Good as Golden
Hike a Classic Loop in Golden Canyon at Death Valley National Park
We’re not talking silver or bronze; we’re talking pure gold! Golden Canyon in Death Valley has a variety of trails, from easygoing to moderately strenuous adventure hikes. We recommend doing the complete circuit. It’s a 5.5-mile loop exploring a labyrinth of marbled gold colored hills, badlands, narrow canyons, and tremendous vistas. Many hikers do this in a clockwise navigation but we recommend counter-clockwise to minimize strenuous climbs.
From the main parking lot, head south toward Gower Gulch rather than going straight into Golden Canyon (you’ll exit through the Golden Canyon Trail on this loop). Within about a mile you’ll enter Gower Gulch. Keep your eyes peeled as you walk the rocky canyon: Abandoned mine shafts can be spied from the 1880s mining days.
Follow the signs and continue on a section of the Badlands Loop heading toward Zabriskie Point. You can hike all the way up to Zabriskie, which adds an extra 1.4 miles. But for this adventure we recommend sticking to the Badlands Loop so that you have the requisite time to savor the exquisite vistas as you climb to glorious views.
As you hike up into the swirled orange sherbet hills, you’ll see the impressive Manly Beacon, a towering spire rising above the badlands (you may even see some intrepid hikers at the top of it). The high point is a premier panorama, and otherworldly (we kept expecting baby Yoda to pop up!). If you’ve timed your hike for early morning or late afternoon, the light here is incredible, washing over the sandstone and igniting its orange and yellow and red shades.
It’s a bit of a steep descent but manageable and you won’t mind taking your time on it as the canyon continues to impress. Make your way back to the canyon floor and follow the signs out. All that glitters is golden.
The Golden Canyon trailhead is 2 miles south of Hwy. 190 on Badwater Rd. The parking lot can fill up on weekends. Time your hike to finish 30 to 60 minutes before sunset for maximum “golden hour” in the canyon.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: In the episode “Life and Death Experience” Weekend Sherpa co-founders Brad and Holly talk about their favorite adventures in Death Valley, including this hike in Golden Canyon.
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