Furnace Creek, CA
On Wednesday we drove about ten miles to the south for a visit to one of the most popular hikes in Death Valley, Golden Canyon. The hike is very popular due to its close proximity to lodging and campgrounds in Furnace Creek and the various options available for hiking. You can take an easy one mile hike up the canyon on an interpretative trail and return. Or you can extend the hike on a number of trail options. We did all of the options and ended up with a great hike of over eight miles.
Just a short distance into the canyon we spotted a narrow side canyon that looked interesting, so we left the main canyon and headed up.
The side canyon was narrow and quickly began to gain in elevation. We climbed up for about a quarter mile before turning back.
Once back in the main canyon we continued hiking while enjoying a great view of the Red Cathedral in front of us.
The Golden Canyon Trail ended after a bit over a mile. We then turned on to the trail to Zabriskie Point, a two and a half mile trail that begins with a climb up and around Manly Beacon.
The trail around Manly Beacon was a bit narrow and steep, but not a problem for the average hikers (like us).
The view of the badlands with Death Valley in the background was spectacular.
After hiking over rolling hills of a badland area, we turned off the main trail and hiked up to the viewing area of Zabriskie Point. This viewing point is on the main road from Furnace Creek back to Las Vegas and is very popular. Most people take the sane way and drive there, avoiding a four mile hike through the canyon and badlands (but we had more fun!).
After lunch at Zabriskie Point we took a different trail that went into Gower Gulch, which will then loop back to the Golden Canyon trailhead. Along the gulch we noticed a significant pile of rocks with a small path along the side of the gulch.
The pile of rocks looked man-made, so we climbed up to investigate. We were surprised to find the mouth of an old mine going back into the canyon wall. The National Park Service had the entrance blocked so you can only go in for about ten feet.
After hiking down the wash for about three miles the canyon opened up into Death Valley. The trail then went north along the base of the hills for about a mile back to the trailhead.
We got back into the Jeep and headed back to the campground. Driving through Furnace Creek we noticed an animal drinking from the base of a tree that is watered by the park service.
After enjoying a drink, he (she?) walked up the parking area a bit before heading back out into the desert.
The hike through Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch was one of the nicest we have experience here in Death Valley. With the many options for trails there is something interesting for any level of hiker. And the views are spectacular!