Father Crowley Vista Point- Rainbow Canyon

a military jet flies through a red and brown canyon while people take photos
Military training flights draw photographers to this overlook.

Courtesy of Jack Beyer.

Quick Facts

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Parking - Auto, Parking - Bus/RV, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Toilet - Vault/Composting, Wheelchair Accessible

Where jets now roar, a lone clergyman once admired the beauty of the Mojave Desert in silent reverence.  

Father Crowley Vista Point was a favorite stopping place for travelers, long before the creation of Death Valley National Park. One of those travelers was Father John J. Crowley, a catholic priest responsible for ministering to the people of Inyo County Parish in the 1930s.The Desert Padre, as he was known, would often stop here to admire the views on his way to or from visiting parishioners in Death Valley, and his home in Lone Pine, CA.  

Located near the western park boundary, this vista point offers a stunning view into Rainbow Canyon, a colorfully striped canyon created by ancient volcanic activity. A short ¼ mile (400 m) walk or drive on an unpaved road leads from the vista parking area to Padre Point, overlooking Panamint Valley. 

In recent years, Rainbow Canyon has been nicknamed “Star Wars Canyon” by visitors who come to observe the military test flights which occur in the vicinity. Star Wars Canyon is part of the R-2508 Complex, which has been used by the military since the 1930s. Although it is never a guarantee which days training flights will take place, Rainbow Canyon’s visitation has soared in recent years, largely due to its popularity with photography and aviation enthusiasts.