The Golden Canyon endurance challenge

Hiking Death Valley is not like hiking any other place I’ve been. For one, the park is so gargantuan that the trails don’t really show up on the map. Instead they just point out a few popular trailheads, most of which lead into small-to-medium canyons. The trail is essentially the canyon wash, sort of a wide, dry “riverbed”, that you walk up until you can’t walk any longer.

Our first hike like this was into Golden Canyon, just south of Furnace Creek. It was only a mile and a quarter long (so 2.5 miles roundtrip), but at that point in the early afternoon it was over 90°F. The ground cover was an unusually coarse, dusty gravel—unusual because I associate gravel with man-made landscaping, not nature—which made the hike kind of like walking through a pebbly beach. In other words it was hard. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been in 90° heat. I told Stephanie that it felt like an endurance challenge. But this is exactly why we came. We wanted to hike and camp in a place that actually gets hot—something that doesn’t happen in the Bay Area.

At the entrance to Golden Canyon
At the entrance to Golden Canyon
Justin posing by a 'tributary' of the canyon
Justin posing by a “tributary” of the canyon
Another view along the trail
A view along the trail
Looking up the trail while resting in the shade
Looking up the trail while resting in the shade
View along Golden Canyon
This view looks almost miniature to my eyes (accidental tilt-shift)
Reaching the end of Golden Canyon, blocked by the Red Cathedral
The end of Golden Canyon, blocked by the “Red Cathedral” wall
Looking across Death Valley at the mouth of Golden Canyon
Back at the trailhead, Death Valley looks kind of like Mars


kudos for the journey to DV. I think I’d have been tempted to try a longer hike than 2.5 miles, but from the sound of it, I would’ve seriously regretted it!

did you see or meet any other hikers/campers on the trip?

So did you like this one? I’m not sure I would–hot and the terrain looks a little monotonous. How does this compare to other hikes you’ve done?

This was literally our first hike, immediately after driving 530+ miles, so we figured 2 miles in the desert would be a good beginner’s hike.

It was really really bright out, the sun was almost directly overhead, so I was mostly focused on how hot I felt. It was kind of like hiking on another planet—one where nothing is alive. Which is actually not true, there were the occasional plants and insects, but they don’t really show up in the photos.


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