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Find the natural anomaly of Darwin Falls set amid the arid desert wilderness of Death Valley National Park. Spring-fed cascades flow out through a gorge and into an inviting pool. Flourishing green vegetation grows from the canyon walls and the soothing sound of birdsong permeates the air. Darwin Falls takes its name from Dr. Darwin French, a military physician, rancher and founder of the mining town of Darwin.
Access the falls via a 1-mile-long (1.6-kilometer) unmarked trail, which requires crossing creeks, balancing on logs strewn across streams and scrambling over large boulders. Note how the scenery blends craggy canyon walls with lush jungle-like foliage. Spot common Death Valley vegetation, such as creosote bush and mesquite, in addition to willow trees. As you approach the falls you’ll see and hear birds, dragonflies, frogs and lizards.
The lower falls are 20 feet (6 meters) high and spill over rocks into a swimming hole. Before hitting the pool, the water splits into two channels and creates the image of an inverted letter Y. Wade in the shallow water, ideal for cooling off from the hot desert sun.
If you are feeling adventurous, climb up the rocks at the side of the gorge to the upper 80-foot-tall (24-meter) waterfall. Surrounding it is a collection of smaller cascades, grottoes and pools. With fewer visitors, this is a great spot to enjoy a picnic and take a nap. Be cautious of slippery surfaces when climbing.
Located on the western boundary of Death Valley National Park, the falls are a 15-minute drive from Panamint Springs along a dirt road. Use the free parking available at the trailhead.
Darwin Falls is open year-round. Visit in spring and winter to avoid the region’s extreme high temperatures. Pick up picnic provisions in Panamint Springs. Pay the admission fee for the national park at designated campgrounds, entrance gates, ranger stations and visitor centers.
Situated in a national park, this motel is within a 5-minute walk of Death Valley National Park and Panamint Dunes. Darwin Falls is 4.1 mi (6.6 km) away.