Willow Creek Canyon is one of the great places in the park to visit, assuming you go there at the right time of year when the water is flowing.  While seeing the upper canyon takes 4WD and a long drive to Gold Valley, seeing the lower canyon is quite easy and well worth the short drive from Furnace Creek.  It is not possible for hikers to cover the entire canyon being that there are a number of huge dry falls in middle portion of the canyon.  This hasn't stopped some uninformed hikers from attempting it, but when this happens it usually results in a rescue being called in.  The springtime is the best time to visit Willow Creek Canyon, because it is a great place to see wildflowers in bloom and also the water flow is abundant throughout the creek and over the falls.  Back in the Fall of 2008, the water in Willow Creek Canyon actually dried up for the first time in over a decade.  And now that seems to happen on an annual basis.  For our trip, we had a great short morning hike.  The wildflowers were amazing to see.  In fact, from the parking area up to the canyon mouth, it was almost like being on a wildflower walk.  The flowers were literally everywhere.  I had seen most of these flowers before and had lots of pictures of them at home, so I didn't stop to take a lot of pictures.  But I saw another man walking up the canyon, and he was taking his time, enjoying the walk and taking lots of photos.  Besides the walk up the fan, the canyon itself is quite narrow and spectacular.  Once we reached the 2-stage waterfall, we realized that it was too dangerous to climb, especially the second part of it.  But it didn't matter, because the canyon had been very beautiful up to this point and the 2-stage waterfall seemed like a logical place to stop and have lunch.  By the way, one thing that surprised me about this canyon was its popularity.  The 45 minutes which we spent at the waterfall, we had the place all to ourselves.  But before and after that, there were close to 10 other people which we saw hiking the area.  It's probably because it's such an easy hike (about 2 miles each way) to such an amazing place.  On our hike out, we ended up taking a side canyon up and over into Sidewinder Canyon to make a loop hike back.  You can see our route if you check out the Google Earth map below (click on it for a larger view).
Willow Creek Canyon Slideshow
The pictures in this Trip Report are also available for viewing in a slideshow format.  Click the button on the left to watch the slideshow.  This allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option.  The pictures may also be viewed in the standard Trip Report format by scrolling down below.
Willow Creek Canyon GE map
View from the parking area at the start of the hike.  The parking area is 14.4 miles south of Badwater, according to my National Geographic map.  There's a small gravel road with a large parking area, with the hike to Sidewinder Cyn being southeast from here and the hike to Willow Creek Cyn being northeast from here:
We began hiking northeast around the hillside.  Once we turned the corner and headed into the wash, Willow Creek Canyon became visible in the distance:
My sister Tiffany on her first Death Valley hike since the summer of 2008:
This picture gives you an idea of the amount of greenery on the ground.  Mixed in with this greenery were a lot of wildflowers:
One of the flowers I did photograph, as I had not seen it before.  This is a Desert Dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata):
There are some fluted mud cliffs seen just prior to entering the actual canyon:
Entering Willow Creek Canyon for the first time:
Two more views of the early canyon close to the mouth:
Tiffany posing by a pile of bones which somebody obviously had collected and placed on this rock:
The first appearance of water in Willow Creek appeared just before this small waterfall:
A close-up of the creek flow and water pouring over the edge:
With the canyon being so narrow, the creek takes up a good portion of the canyon floor:
As you walk through the canyon, the creek flow is regular, but sometimes it goes back underground for a short distance:
Two more pictures of the water flowing through Willow Creek:
In the next two pictures, you can see how narrow the canyon gets as you progress through it:
First picture of my sister and wife together in Death Valley:
Far in the distance in this shot, you can see the bottom of the 2 stage waterfall:
And here it is, the 2 stage waterfall which marks the end of the passable lower canyon for most people, including us:
Zooming in on the upper and middle portion of the falls:
Zooming in on the top of the lower portion of the falls:
A nice view of the water pouring over the lower portion of the falls:
And this is the base of the falls, where a small pool of water exists:
Steve and Daria by Willow Creek Falls:
The next three pictures give you some different perspectives of the falls and the canyon:
Tiffany getting a picture at Willow Creek Falls:
Once we exited the canyon, we turned off into a side canyon which headed up toward the Sidewinder Ridge:
We found several Desert Five-Spots growing in the wash:
The side canyon was a bit rugged and steep in places, but we managed:
As we gained elevation in the side canyon, we also gained some nice views of the salt flats:
A spire we passed by that was standing tall:
Finally attaining the Sidewinder Ridge, we could see the canyon cutting through between the hillsides:
And we end with the nice views looking out from this spot along the ridge.  For more pictures taken from the Sidewinder Ridge area, see our Sidewinder Canyon trip report:
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