Lower Rainbow Canyon is a fairly easy but long hike to see the beginning of the colorful rainbow bands, unique beautiful canyon walls, and the bottom of the 4th major dry fall or giant boulder blockade. Difficulties encountered on the hike include route finding to access the canyon and being able to handle the long distance involved with seeing the entire lower canyon. A Google Earth map of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the burro trail crossover shortcut are 36° 22.049'N, 117° 29.092'W. GPS coordinates for the bottom of the 4th major dry fall are 36° 21.469'N, 117° 33.456'W.
Once I had completed my exciting hike through Upper Rainbow Canyon and Middle Rainbow Canyon, I knew that I would have to hike Lower Rainbow Canyon later in the trip. There was just no way I could wait another 8 months until my Fall 2010 trip to finish seeing the entire canyon from beginning to end. So, five days after doing the other two portions, I set out on my first ever hike that started at Panamint Springs Resort. After leaving my vehicle at the day parking area, I set out to the north and hiked past the first canyon opening (which is a shorter canyon that appears to head straight toward the highway off in the distance). I then met up with the next hillside and continued north until I found a short-cut through to the wash of Lower Rainbow Canyon. Once I dropped into the canyon wash, I found that the going was sometimes easy and sometimes rough. The key is to follow the burro footprints and try to stay in drainages as much as possible. Eventually, I made it to the point where the canyon closed in and became very narrow. One of the interesting aspects of Lower Rainbow Canyon is seeing all of the unique rocks and canyon walls on display. There is always something new and interesting to see every few minutes. And it was relatively easy to make it all the way through the lower canyon into the narrows. The narrows are the best part of the entire lower canyon, and they dead-end at the base of the 20 foot 4th major dry fall (comprised of huge boulders or chockstones). The hike through Lower Rainbow Canyon from the parking area at PSR to the base of the 4th major dry fall is quite long. It is 7 1/2 miles each way (or 15 miles round-trip) with an elevation gain of 1,600 feet. While the elevation is minimal and spread out quite evenly, the washes can be challenging and that's what makes the length of the hike harder than most. But it is a very enjoyable hike and I'm surprised that it's not really recommended anywhere else other than this web site. In my opinion, this is one of the best hikes out of northern Panamint Valley. One thing I should probably include in this report is an experience which I had in Lower Rainbow Canyon. After I was about two hours into the hike and there were no other people around obviously, I was startled by the loud sound of approaching aircraft. I looked back and saw a huge navy helicopter heading up the canyon toward me. It felt like I was in an action movie, or the middle of a war or something. The helicopter flew overhead about 100 feet and the pilot waved to me as they continued up canyon on their training mission. Definitely a strange and surreal moment out in the middle of a seldom visited canyon in Death Valley. I would have loved to see what Rainbow Canyon looked like from their vantage point. Our hike took place on March 15, 2010.
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.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT