If you thought all there was to Death Valley was sand and sand, think again.
Darwin Falls is modest – it’s not a thundering waterfall from Oregon or a tropical one from Hawaii, but it is a special one because it sits in the middle of Death Valley’s dry desert landscape. Because I’m obsessed with waterfalls (and there really aren’t that many in the desert) I spent the day on a 2-lane highway looking for it.
If you’ve never been to Death Valley, there are plenty of stops you can make here. Lots of beautiful and historic sights along the way; from vast salt flats in the Badwater Basin to stunning views of bronze colored hills at Zabriskie Point. The drive through Death Valley feels like a journey through the desert’s greatest hits.
Alternatively, if you’re like me and have been knees deep in desert for the past 10 years, well, then there’s more of that here.
How to get there
The exit for the Darwin Falls trail is unmarked, so finding this gem is a bit of a challenge. If you’re coming out of Vegas, follow the CA-90 west until you hit the Panama Springs Resort. Once you pass the resort (“resort” is a kind term) the road is going to curve to the right, and afterwards an unmarked gravel road is going to present itself on the left side.
You can drive this gravel road (my bike wasn’t happy about it but the street tires pulled through just fine) for about 2.5 miles until you get to the trailhead. From here, it’s a very short and enjoyable walk to the falls as things start to get greener and water begins streaming along the trail.
There was nobody there when I came, so bring some food and bring a book and enjoy the tranquility. Darwin Falls is a spectacular sight in contrast to its surroundings and I highly recommend it to anybody visiting Death Valley. If you can find the exit, the trail only takes about 15 minutes so it’s perfect sightseeing material!
If you’re hungry on your way to Death Valley, there’s a charming little hotel/café/opera house (you read that right!) at the 190 and the 127 freeway junction called the Amargosa Opera House.
I came too early for the opera house to be open but the food was fancy (and pricey) and the coffee was good, and ultimately as long as there is good coffee I’m happy.