Amargosa Falls, California

I haven’t been visiting many major waterfalls lately. Instead, I’ve been tending to search for some of the more unknown waterfalls that are nearby where I’m currently traveling. This means finding waterfalls like Amargosa Falls, a waterfall in the California desert…

Amargosa Falls is a bit south of Death Valley, where you can find another interesting desert waterfall, Lower Darwin Falls. Being in Death Valley, Darwin Falls gets a bit more advertising than Amargosa Falls. It is taller too, but both waterfalls are interesting in their own way.

The starting point of the hike to Amargosa Falls is interesting in its own right. For directions sake, set your GPS to the China Date Farm in Tecopa, California. This is an actual date farm, and they make a variety of different date products. (It smells really good in there!) On the opposite side of the parking lot near the picnic area is where the trail to the falls starts.

The hike to the falls is relatively easy from a hiking perspective. The directions can get a bit confusing at one turn, but luckily someone else on the trail pointed out that it didn’t seem like this was the right direction to the falls. Even if you miss the turn to the falls, you’ll still be able to see a pretty neat slot canyon.

Once you get to the falls, you’ll be greeted with a unique waterfall. If you arrive at the crest of the falls, you won’t even see the whole thing. It’s a bit different than most other waterfalls. As you might be able to tell, the river right above the falls is almost completely overgrown with brush. If you’re standing a few feet “behind” the falls, you wouldn’t even see a river… very odd, to say the least. Climb down a bit, and you’ll find the waterfall is wider than expected, almost forming a horseshoe. It’s an unexpected find in this dry, colorful desert landscape.

Directions:

  1. Set your GPS to the China Date Ranch Farm in Tecopa. From the Old Spanish Trail Highway in Tecopa, turn south onto Furnace Creek Road, and then a few miles later, turn right onto China Ranch Road. The signs are pretty clear. The road is mostly paved with the exception of the last mile or so, and it’s not difficult to drive down.
  2. Head toward the picnic tables at the edge of the parking area to start your hike.
  3. At 0.25 miles in, there will be a Nature Conservancy sign at a fork. Take the right fork of the trail. You will then pass an old building that they’ve tried to stabilize.
  4. Keep hiking until you reach a hill with a information sign in the center. (This will be just under 1 mile from the start of the hike.) Survey the land a bit. To your right will be the remnants of a railroad bed extending off a ways. To your left is another trail, and directly ahead of you is a dry river bed that will lead you to a slot canyon.
  5. To reach the falls, you want to take the switchback down this hill and then veer sharply right toward the railroad bed. You’ll pass the remnants of a mining operation. Follow this raised railroad bed for about 0.75 miles.
  6. Shortly before the waterfall, you’ll see a worn sign for “Waterfall.” Follow this sign and you’ll soon arrive at the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: ~7′
Length of Hike: 3.5 miles round-trip

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Amargosa Falls in March 2018

Where in the World is Amargosa Falls?

Lower Darwin Falls, California

Lower Darwin Falls

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. 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.

Directions:

  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.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: 2.2 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Lower Darwin Falls?