Darwin Falls Death Valley National Park California Death Valley Darwin Waterfall

Darwin Falls should not be part of Death Valley National Park. In fact, the year-round waterfall does not belong in the California desert at all. The hike starts as innocently as so many nearby trails, at the mouth of a gravel-bottom canyon, but after 0.7 miles the canyon closes and the trail enters a lush oasis of cottonwoods and willows. The next 0.3 miles involve multiple creek crossings en route to a 20-foot waterfalls. That’s right, creek crossings … in the desert! Then there’s the waterfall, which looks like it was transported from the tropics. This 2-mile round trip hike simply has no place in Death Valley.

Darwin Falls
The oasis at the back of the canyon

Follow the gravel track up the center of the canyon on a gradual ascent. The shrubbery increases as the canyon narrows and curves to the right, bringing the oasis into view.

Continue up the trail through trees so green they look like a mirage. A stream of trickling water adds fun obstacles to the hike, and there is real danger of ending up with a wet boot (on a hike in Death Valley!) Make your way over the rocks and balancing logs to the waterfall at the back of the canyon.

This place really is like nowhere else in Death Valley. Birds chirp overhead, while colorful dragonflies dance along the trail, and frogs flop around the cool pools. Indeed, Darwin Falls is as unique as it is beautiful. A full view of the waterfall may be obscured by the overhanging trees.

Swimming is not allowed around Darwin Falls. The creek is a source of drinking water.

Darwin Falls
Darwin Falls

With its plentiful shade, Darwin Falls makes a great picnic hike. Those wishing to adventure farther may climb up the canyon to the left of the falls to an upper series of falls and grottos.

Darwin Falls is located on the west side of Death Valley National Park, and was actually on BLM Land until Death Valley expanded in 1994. Darwin Falls is far from other attractions and receives fewer visitors. If you are passing through Panamint Springs, do not miss this delightful 2-mile hike.

Darwin Falls
Darwin Falls

To get to the trailhead: Take Route 190 to the west side of Death Valley. One mile west of Panamint Springs Resort, turn left on an unmarked gravel road (the first road west of the resort). Take the rough but passable dirt road for 2.5 miles and turn right into the trailhead parking lot. A pipe running along the side of the canyon, which transports water from the spring that feeds Darwin Falls to the Panamint Springs Resort, serves as an indicator that you are correctly headed to the falls.

Trailhead address: Old Toll Road, Death Valley National Park, Panamint Springs, CA 92004
Trailhead coordinates: 36.32776, -117.51466 (36° 19′ 39.9″N 117° 30′ 52.77″W)

Elevation Profile
Click or hover over any spot on this elevation profile to see the distance from the start and elevation above sea level at that location, which will be highlighted on the map.
Trail Map

View Death Valley National Park in a larger map
Or view a regional map of surrounding California Desert trails and campgrounds.


Darwin Falls Death ValleyDarwin Falls Death ValleyDarwin Falls Death ValleyDarwin Falls Death ValleyDarwin Falls Death ValleyDarwin Falls Death ValleyDarwin Falls Death ValleyDarwin Falls Death ValleyDarwin Falls Death ValleyDarwin Falls Death Valley

These photos were taken in May of 2010. Click to enlarge.
Nearby Trails
Wildrose Peak Death Valley Wildrose Peak
This 8.4-mile hike summits a 9,064-foot peak in the Panamint Mountains north of Telescope Peak.
Mosaic Canyon Death Valley Mosaic Canyon
This 1 to 4-mile hike starts up a smooth marble slot canyon and exposes visitors to plenty of great Death Valley geology.
Grotto Canyon Death Valley Grotto Canyon
This 2 to 4 mile hike requires a bit of climbing and is a lesser-visited trail in Death Valley.
Salt Creek Death Valley Salt Creek
This easy one mile out-and-back crosses a short boardwalk bordering a little creek.
Sand Dunes Death Valley Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
This 1 to 2-mile hike explores the most visible (but not the largest) sand dunes in Death Valley.
hike Death Valley Death Valley
Explore more destinations in Death Valley National Park.
Death Valley Camping Death Valley Campgrounds
Nine campgrounds are spread throughout this large park to facilitate your visit.
OK! Add to trails I’ve hiked
OK! Add to trails I want to hike
Tagged with · Desert Canyons · National Parks · Waterfalls
Distance: 2 miles · Elevation change: 275 feet

24 Comments on Darwin Falls in Death Valley National Park

  1. Death valley national park wrote:

    Beautiful place to visit in during winter.

  2. Charlene Wang wrote:

    How for of a walk is it to the waterfall from the trailhead parking lot?

    Any water around Thanksgiving time? We are visiting the park this weekend.

  3. ernest rogers wrote:

    When is the waterfall and beauty of the area at its peak. Has the drought hurt it badly?

  4. sarah wrote:

    Thank you for the great write-up about the falls, however I need to have it clarified that you are not allowed to swim in the pools around the falls. the national park service doesn’t allow it and it is also the water source for the Panamint Springs Resort. Thank you!

  5. Mike Patrick wrote:

    How does camping work near the falls? Can you just camp anywhere in the wilderness area?

  6. Jooe wrote:

    It was allowed but they changed it! As far as I know is it NOT allowed!

  7. Barb Costley wrote:

    Are dogs allowed on the Darwin falls hike in Death Valley on a leash?

  8. Candus Alfaro wrote:

    Can you say this could be a hike for beginners

  9. Ashley wrote:

    Getting in the water is actually not allowed! Please change your article to reflect that information. Thanks!

  10. […] Additional information on the route, including directions to the trailhead, can be found here. […]

  11. Ash wrote:

    Hi there! I just wanted to let you know that swimming is not allowed at this waterfall. You can find that information here in the park newspaper: https://www.nps.gov/deva/learn/news/newspaper.htm

    Please change your information to reflect the posted rules so that we can all encourage the responsible enjoyment of this beautiful place. Thanks.

  12. […] checked out a few hikes with water (yes, they exist!). The first was a short, easy 2-mile hike to Darwin Falls, which was really […]

  13. Alastair Nelson wrote:

    What is that wonderful smell??!! I’ll never forget this hike. Yes, it’s beautiful and yes, I never expected this lush oasis in DVNP…BUT THAT WONDERFUL SMELL!! Anyone know what I’m talking about? Maybe it’s not so exciting to people that live out west but I’m from Florida where, no matter how beautiful it is, it still smells like swamp…?

  14. Alexa wrote:

    Hi, do I need an all wheel drive car to get out to this trail or can a normal truck work?

    • David wrote:

      My wife and I hiked this just 2 weeks ago. It was fairly easy for two people in their sixties. The road to get to the trail head is feasible with almost any vehicle however it is very rough and requires you to go at a snails crawl if you don’t want to blow a tire or damage your suspension. Go early if going in summer weather. We were on trial at 7Am and already over 90 degrees. First part of trial is very open but small rocks and sand can make it harder to walk on than you might think. Take water!

  15. chase wrote:

    MISSING PERSON REPORT: Sunday, July 19, 2020:
    – Eliot Hughes. White, male, 6’1, brown hair.
    – Last known location was Darwin Falls Trailhead in Death Valley, CA.
    – Car was found Saturday 7/18 by park rangers with his phone and gear still in the car.

    Please contact Matt Jimenez w/ any info. 714-743-0265 @trogdill #darwinfalls

  16. […] few days later,  I contacted brother Dan and invited him to join me on a hike to Darwin Falls. Seems it’s the only falls in Death Valley and the Park Service maintains the trails and […]

Ask a question or share your experience

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Go the extra miles...
Submit a rating of this hike to go with your comment. Contribute to the average trail rating.