Hike up a wash to badlands and the wash below the top of 20 Mule Team Canyon.
|Total Distance: 3.8 miles out & back||Elevation Gain: 469ft. (1,199ft. to 1,644ft.)|
|Difficulty: Moderate||0-5 Mile Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous|
|View Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0 stars||Author’s Rating: 1.0 out of 5.0 stars|
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|Pets: No||Horses: Yes|
|Best Seasons: November-April||Special Permits: None. Use care to avoid the private property along this route.|
|Water Availability: None||Overnight Options: None|
|Trailhead Amenities: None||Crowd Factor: Solitude|
|Trailhead Access: 0.6|
Mile-by-Mile: Corkscrew Canyon Route
0.0 Point where Corkscrew Wash crosses CA-190 (1,199ft.). Take the unmarked, wide wash southeast. It will turn east along the base of some badlands after about 0.8 miles. (36.3963333°, -116.7673667°)
1.4 Old Road (1,498ft.). The wash turns sharply to the south along an old road with various historical junk scattered around. Note that while the road looks unused, and no signs prohibit you from walking on it, it is actually on private property. Follow the wash southwest into a narrower canyon. Note that the road and the wash meet as one about mile 1.6; stay right to continue in the wash. (36.377908°, -116.760759°)
1.9 Path up to the road (1,644ft.). The wash more or less ends here in multiple small drainages heading up the hillside. Explore these if you wish (stay to the right (west) of the posts stuck into the hillside in various places to stay on public property). Climbing to the west (right) will take you into the upper reaches of 20 Mule Team Canyon. Climbing up to the road (left) will take you to a gate that says, “Private Property.” Retrace your steps to your vehicle or descend 20 Mule Team Canyon (note that there is one very sketchy dryfall that must be climbed down). (36.371575°, -116.764361°)
History & More
Corkscrew Canyon makes a reasonable loop option with 20 Mule Team Canyon. I’d guess the round-trip distance would be just over 5 miles.
Corkscrew Canyon is a fairly easy hike. However, it’s also not that exciting. If you’re desperate for a stroll away from the crowds, it fits the description, but there are better canyons in Death Valley to explore.
The private property does put a bit of a damper on exploring Corkscrew Canyon. It’s made more complicated by the lack of signage/fences and the complete lack of knowledge of the private property by the NPS (I’m sure someone, somewhere, knows about it, but no maps show it, and the park staff is typically unaware of it). The good thing about the lack of signage is that it makes for a pleasanter hiking experience on public land.
The area around Corkscrew Canyon was used for mining operations. It appears that the current owner may want to reopen the mines, but it’s hard to say for sure.
Download Trail Map
Take CA-190 east of Furnace Creek. The unmarked “trailhead” is 3 miles east of Zabriskie Point and 4.2 miles west of the Dante’s View Road. The “trailhead” is the place where a wash crosses the road – you’ll see the wash coming in from the south (opposite side of the road from Furnace Creek Wash and the telephone poles). Park on the shoulder of the road, do not crush vegetation, and do not obstruct traffic.
Remember, it may be easier to climb up dryfalls than down them (or vice versa). Be sure you can climb in the other direction before climbing up or down a dryfall.
Leave No Trace Principles are enforced
Drones and model aircrafts are prohibited
Camping is permitted only in designated sites or in areas open to dispersed backcountry camping
All park rules and regulations
12 Month Pass: $55/Death Valley Annual Pass (valid at Death Valley National Park). $80/America the Beautiful Annual Pass (valid at all national park and federal fee areas). $20/Annual Senior Pass (62 years or older US citizens; valid at all national park and federal fee areas). Free/4th Grade Pass (Valid Sept. 1-August 31 of the child’s 4th Grade school year). Free/Military Pass (valid for all active military personel and their dependents with a CAC Card or DD Form 1173).
Lifetime Pass: $80/Lifetime Senior Pass (62 years or older US citizens; valid at all national park and federal fee areas). Free/Access Pass (available to all US citizens with perminent disabilities). Free/Access for Veterans and Gold Star Families Pass (valid for all military and veterans with a CAC card, Veteran HJealth Identification Card, Veteran ID Card, or veteran’s designation on state-issued drivers license or identification card.)
Corkscrew Canyon is a small side wash off of the much larger Furnace Creek Wash. It’s had some hype on the internet in recent years; however, due to private property in the area, you can’t really reach the best features. Still, I’ll do my best to tell you what you can do while staying on public land – because, to the best of my knowledge, Corkscrew Canyon itself is publicly owned for much of its length.
We started where Corkscrew Wash enters 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.
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.
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.
About mile 1.4, the wash turns sharply south (right) to parallel an old mining road. The road is private property (I think!), 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.
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 you can’t go much further up Corkscrew Canyon.
Note: Most of the National Park Service employees are 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, these instructions don’t ask you to trespass.
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!
Some of my group scrambled all of the way up into the top of 20 Mule Team Canyon (further to the right/west). 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 (about 5 miles total).
Retrace your steps back to CA-190. As I said, it’s not terribly exciting, but it is a stroll in the park, so to speak, that isn’t very well-visited.