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Artist's Dips Canyon
Death Valley, California
April 13, 2018

When we drove to Death Valley we were dead set on climbing Coffin Mountain, so when we discovered the access road was closed, we were caught flatfooted: we had no backup plan.

Since we had no idea of what to do, we drove to the visitor centre in Furnace Creek. After browsing through a few guidebooks, we found a nearby hike that looked short but interesting. We bought the book and drove to the starting point on Artist Drive.

Artist Drive passes Artist Palette, a colourful volcanic area that attracts tourists, but our hike began a few kilometers south. The guidebook calls the hike “Artist's Dips,” which isn't very informative so I added “Canyon.” Actually, the hike comprises two canyons that merge downstream: hike down one canyon, turn right, and hike up the other. A short section of paved road completes the loop. Signs on the road warn of dips where the road crosses two washes. These are the entrances that lead to the two canyons. We parked at a pullout between the dips.

We walked south down the road and entered a wash at the south dip. As we hiked down the wash, the sides rose and the floor narrowed to form a canyon. Where the first canyon converges with the second, I stopped to take a panorama. Then we turned right and followed the second canyon to the road. Both canyons exhibit a pleasing variety of scenery and colours.

After completing the hike, we got back in our car and drove to Artist's Palette. Photos on the Internet would have you believe the slopes are bursting with brilliant colours. In fact, those photos have been doctored, the colours exaggerated. In reality, the pinks, greens and purple appear pale. And while it's a worthwhile stop, we had a far better experience hiking Artist’s Dips.

KML and GPX Tracks


Starting down the wash


Looking back


Curiously, we came across broken pavement, the remains of an old road


The wash begins to narrow ahead


Entering the canyon


Telescope Peak still has snow


The sides of the canyon were mostly hard dirt rather than rock


At times the canyon walls rose high above us


The canyon snakes for a short distance


The canyon forks ahead


Where the two canyons merge, one can see clear down to Badwater Basin. It's time to turn right.


We started up the ascent canyon


The canyon narrows


We easily climbed the highest dry falls on the route


The walls here are streaked with a different colour of dirt


Dinah scrambles up another short dry fall


We marvelled at rocks that seemed to have little holding them in place in this wall


Looking back at the wall with loose rock


Dark rock lines a side canyon


This stunted, broken tree apparently survived repeated floods


While all other plants in the canyon appeared dead or clinging to life, this one was thriving


Coming to the end of our canyon walk


Looking back


Back on the road


It's a 500-metre walk back to our car


Artist's Palette


Devil's Golf Course 1:24,000 Topo (3.9 mi, 230 ft, 673 ft)

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