Golden Canyon to Zabriskie Point, Golden Canyon Trailhead, Death Valley National Park, California
Golden Canyon to Zabriskie Point - 6.1 miles
Golden Canyon Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||6.1 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||-138' - 725' (725' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+863' net elevation gain (+1,179' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Golden Canyon to Zabriskie Point - 6.1 Miles Round-Trip
Zabriskie Point stands high over a network of canyons and badlands on the east edge of Death Valley. A winding trail leads through an intricately carved landscape to exceptional views across Death Valley:
Enter Golden Canyon and head up the gravel wash. Numbered markers in the wash correspond to the Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail pamphlet available for purchase at the trailhead.
Note multiple layers of sediment ranging in size from boulders to fine-grained sand and silt. Pressure from periodic burials fused once loose material into solid conglomerates; subsequent uplifts and erosion have exposed the distinct and diverse deposits in this rock.
The canyon-trail forks right in .7 miles to Interpretive Sign #10 (right side) and the split for Zabriskie Point (1 mile : 157'). Bear right from Sign #10 out of Golden Canyon into the badlands below Zabriskie Point.
The Cathedral's cliffs are comprised of conglomerate material similar to that exposed near the mouth of Golden Canyon, once the loose debris of an alluvial fan. Oxidation has given these walls a distinct crimson color, a sharp contrast to lighter-hue badlands directly below.
The trail crests beneath Manly Beacon and bends south (1.45 miles : 510') to the first of two marked connections with Gower Gulch (1.85 miles : 370').
Follow signs left (uphill) toward Zabriskie Point. The trail negotiates a narrow gully, which partly obscures an important steep left turn out of it (2 miles : 405').
Travel eases on a high bench (2.2 miles : 560') with views of Red Cathedral, Manly Beacon and the network of washes and gullies through which you've risen.
A few quick turns drop back to a second marked connection with Gower Gulch (2.35 miles : 495'). The split itself lies in Gower Gulch; bear immediately left up a side wash that joins it for the final push to Zabriskie Point.
The trail crests and slips through a notch (2.9 miles : 660') that spills into the Zabriskie Point parking area off of Highway 190. It continues on to the overlook (3.05 miles : 725') with long views across the badlands, Death Valley and Panamint Mountains.
Consider returning via Gower Gulch, which adds nominal distance but tremendous variation.
- N36 25.238 W116 50.795 — Golden Canyon Trailhead
- N36 25.385 W116 50.372 — .5 miles : Continue up canyon
- N36 25.478 W116 49.916 — 1 mile : Red Cathedral - Zabriskie Pt split; bear right
- N36 25.355 W116 49.580 — 1.45 miles : Trail crests below Manly Beacon; bear right
- N36 25.159 W116 49.344 — 1.85 miles : Gower Gulch junction #1; bear left
- N36 25.208 W116 49.076 — 2.2 miles : Level off on high badland bench
- N36 25.177 W116 48.945 — 2.4 miles : Gower Gulch junction #2; bear left
- N36 25.311 W116 48.682 — 2.9 miles : Trail squeezes through slot to parking area
- N36 25.202 W116 48.743 — 3.05 miles : Zabriskie Point
- The trail to Zabriskie Point is crossed by countless washes, gullies and side canyons. It's possible to become disoriented in this landscape. Remain on the designated trail at all times.
- Canyon walls and badlands - soft mudstone conglomerates - are inherently unstable and not suitable for climbing. Flash floods are possible. Rain can soften the trail, create mudslides and destabilize cliff edges. Exit the canyon if rain is imminent.
- This trail is fully exposed. Carry full sun protection and ample water.
- Consider a .25 mile side trip to view points directly beneath the Red Cathedral from the Zabriskie turnoff.
- The point is named for Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, vice-president and general manager of the Pacific Coast Borax Company in the early 20th century.
Directions to Trailhead
The Golden Canyon Trailhead is located on the east side of Badwater Road, 2 miles south of the Badwater Road - Highway 190 intersection.
Death Valley National Park
P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328