How to hike to Darwin Falls in Death Valley National Park (A year round waterfall in the desert!)

The hike to Darwin Falls in Death Valley National Park is an oasis in the Mojave Desert and in this hiking guide we’re covering all of the details to experience it!

We’d be willing to bet that seeing a waterfall wasn’t on your list when you first began planning a trip to Death Valley National Park. For a park known for its record breaking heat, having the lowest elevation in the US, and dry climate, water is probably the last thing you think of when you think of Death Valley. 

But it’s true…there IS a waterfall in Death Valley and this oasis is unlike anything else you’ll see when visiting the park!

Watch our experience in Death Valley National Park, including visiting Badwater Basin, Artist Palette, going for hikes, and more! And to learn more about the park, check out our ULTIMATE guide to visiting Death Valley National Park!

While getting to the falls is a bit of an adventure, with a rough road and a decent drive from the popular sights, it is WELL worth visiting if you find yourself with some extra time in Death Valley. And in this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know to visit the falls!

Looking for more things to do in California? Check out our California guides and vlogs!

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About Darwin Falls

Darwin Falls Death Valley

Darwin Falls is a spring fed, year round waterfall that was named after Erasmus Darwin French, an Army physician who came to the area in 1846 during the Mexican American War to prospect for silver.

While not a tall waterfall at only 18 feet, it is one of only a few year round waterfalls in the park and is a stark contrast from the park’s otherwise more tan and dry scenery, with lots of green plant life around the falls including cattails, trees, and other vegetation.

Hike to Darwin Falls Death Valley

You’ll also find evidence of humans using this valuable source of water. As you follow the trail to the falls you will also notice a pipe running alongside the trail. This pipe carries water from the pool beneath the falls to the nearby Panamint Springs Resort and is the resort’s drinking water, so please do not enter the pool!

Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!

These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. 

Darwin Falls Trail Stats

Miles (roundtrip): 1.9 
Elevation: 232 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions

The trail is a nice, gently ascending mile walk through the wash out to the falls, making it doable by almost any age or athletic abilities. Besides a couple tiny streams to cross, there aren’t any major obstacles to navigate until you get closer to the falls. 

Once you reach the area with green vegetation and shade, you might encounter some small spots of mud and water crossings, as well as a decent sized boulder area that you have to climb up, which we will explain later on in this guide. But overall, this is an easy hike and it only took us a little bit over an hour, including a short stop at the falls.

Note: Similar to the rest of the park, dogs are NOT allowed on this hike.

Getting to Darwin Falls at Death Valley

Darwin Falls is located on the western edge of Death Valley National Park, just south of US 190. It is about a 1 hour and 15 minute drive from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, so it is a bit of a trek compared to some of the other popular things to do in the park, like Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, and Artist’s Palette. 

Road to Darwin Falls Death Valley

When driving west on US 190, go past the Panamint Springs Resort and gas station and take the first road on the left. The road out to the trailhead is not long, only 2.5 miles, but it is bumpy, potholed, and one of the worst roads we’ve been on…and we have been on many bad roads. Despite this, you can drive on this road with any vehicle (we saw all types!) and 4×4 is not required, but high clearance would be a plus. 

Parking lot for Darwin Falls Death Valley

We do hear that it is sometimes graded, so maybe we caught it at a bad time, but definitely plan to spend a bit of time driving this road. After 2.5 rough miles, the trailhead parking lo will be on your right. It’s not a huge lot and we lucked out that there was a spot our larger Sprinter van could fit in. It seems that people kind of park wherever they can fit and we almost got trapped in, so keep that in mind if driving a larger vehicle!

Note: There are no restrooms at the trailhead, so plan accordingly! 

When to hike to Darwin Falls

Hike to Darwin Falls Death Valley

We’re a bit of a broken record in our Death Valley guides, but if you plan to visit Death Valley, we highly suggest visiting between November and March, when the temperatures are not scalding hot! And for Darwin Falls, as well as any hikes in the park, we recommend hiking early or late in the day to beat the heat. While this hike does offer a bit more shade than most hikes in the park, a good chunk of it is still exposed.

We hiked the trail in the afternoon in late February on a moderate day so it was fairly comfortable hiking, but it still felt hot, despite the temperatures not being too warm. In the summertime, the Park Service recommends to be done with this hike by 10 AM.  

What to bring to hike to Darwin Falls

As always, we recommend having the 10 essentials on you when doing any hike, but here are a few key items we want to point out that will especially help you during this hike!

Water

With likely very high temperatures in the park and lots of sunshine, you’ll want to have lots of water on you for all of your adventures. Even if it’s not super hot, the air is very dry and you’re likely to get extra thirsty. We like to carry our 3L Camelbak bladders while on any hike, which makes it easy to store a lot of water and drink while on the go.

Sun protection

This trail is exposed most of the time, with some shady spots at the end. You’ll want a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the harsh Death Valley sun!

Flashlight or headlamp

If you start before sunrise or plan to finish after sunset, you will want to have some sort of light source. The night skies are dark out in Death Valley!

AllTrails Map

Cell service is very sparse in the park and we highly suggest downloading the offline AllTrails map for this hike. The trail is pretty straightforward, with not many chances to get confused on where to go, but we always suggest having the AllTrails map downloaded, just in case. 

Our experience hiking to Darwin Falls in Death Valley

Get ready to witness two extremes on this hike! The first half will be bone dry and the second half will seem like another world with lush, wet conditions. 

The first half mile is a gentle, flat walk through a dry wash. There won’t be any shade along this portion of the trail. As we walked through the wash, we were really starting to question if we were on the right trail. There was very little sign that there could be water in this area, but after a half mile, the trail will turn to the right slightly and get much more green and alive. From here is where the scenery really starts getting nice. 

This lush, riparian area will get thick with vegetation and has a few streams to cross. With the help of some strategically placed makeshift bridges made from fallen logs and stones to cross, the streams are nothing that most people can’t handle. And heck, if you’re wearing Chacos or waterproof boots you can just tromp through the water!

As you get closer to the falls, there is a section that has some boulders to traverse. This area is a bit confusing, as it isn’t super clear what is the right way. You’ll see a rock wall with some green graffiti on it (grrr…) and we had heard to climb up towards that, which wasn’t bad. However, we also learned there was another option with a rope you could use, although we cannot confirm if that is still there.

After this slightly confusing section you’ll finally come upon Darwin Falls! While not a super tall waterfall, this beautiful little oasis is a welcome sight in the middle of the hot desert. Set your pack down and enjoy the sounds of the water falling down for a few minutes. We really liked hanging out here for a few minutes to take some long exposure photos and enjoy the cooler temperatures. Remember, this is the drinking water for the nearby resort so please do not enter the pool of water and just admire it from land.

Darwin Falls | Things to do in Death Valley National Park

The cascading falls that split right at the bottom over a triangle shaped rock was nothing short of magical, especially considering where you are! To get back to the trailhead simply follow the trail the same way you came.

While this waterfall doesn’t really compare to some of the major ones out west in more lush areas, we still think this hike is more than worth it solely for the uniqueness of it, especially considering how easy and short it is!

Other things to do near Darwin Falls in Death Valley

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How to hike to Darwin Falls in Death Valley National Park | Things to do in Death Valley National Park | Death Valley National Park hikes

about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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This website contains affiliate links from websites such as Amazon.com, Booking.com, and Rentalcars.com. If you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

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