The only waterfall I’ve seen in California is in a location you would least likely expect to find a waterfall: Death Valley. In the Panamint Springs area, this waterfall is fed by a spring (I think). When I visited in January 2009, there was water flowing, even in the dry winter.
When I visited Darwin Falls in winter, the hike to the falls was very enjoyable. The temperature was in the low 70’s, while in the shade along the trail, it was cooler. I can’t imagine what the temperatures would be in summer. Along the trail, there were still multiple different wildflowers blooming, and some trees were even changing colors.
As a note, we visited Lower Darwin Falls. There is an Upper Darwin Falls, but I could not find the trail that led to it. These directions suggest going up a talus slope on the right side of the canyon, but there was no clear way to hike up the right side…maybe rockclimb, but not hike. We could climb up on the left side of the canyon, but didn’t really go much further, as the rock was somewhat steep.
1) From Panamint Springs, drive west on CA-190 for 1 mile.
2) On your left, you will see a dirt road marked with a sign for Darwin Falls. Take this road.
3) You will go for about 2.5 miles down the rocky road to the parking area. We were able to drive on the road in our smaller rental car, though the most difficult part was getting into the parking lot.
4) From the parking lot, walk through the gate and continue on the trail. As an indicator you’re on the right path, you will randomly see PVC pipe.
5) It’s a pretty straight shoot to the falls. You might have to cross the stream once or twice, but it’s not that difficult at all. Wear hiking boots or something with grip. The trail is easy to traverse, but your shoes will get wet and they need to grip the rock.
My final note: The trail to the Lower Falls is much easier than I expected. When looking at other websites, I got the sense that the trip and trek to the falls would be difficult, but that was not the case.
Where in the World is Lower Darwin Falls?: map