: Fall Canyon

Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 55 USD for one year

8. Darwin Falls

death valley oasis - darwin falls
Source: Photo by user Joseph Lindley used under CC BY 2.0

This next trail is unlike any other. In fact, one would say it does not belong to Death Valley! Darwin Falls makes a great picnic location because it has plentiful shade. This delightful 2-mile (3.21km) hike has multiple creek crossings and the waterfall itself is a magnificent 20 feet (6m). There is also a lush oasis of cottonwoods and willows. It will take around 1.5 to 2 hours (round trip) to complete and it has a trail difficulty of moderate. Darwin Falls is located on the west side of Death Valley National Park; it is far from the other attractions and thus receives fewer visitors. You may opt to enjoy the shade or be daring and climb farther up the canyon for a series of falls and grottos.

Darwin Falls

Location: 1.2 miles (2km) west of Panamint Springs on CA-190

Website: Darwin Falls

Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 55 USD for one year

Have the experience of a lifetime in Death Valley

Keep in mind that 91% of Death Valley National Park is officially designated wilderness, so whether you are aiming to stay for an afternoon or a week, plan well to make sure your visit will be both safe and enjoyable. Kindle that desire for adventure and have the experience of a lifetime.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Charmaine is a Filipino food and travel blogger who is in constant search for new adventures and experiences. Travelling around the world has given her a wider perspective about life and a deeper...Read more

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