Sidewinder Canyon

Length: 5 miles (8.4km) out and back, round trip.
Time: 6 hours round trip.
Difficulty: Extremely Difficult
Elevation Gain: 1,580 ft (482m)
Location: An unmarked gravel access road is located on Badwater Road 31.5 miles south of CA-190 between mile markers 31 & 32. The access road is less than 0.5 miles (0.8km) long and is typically passable to a sedan.
Parking: Open gravel area large enough for buses and RV's. Same location as Willow Canyon.
Closest Restroom: No restrooms nearby. Follow principle 3 of Leave No Trace (LNT).

GPS Data: GPS data for the unmarked route is for supplemental purposes only. Take a map and compass when exploring the trail-less wilderness.
  • GPX file: (universal format for use in most mobile applications and GPS units)
  • KML file: (used with some mobile applications and Google Earth & Maps)
  • Map: Printable guide handy for your hike.
 
Three hikers walk up an alluvial fan toward the start of a canyon on a grey cloudy day.
The view to the South from the parking area.  Sidewinder Canyon is perpendicular to Badwater Road.

NPS - Dan Kish

Route Description

Sidewinder Canyon is both physically and mentally a very demanding hike. Climbing over vertical ledges over 6 ft (2m) high and squeezing or crawling into tight spaces 1.5 ft (0.5m) wide is required. There are no signs identifying the parking or the hike. You are entering designated wilderness.

Sidewinder Canyon is the large canyon just south of the parking area. Avoid the foothills and narrow canyons just east of the parking area. Instead head uphill directly south around the foothills where it's a left hand turn (east) into Sidewinder Canyon in approximately 1,500 ft (457m).
 
The mouth of a canyon with brown rocky walls and a thick gravel canyon bottom.
Mouth of Sidewinder Canyon

NPS - Dan Kish

Begin ascending Sidewinder Canyon. The rocky route uphill will pass several narrow side canyon tributaries all offering small opportunities for explorations, however the three slot canyon highlights all run south of the main canyon. The first is 0.6 miles (1km) from the mouth of Sidewinder Canyon.
 
Three hikers stop at a boulder jam in a canyon and face the camera.
Sidewinder Canyon - mouth of Slot#1

NPS - Dan kish

0.6 miles (1km) after entering the main canyon, you will find yourself at a large canyon intersection with a side canyon. The side canyon will be coming from the south (right). Upon closer examination notice that the side canyon branches into two separate drainages. The drainage on the left apprears to be blocked by a large pile of boulders. This is Slot Canyon #1.

Crawl into the crack on the lower left where you'll climb up and over a different boulder not yet visible in the picture to the right. Once over the boulder, you will squeeze through a short tight space (1.5ft/0.5m) wide where it may be necessary to remove your pack. Once through the tight space you will be inside slot #1 where this short yet deep canyon becomes so dark that you'll need a headlamp or flashlight. Return to the main canyon via the same route. Total length of Slot#1 is only 0.10 miles (0.16km).
 
Two hikers with headlamps face camera in dark canyon.
Slot Canyon #1 in Sidewinder Canyon

NPS - Dan Kish


 
A crack in a canyon wall reveals a dark slot canyon with a hiker exploring inside.
Sidewinder Canyon - mouth of Slot Canyon #2

NPS - Dan Kish

Once you are back at the main canyon, head up canyon for approximately 0.10 miles (0.16km) and look for the second slot canyon. The second slot entrance is directly on the canyon wall. Slot #2 does not have an official end, however most hikers explore the first 0.4 miles (0.64km) where significant climbing over vertical ledges 6 to 8 ft high (2 to 2.5m) is required. Near the end of slot #2 are a couple of large pinnacle formations.

 
A hiker climbs a dryfall inside a narrow canyon while two other hikers prepare for their turns.
Climbing in Slot#2.  Sidewinder Canyon

NPS - Dan Kish

Slot#2 in Sidewinder Canyon requires rock climbing over very rough terrain.
 
A hiker in a dark slot canyon illuminated by a sliver of light.
Slot#3.  Sidewinder Canyon

NPS - Dan Kish

Slot #3. Sidewinder Canyon
 
Light from above filter through narrow canyon roof.
Sidewinder Canyon Slot #3.

NPS - Dan Kish

Back at the main canyon continue up another 0.25 miles (0.4km) until reaching the obvious mouth of slot#3 on the south side (right). Exploring slot 3 requires scrambling and crawling over and under various obstacles for 0.25 miles (0.4km). There is no official end. Return via same route.

Last updated: January 13, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

Phone:

(760) 786-3200

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