A paved road once snaked its way into Golden Canyon in Death Valley National Park. Tourists could drive in and enjoy the view. No effort was required. People would take out their cameras, do the ‘ah’ bit, and leave… hurrying on to the next must see sight.
Flash floods are common in desert areas, however. One roared down Golden Canyon in 1976 and took the road along with it. Ever since, access has been by foot. Consider it a blessing. I am not against driving and gawking. I do plenty. But we miss a great deal of nature as we roll along in our sleek air-conditioned vehicles.
And there is much to see in Golden Canyon. The hike is easy as long the sizzling heat of Death Valley’s summer is avoided. October through April is the best time to visit. I also recommend hiking in early morning or late afternoon when colors are vibrant. Carry water. Stroll up the canyon, stop often and look around. The experience is best when savored. It’s a two-mile round trip. For a shorter version, stop at any point.
Markers along the trail provide insight into area’s rich geological history. Topsy-turvy planet altering processes caused by the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates folded and twisted ancient rocks that had been created from deposits in even more ancient seas. Erosion has exposed this work of eons and gives us a glimpse into the past. The bright colors of the different rocks and the different rate they erode provide a feast for our eyes and imagination, not to mention our cameras.
Golden Canyon is located two miles south of Highway 190 on Badwater Road. Trails to Zabriskie Point and Gower Gulch cut off of the Gold Canyon Trail. Ask at Park headquarters for maps and details.