Death Valley – Sidewinder Canyon


What? : 4 mile, out and back trail, south of Badwater basin. This hike explores the 4 narrow slots canyons at this location. The tight slot canyons dig their way into the rocky walls creating narrow slot with dark passages, boulders, and dry waterfalls.


Where? : An unmarked gravel access road is located on Badwater Road 31.5 miles south of CA-190 (14 miles south of Badwater parking), between mile markers 31 & 32. The access road is less than 0.5 miles (0.8km) long and is accessible by any car.

Google Map Link


When? : The recommended time to visit here is late fall, winter and early spring, summer is just too hot.

Few blogs links that provides additional information.

Due note 1: Take enough water with you. I don’t recommend any hiking in the lower elevations of Death Valley during the summer months. just think of 120-130f in the summertime…


Due note 2: No restrooms or any other services nearby.


Due note 3: There is minimal to no cell reception in this area of the Death Valley.


Due note 4: There is very little shade anywhere in Death Valley so use Sunscreen even in winter months.


Due note 5: Stay out of the canyon if it is raining or threatens to get heavy rain because of flash flood dangers, especially do not get into the slot canyons in such



Due note 6: I arrived here mid-day and it was already hot (even in early March) and there were 15 cars in the parking lot, I saw people finish their hike when I went up the canyon, so I did not saw anyone at the slots canyons.


Due note 7: when visiting or hiking at the Death Valley use several layers as clothing. You can start your day with cold temperatures during early morning sunrise to a very hot midday (even at fall, winter, and spring). At the afternoon it can warm but at sunset temperature plumage and it can be near freezing.


Due note 8: Pets are not allowed on any trail in Death Valley National Park, even if carried. Do not leave your animal in your vehicle. You may walk your pet on dirt roads.


My thoughts: Few years back when I visit here, I did not have enough of time for this hike, and I did not manage to find the right slot canyon. This time I came prepared and learn the trail, so I manage to find 3 slots canyons. This is not challenging hike and it was fun to “explore” the slot canyons.


The visit:

This is 4 miles, out and back trail near Death Valley Badwater basin. Considered a moderately challenging route manly because the slots canyon. It will take you at list 2 hours to complete the trail with all 4 side canyons.

Although far from any other park attraction this is relatively a popular hike, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring the canyons.


Sidewinder Canyon is located south of Badwater Basin at the base of the Black Mountains. The main Sidewinder canyon riverbed is wide with a gravel bottom and not so much impressive or different than any other Death Valley side canyon. What make this place unique is the 4 side slot canyons that cut the river side walls. The tight slot canyons dig their way into the rocky walls creating narrow slot with dark passages, boulders, and dry waterfalls.


From the parking lot you need to hike up the gravel wash to your south, start to hike and follow the trail (no indication signs or visible cairn).

Soon the canyon will be more define and you turn left into the riverbed, here the wash is about 100 yards wide with 30- to 40-ft-high sidewalls.

Keep hiking up and start looking to your right for the slot’s canyon entrances, after about less than 1 mile from the parking lot.

When hiking up the canyon all the slots’ canyons are at the right (south) side of the main canyon.


I did had time to hike 3 slots canyons and there is probably a 4th one up the canyon.

I do recommend taking your time here, give yourself enough time to explore and enjoy the hidden corners in the slot canyons.

In some cases, you need to climb small waterfall, or you must crawl under a huge boulder or to scramble on rocks to continue, usually the end of the slot canyon is at a large waterfall you can’t climb over.

Some of the slot canyon sections are so narrow that you think you are in a tunnel.


Although this hike is easy to navigate going up and down the same main canyon, you can’t get lost, I do recommend using GPS map. This will help you to pinpoint your exact location relatively to the specific side slot canyon.

The entrance to the slots canyons is clear but there isn’t any clear marking of the trail and where you are on your hike.


My take: This is highly recommended hike; the slots canyons are what make this hike unique.