Willow Canyon along with Darwin Falls are both rare year-round waterfalls in Death Valley, one of the hottest, driest places on earth! Often missed, Willow Canyon shares the same trailhead with the more popular Sidewinder Canyon.
This adventure is pretty short, only 2 miles each way, and there is no climbing or rock scrambling to speak of. The most beautiful part of Willow Canyon is the last 1/4th mile before the falls where the canyon narrows, the water begins to flow and cascade over rocks and the surrounding cliffs reveal amazing sculptures.
The initial 1 and 3/4 miles of Willow Canyon are on the rock surface of a very wide alluvial fan. Turn around often as there are sweeping views of Death Valley out the opening of the canyon, lit up best in the morning sun.
There is an interesting slot canyon about 1 mile from the trailhead on the right (South) side of Willow Canyon. About 2-300ft in one is confronted with a pretty steep dry waterfall that looks as if it could be summited by a fairly good rock climber. Shortly after, there is a split in the canyon. The right split, much wider, looks interesting, but does not lead to Willow Creek and the waterfalls.
Instead, continue straight ahead toward a narrow opening in the mountains where the canyon walls dramatically rise and one can see scattered brave desert holly plants hanging from the cliffs. Soon you will begin to hear the sound of flowing water cascading over a few 3-6ft ledges which are relatively easy to climb. Willow Creek alternately surfaces when faced with a rock barrier, then dives underground to continue its downward flow.
The end of Willow Canyon is pretty obvious, unless you are an experienced rock climber. There is a beautiful double waterfall cascading vertically over a cliff wall. With further exploration one might find a way around and above the cliff waterfall, but there are no guarantees as the surrounding cliff walls seem to reveal few options. Perhaps a way might be found near the entrance of the narrows either to the right or the left, but it does not look obvious.
From Las Vegas take Hwy 95 North to Beatty, Nevada. At Beatty Nevada take Hwy 394 (Daylight Pass Road) toward Death Valley National Park. About 10 miles after summiting Daylight Pass, take the left split toward Furnace Creek Ranch. Continue to the “T” intersection with Hwy 190 and take a left. Pass Furnace Creek Ranch and in a couple miles at The Oasis in Death Valley turn right onto Badwater Road. About 15 miles past Badwater Basin turn left (East) onto an unmarked unpaved road. Continue about .5 miles on this road to a small parking area. Willow Canyon is the canyon to the left, Sidewinder Canyon is the canyon to the right.