Lone Pine, CA
The 65 mile drive from Bishop to Lone Pine is a stress free ride on a great highway with beautiful views of mountains to the east and to the west. The view of the Sierras to the west are especially nice.
The day after our arrival we headed to the east on CA 191 to enjoy the scenery and hike a short trail to Darwin Falls, a desert waterfall. The low, jagged hills along the way contained a great variety of colorful rocks.
After a bit we entered Death Valley National Park, where the road descended steeply in a series of switchbacks. It’s a great drive in a car, but we wouldn’t want to do it in the motorhome. Near the bottom of the descent, just before Panamint Springs, we turned south on a one lane dirt road called Old Toll Road on Google Maps. There is no sign for the road but the National Park Service has a marker for the water falls just a short distance from the highway so we knew we were on the correct road.
The Old Toll Road is a bit “bouncy” but drivable in any vehicle. After two miles we came to the trailhead in a small parking area.
The two mile (roundtrip) hike begins in a dry creek bed filled with loose gravel.
About half way to the falls the trail enters a narrow canyon surrounded by riparian greenery that seems out of place in Death Valley NP.
In times of high water hiking this trail would be problematic, as it crosses Darwin Creek numerous times. But we had no problem crossing, using small logs as bridges and our poles.
As the trail began to narrow we came to the end of the canyon. There the falls form a small pool surrounded by a variety of plants not usually seen in the desert. Darwin Falls, named after Dr. Darwin French (1822–1902) a local rancher, miner, and explorer, is as unique as it is beautiful.
The pool at the base of the falls must be very inviting for a refreshing dip on a hot day. But the temperature was very comfortable during our visit so we decided to stay dry.
The road must have been paved at one time, as we went over two small areas of asphalt.
Returning to the highway we drove back up through the series of switchbacks and stopped at the Father Crowley Vista Point. The view wasn’t very impressive from the large, paved parking area, but a dirt road lead out to a point with a great view of a section of Death Valley below us.
This short hike was a great way to begin our one week stay in Lone Pine. We’ve been here once before so we know there is much to see in the nearby Sierra Mountains and the Alabama Hills. More on that later . . .