Death Valley can feel pretty unwelcoming at times; a place of parched landscapes, sprawling dunes and stifling temperatures.
The kind of fierce heat where every minute is spent in a perpetual state of sweatiness and where even the slightest of warm breezes is a welcome change.
We were magnetised to anything remotely cool. Ice-cream, Coca-Cola, fridge, sprinkler.
But here in the middle of the desert, where the claypan is a mosaic of desiccated cracks and the air so dry it sucks the moisture from your skin, we found the wonderfully refreshing Darwin Falls. A small but perfect oasis in the desert.
A place to cool off, take a dip and escape the heat.
If you too are craving respite, here’s how to get to Darwin Falls in Death Valley National Park.
The Darwin Falls are a little slice of paradise in the middle of a seemingly barren wilderness.
As you get closer the scorched rubble ground transforms into a lush corner of the canyon where water flows freely, birds flutter overhead and dragonflies zoom in and out of the water reeds.
The falls are small, but in this heat a dip in the cool water is the perfect antidote.
After sweating it out on the short but blisteringly hot walk, a swim here is pure bliss.
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From Panamint Springs, head west 1.7km where you’ll find a dirt road to the left running parallel to a pipeline. On Google Maps this is marked as Old Toll Road, though the road itself is unsigned.
Follow this rough and rocky track for a further 4km where the road will open up into a parking area.
From here the path follows the dusty riverbed through dry scrubs before narrowing as you enter the canyon. Soon you’ll find yourself amongst lush green trees and a refreshing change of temperature. The pipeline that you’ve followed more or less from the main road should still be running parallel.
As you continue through the canyon, there are a few places where you’ll need to cross the small river and scramble over a few rocks but the path is pretty straightforward to follow. After 1.3 kilometres you’ll arrive at Darwin Falls and the small swimming hole.
Drive: 5.6 kilometres, 30 minutes
Walk: 1.3 kilometres (one-way), 30 minutes
In case you haven’t caught on yet, Death Valley is unbearably hot. There are plenty of signs to warn you of the possible dangers in the area but this is definitely a place where you don’t want to get caught out. Take plenty of water, more than you think you’ll need and enough for the return journey and wear plenty of sun protection including suncream, long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat.