Exploring Corkscrew Canyon

Views from above Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Views from above Corkscrew Canyon

I read about Corkscrew Canyon on the internet.  There was an old mining area, they promised, and a slot canyon.  There was no trail, but it was pretty easy to walk up an old road.  Alas, more research told me that the old road was actually private property and the old mining area and slot canyon were inaccessible via the road.  Undaunted, we set out to see what we could find in Corkscrew Canyon without going onto private land.

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: 3.8 miles Trail Type: Out & back Elevation Gain: 553ft. Pets: No Fees: $30/vehicle
An old board in the Corkscrew Wash, Death Valley National Park, California
An old board in Corkscrew Wash

Note: Most of the National Park Service employees I talked with were oblivious to the private property in this part of the park.  I’m not blaming them per se; there seem to be many pockets of private property within the park boundary that almost no one knows about.  But be aware on this trek that there is private property and to the best of my knowledge I’ll tell you how to avoid it.  At any rate, obey signs that may pop up when you’re least expecting it (why am I thinking of Wiley Coyote right now???)

Hiking up the lower part of Corkscrew Wash, Death Valley National Park, California
Hiking up the lower part of Corkscrew Wash

We started where the Corkscrew Wash enters the Furnace Creek Wash along CA-190.  It’s fairly easy to pull over on the shoulder of the road here as long as not too many people do it at once.  One other group pulled in after us, though I suspect that Corkscrew Canyon wasn’t their destination since I didn’t see them while we were hiking.

A few old relics left over from past mines, Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
A few old relics left over from past mines

Not too far up the wash are some mining relics from another era.  There’s not much left except for some old wood – I expect it’s been hit with a few flash floods over the years.

The Funeral Mountains from the Corkscrew Wash, Death Valley National Park, California
The Funeral Mountains

Hike up the very wide, gravely wash, turning left with the wash after eight tenths of a mile.  Views are pretty good back toward the Funeral Mountains on the other side of the Furnace Creek Wash.

Turning up into the mountains along Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Turning up into the mountains

About mile 1.9, the wash turns sharply south to parallel an old mining road.  The road is private property, so stay in the wash.  Near where the wash turns south, there are quite a few old rusting pieces of junk including an old stove.

An old stove in Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
An old stove

Keep walking up the wash as the walls become closer.  About mile 1.9, the wash more or less ends in multiple smaller washes.  If you scramble left, you’ll come to a gate with a sign that says, “Private Property.”  Sadly, you can’t go any further up the road, which means no old mining stuff and no slot canyon. (FYI – the mine site is not just around the corner, despite what it looks like. It’s actually on the other side of the hills altogether.)

The gate with the "keep out" sign in Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
The gate with the “keep out” sign

From here, I decided we hadn’t made this hike worthwhile.  So I scrambled up the hillside, staying to the right of the metal posts (possibly the edge of the private property).  The views from the hillside are quite good!

Views from the hills above Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Views from the hills above Corkscrew Canyon

Some of my group scrambled all of the way up into the top of 20 Mule Team Canyon.  From here, you could do a loop down through 20 Mule Team, though that would be a much longer hike if you didn’t have a shuttle vehicle.

A few of my group members up above 20 Mule Team Canyon and Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
A few of my group members up above 20 Mule Team Canyon

So overall, Corkscrew Canyon was a bit of a disappointment.  There really wasn’t that much to see.  Still, it gave us something to do on a cloudy afternoon when we were all tired but wanted to not just sit around… I guess there’s some usefulness in that.

Scrambling back down into Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Scrambling back down into Corkscrew Canyon

Round Trip Trail Length: 3.8 miles out & back

Elevation Gain: 553ft. out & back without scrambling up the hillside; scrambling up, it’s about 1,046ft. elevation gain

Facilities: None

Fees: $30/vehicle, valid 7 days.  National Public Lands Passes and Death Valley Annual Passes are accepted.

The road sometimes runs down Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
The road sometimes runs down the wash

Trail Notes: There isn’t much of a trail, but it’s pretty hard to get lost.  The bottom of the wash is firm enough to make hiking at least reasonable.  As I said above, there is unmarked (and sometimes marked) private property along this route, so try to stay on public land if possible.  Don’t touch or move any of the historic junk along the way – and remember to Leave No Trace!

Views down Corkscrew Canyon to the Funeral Range, Death Valley National Park, California
Views down Corkscrew Canyon to the Funeral Range

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★

Overall Rating: ★

Turning toward Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Turning toward Corkscrew Canyon

GPS Coordinates for Corkscrew Canyon

Beginning: 36.3963333°, -116.7673667° (N36° 23.780′ W116° 46.042′ / 36°23’46.8000″, -116°46’02.5200″) (1,144ft.) (0.0)

Meet Wash: 36.3844333°, -116.7643667° (N36° 23.066′ W116° 45.862′ / 36°23’03.9600″, -116°45’51.7200″) (1,354ft.) (0.90)

Turn Up Wash: 36.3787500°, -116.7602333° (N36° 22.725′ W116° 45.614′ / 36°22’43.5000″, -116°45’36.8400″) (1,480ft.) (1.38)

Gate: 36.3714167°, -116.7633833° (N36° 22.285′ W116° 45.803′ / 36°22’17.1000″, -116°45’48.1800″) (1,640ft.) (1.96)

End: 36.3963000°, -116.7674167° (N36° 23.778′ W116° 46.045′ / 36°23’46.6800″, -116°46’02.7000″) (1,184ft.) (5.00)

Views through the badlands from Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Views through the badlands

The gpx file for Corkscrew Canyon can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.

Download GPX File size: 81.4 KB Downloaded 13 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

Views east from above Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Views east from above Corkscrew Canyon

Getting to Corkscrew Canyon

From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, turn right (south) onto CA-190E.  Drive 7.8 miles to where a wash enters from the right.  The wash is about 6.5 miles east of the Badwater Road and 0.2 miles east of the exit to the 20 Mule Team Scenic Drive.  (If you’re coming from the east (Las Vegas, etc.) the wash is about 4.2 miles west of the road to Dante’s View.)  Park out of the way of traffic along the shoulder of the road.

Visual trail map and elevation profile for my hike up into Corkscrew Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
Visual trail map and elevation profile for my hike up into Corkscrew Canyon

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