Golden Canyon is our must-do hike in Death Valley National Park. This hike is mostly flat and easy. The canyon is absolutely beautiful, and there are plenty of places to explore. You can hike as far as you want, or walk briefly into the canyon before turning around.
Golden Canyon in Death Valley is famous for being the set for desert scenes in Star Wars Episode VI, Return of the Jedi. This canyon was full of droids and Jawas during the filming of that movie, and it isn’t hard to find their haunts even now.
What we liked best about this canyon was the opportunity to explore as you walk between the winding golden cliffs, there are at least a dozen places to turn up a narrow side canyon. We explored one, made famous in this picture, and it went at least a hundred yards up to the very top of the mountain before splitting. Both trails continued on up into the higher cliffs, but we’d strayed pretty far already. There were many other places like this, too. If you like exploring narrow gaps and slot canyons, you could spend all day scrambling around Golden Canyon.
The main trail is highly traveled and runs about 1.0 mile from the small parking lot (2.0 miles roundtrip). The walls are a bright yellow color, and the hike is easy, as it ascends gently up through a fairly narrow wash. We walked about a mile into the canyon to a signed junction for Red Cathedral. We didn’t continue on, though there is a loop that is quite a bit longer. But we were more interested in exploring than extending our distance, so we went back the way we came.
Finally, we were impressed with the geology in Golden Canyon. We picked up dozens of rocks (but like good explorers, collected none). Some were shiny like granite. Others were clearly fully of iron. A few were chalky white. Some were even green or dark red or purple. We spent a fair amount of time with the rocks, which helped us take the hike slow and enjoy the journey.
Don’t skip this hike. Add Golden Canyon in Death Valley to your itinerary. We hiked it in the late afternoon and enjoyed the lighting. For other family-friendly trails in Death Valley, check out our Death Valley Easy hikes post.