Desolation Canyon Trail

MODERATE 24 reviews
#12 of 70 trails in

Desolation Canyon Trail is a 4.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Shoshone, California that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from November until April. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

4.2 miles
813 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash



nature trips



wild flowers


Directions from Highway 190: From Highway 190, travel 3.7 miles south on Badwater Road. Turn on to Desolation Canyon Road (not marked, look closely for it) and follow the road to the end of the left fork.

28 days ago

Very steep at the end but the view was spectacular! The dry waterfalls that the park service claims are 6ft and 8ft high were not—very negotiable. Hot though, since the canyon walls block most of the breeze.

1 month ago

Desolation Canyon is a great alternative to its very popular neighbor (and often crowded) Golden Canyon. This walk/hike is mostly very flat with two easy approximately 5-8 ft scrambles over dry waterfalls (see picture). Small elevation gain of about 700 ft in the last half mile to a nice little overlook with good views of Telescope Peak. Overall, a very easy walk I used as a morning cool-down from a more difficult hike the previous day. Saw all age-ranges and abilities while hiking this. While named "Desolation Canyon", and you do get brief moments of solitude in the canyon as it bends around, but this is still a fairly popular hike and I saw about 20 people during the morning in peak season.

2 months ago

We passed Golden Canyon on our way to sunrise at Badwater and though “ oh we can do that later.” WRONG. Outrageously crowded so we went over to the quiet, peaceful and somewhat challenging Desolation Canyon. The very end, right before the viewpoint, was a steep climb. But rewarding at the top and a rewarding hike throughout.

I joked they should rename it something friendlier like “Easter Egg Canyon” because of the pastel colorful rocks. But I suppose then it wouldn’t be the quiet and wild feeling place it is.

trail running
3 months ago

Not many people here despite busy tourist season. Beautiful colors in the rock walls and views at the top. Scrambling up two 6-8 foot dry falls required, plus steep, loose/sandy gravel right before the summit.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mid April, great hike. 2 hours round trip. The name says a lot. There were very few plants, desert gold, desert holly, and primrose. We saw a variety of lizards including zebra tails and side blotched. The big draw is the amazing variation in geology. I am not savvy in this area but there were rocks of every color, shape, and texture. I spent most of my time picking up and comparing rocks. The trail was easy to follow. The end of the trail was steeper than the rest and I ended up with some gravel in my boots. It was great fun. Take water and a buddy.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I hiked this trail in November during Thanksgiving weekend. The entire valley was clogged with tourists, but I only met one other hiker while on this trail. The road to the trailhead was unmarked when I went through, so I doubt many even knew it was there. The hike itself is a decent workout with a pretty awesome view at the end. There were a few short scrambles along the way, but nothing too frightening. If you're like me and your enjoyment sinks when you find yourself hiking elbow-to-elbow with a dozen other noisy adventurers, families, and tourist groups, this is a great trail to get away from it all.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beautiful and very isolated! I didn't see anyone my entire hike. The views at the end/ top are stunning!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Nice climb at the end, with amazing views.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

This is a hidden gem in the park. Very nice trail, moderate difficulty.
The visitor center actually has map for this trail, and you can actually download from NPS website.
2.5 hours is enough for out and back.

The trail it self, beautiful. The view at the end on the ridge is breathtaking. You can see the winding canyon you just climbed in colors, and you have view towards artist's drive, further down is the death valley salt flats.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Nice place if you like desert badlands. Danged hot in the summer

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Simply beautiful trail. We tend to hike early in the morning so the colors weren't as vibrant as they would be in late afternoon but we were not disappointed! Steady, uphill climb. At one point in the narrows you can touch both walls with outstretched arms. Two sections of the trail require you to scramble but easy and doable. After climbing up to the top and walking around we came down trail and explored a couple of side canyons. Worth it!! Found a sunny alcove and had lunch. Only saw 3 other folks as we were leaving...another reason why we tend to hike early in the morning. One of our favorite trails in Death Valley.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Favorite campground in the park: Wildrose, on the W side of the park up in the foothills. Wasn't even half full when I was there in the Fall, whereas the major campgrounds were filled to capacity.

Monday, December 30, 2013

This is a nice trail. I found it not-so desolate....and actually very pretty in parts.

There were about 5 others on the trail. The trail is just south of the very crowded Golden Canyon. Driving down Badwater Road from there, hang a left at Desolation Canyon Road. It's between the 3and 4 mile markers.

I started around 2pm. Walk up into the canyon via the wash. Keep to the right at all forks, for the most part. There are a handful of cairns and cairn arrows to guide you.

The trail is moderate ....a steady climb. There are two spots where you need to climb vertically a bit, but only four or five feet. You'll need to pull your weight up. Those are the hardest parts. There are beautiful canyon walls, much like the Artists Palette....pastel greens and pinks. Do the trail in the later afternoon and you'll stay cool and out of the sun while in the canyon.

The last several 100 yards are a bit steep but not bad. Once at the top you have some pretty views, but nothing like what's below.

Most folks return the same way they arrive. That's about 3miles total.

I continued forward and followed the natural wash down. This eventually hits the Artists Drive after the Palette. The road is one way. If going with traffic, follow the road until you get to Badwater Road and then take a right until you get to Desolation Canyon Road. Use caution, obviously.

I got to my car around 4:30pm. Im in good shape and go about 2mi/hr so this was a good moderate hike for me. As with any hike in DVNP, and in general, bring plenty of water.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

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Sunday, March 27, 2016