We traveled to Death Valley to hike in February. The days were warm and dry and the nights were cool, but all the hiking was outstanding. Our first hike was the Golden Valley – Gower Gulch Loop, a moderate route through barren badlands not far from Furnace Creek. The start from the singed trailhead was up a broad wash into Golden Canyon.
The wrinkled hills were completely barren and shaped by erosion. These were the sides of a lakebed, folded and faulted into irregular white-golden hills. Borax and gypsum are found in these sediments along with igneous rocks from the Black Mountains.
In Gower Gulch, there were some igneous rock fans on the softer rock. Old borax mines led into the hillsides, grated to keep hikers out. Borax deposits can be seen near the mines and on hillsides along the hiking route.
Seasonal flooding events continue to shape these other-worldly badlands discouraging plant life. We spotted some lizards and a few sparse desert holly plants in protected gullies, but most of the badlands seemed lifeless and monochromatic.
The Golden Canyon – Gower Gulch Loop is about 10.5 km, but there are many hours of exploration on and off trails nearby. Since the average daily temperature in Death Valley is 23 degrees C (78 degrees F) in February, we were able to hike in dry, warm conditions.