Darwin Falls is a popular tourist hike which passes through a towering canyon filled with lush greenery that leads to a very pretty 18-foot high waterfall.  Difficulties encountered on the hike include having a vehicle with decent clearance in order to reach the parking lot and showing caution due to slippery conditions during the latter portion of the hike.  A topographical map of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the button above.  GPS coordinates for the parking lot are 36.327687, -117.514648.  GPS coordinates for the approximate location of Lower Darwin Falls are 36.320807, -117.523810.
Darwin Falls is a remarkable place to visit and take a short hike (about one mile in each direction) to see the amazing impact that a spring can have on the desert landscape.  It is definitely a popular tourist destination for all those visiting the western portion of Death Valley National Park.  We were most recently there on a rainy and cold day in March but found the parking lot to be completely full of vehicles.  We had to park in the overflow area along the dirt road next to the parking lot.  As we hiked out to Lower Darwin Falls, lots of other hikers (including families) were coming and going.  For the most part, this is a family-friendly hike.  However, during the latter portion of the hike, the creek is crossed a number of times and you can't avoid getting at least the bottoms of your shoes wet.  This can make it extra slippery when climbing over solid rock surfaces and could result in potential falls.  When visiting Darwin Falls, please also keep in mind the need to stay out of the water, especially the pond beneath the waterfall.  You will pass by a pipe system which carries water from the pond and creek down to nearby Panamint Springs Resort.  Please take caution not to pollute their water source in any way.  In addition, the trailhead sign states: "Help protect this unusual habitat by staying out of the water, traveling on established trails, not stepping on vegetation, and not harassing wildlife, which depends on this area as a sanctuary from the surrounding desert."

The hike starts out from the parking lot by following general use trails through the wide open wash of Darwin Canyon.  It is typical desert scenery for the first 6/10 of a mile.  Then, a small amount of greenery and flowing water appears.  The greenery soon gets much more abundant and includes many willow trees.  A constriction is passed through where the canyon wall closes in next to the creek.  The canyon then narrows down (although not to an extreme degree) and the walls grow in height until they are towering all around above you (see Sample Photo #1 below).  The entire landscape goes through a dramatic transition from dry desert to a lush, overgrown creek area during the final 4/10 of a mile.  Progress is slowed down a bit as there can be various hiking path options to choose from including finding the best way past a few obstacles.  There are some minor cascades, pond areas where the creek overflows, and lots of plant and bird life to enjoy.  At the end, Lower Darwin Falls is reached, which is one of the most photographed spots in western Death Valley (see Sample Photo #2 below).  Lower Darwin Falls is an 18-foot high waterfall with a stream of water that plunges over the top and then splits in two about 3/4 of the way down.  The water deposits into a large pond which prevents you from getting too close to the waterfall.  But there are good viewpoints for getting photographs.  This is considered the end of the hike and it is recommended to turn around here and head back.  There are additional waterfalls up canyon including the larger 60-foot high Upper Darwin Falls, but reaching that area requires scrambling up an unstable hillside, exposure along narrow ledges, and treacherous hiking terrain.  Trying to reach Upper Darwin Falls is not a hiking route that I am recommending to the general public.  Regarding this, the trailhead sign states: "Climbing above Darwin Falls is not recommended.  The terrain is treacherous and physically demanding."  Due to my experience level (having spent over twenty years hiking in Death Valley), I was able to reach the upper falls.  But after doing it once, I don't think I would ever go back.  It just didn't feel safe and thus I am not providing any route information.  Since I did make it there, I will include a few bonus photographs showing Upper Darwin Falls (see Sample Photo #3 below).  To watch a short video clip that I filmed of Upper Darwin Falls, click here.  But again, please do not attempt to follow in my footsteps to reach this area.  Our hike took place on March 21, 2019.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination.  To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below.  The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing.  The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers).  This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets.  The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit.  Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination.  The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
Darwin Falls photographs
Darwin Falls slideshow
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