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Corkscrew Canyon Natural Bridge
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park, Death Valley Wilderness Area
Corkscrew Canyon
20 Mule Team Road, approaching 20 Mule Team Trailhead (view SE)

Overview

Corkscrew Canyon provides a fairly easy 5-1/2 mile, round-trip hike into a geologically and historically interesting canyon. From 20 Mule Team Road, the route runs off-trail up Corkscrew Canyon Wash through an unexpected narrows and into an borax mining area where historic mine workings dot the yellow mudhill bluffs. Farther along, the route turns up Corkscrew Canyon, proper, on an old road, passes a "No Trespassing" sign (your conscience is your guide), and taking a side canyon to avoid an abandoned mine site, the canyon narrows and twists, but never gets too deep, until hikers reach a natural bridge near the top of the canyon.

An abandoned mine site, in an adjacent canyon, harbors historic buildings and gated mine entrances, but this is private property.

This is one of those hikes with few landmarks where following a GPS is particularly useful.

Link to map.

Corkscrew Canyon
20 Mule Team Trailhead (view SE)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... hiking in this area is fairly safe in dry weather, but the narrow canyon is subject to flash flooding. Stay away from historic buildings and mines as they were abandoned in the 1950s and could collapse at any time, plus they might be private property.

Without many landmarks, a GPS is particularly useful on this hike.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. This hike is in a wild and remote area, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Death Valley National Park, about 2-1/2 hours northwest of Las Vegas. From the Furnace Creek visitor center, drive east on Highway 190 (towards Las Vegas) for 5.9 miles to Twenty Mule Team Road, which normally is passable in passenger vehicles.

Corkscrew Canyon
Route starts up this canyon (view SE)

Drive up the one-way Twenty Mule Team Road for 2.1 miles. As the road descends a steep hill, stop in the wide spot at the bottom of the hill where the road turns hard to the left. Park here; this is the 20 Mule Team Trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01).

When Twenty Mule Team Road is closed, continue along Highway 190 to the exit from Twenty Mule Team Road and walk "backwards" on the one-way road for 0.6 miles to the 20 Mule Team Trailhead (Wpt 01). See photos below.

Alternatively, continue up Highway 190 for 300 yards past the exit from Twenty Mule Team Road to the mouth of a broad wash on the right. Park here; this is the Hwy 190 Wash Trailhead (Wpt 01A). See photos below.

A third trailhead alternative is to drive a total of 8.7 miles from Furnace Creek visitor center to yet another broad wash on the right, this wash marked by fencing across the wash. Park here; this is the Hwy 190 Old Road Trailhead (Wpt 01B). See photos below.

Corkscrew Canyon
Hikers departing 20 Mule Team Trailhead (view SE)

The Hike

From the 20 Mule Team Trailhead (Wpt 01), the route runs southeast up the broad wash. The wash winds a bit, but it is wide and open, making for easy walking and grand, open views. The land here is eroded mud deposits in various shades of mustard with a bit more red in places that formed in the bottom of some ancient lake. The soils are unfit for most vegetation and this area is almost devoid of vegetation, with only a few scattered Desert Holly bushes (Desert-Holly Saltbush) here and there.

Starting about 0.6 miles out, hikers will notice signs of historic borax mining activity in the area, including adits and stonework. By the old mine with stacked up rocks, which perhaps are abandoned low-grade ore, there is a closed vertical shaft just around the corner.

Then, at about 0.8 miles out, the wash unexpectedly enters a shallow narrows area. Exiting the narrows upstream (Wpt. 02), hikers will notice that the wash and the narrows are a side-wash of the main Corkscrew Wash. Here, water flowing down Corkscrew Wash has broken through a mud-ridge dam to flow down Twenty Mule Team Canyon rather than down the natural watercourse: Corkscrew Wash.

Corkscrew Canyon
Hiker in wash among yellow mudhills (view SE)

When descending the route, hikers need to recall this spot (Wpt. 02) as it would be easy to walk by the slot in the ridge and just follow the main wash downstream, thereby missing the left turn towards the trailhead. Hikers who make this mistake will emerge onto Highway 190 at the Hwy 190 Wash Trailhead (Wpt. 01A). [transcript from voice recorder: this side wash would be hard to find without coordinates]

Continuing up Corkscrew Wash, hikers might notice a pile of stones with numbers and letters carved into the surface (similar to those seen in other parts of the National Park). I don't understand the code, but surely this is a mining claim marker. Shortly thereafter, hikers pass another adit in an odd little black hill in the middle of the wash.

Walking up the main wash, hikers will pass a hill on the right (Peak 1790) and quickly arrive at an old dirt road (Wpt. 03). This road comes from the highway at Hwy 190 Old Road Trailhead (Wpt. 01B), and from here it runs up Corkscrew Canyon to the old mine site.

Corkscrew Canyon
The wash runs among yellow mudhills (view SE)

Turning right to follow the old road into Corkscrew Canyon, the wash narrows a bit. At about 1.9 miles out, the route passes a pipe gate. Historically, there have been no signs at this gate, implying that vehicles must stay out, but not pedestrians. Now, however, there is a "No Trespassing" sign on the gate. Passing the gate, the canyon continues to narrow.

At 2.1 miles out, the main canyon bends right at a point where a narrow side canyon forks to the left. The entrance to the side canyon is marked with an odd pillar of stone (Wpt 05). Here, the route turns left into the side canyon to avoid entering the Corkscrew Mine area.

Turning into the side canyon, hikers quickly encounter a narrow, twisting canyon with overhanging walls, boulders to wind under and around, and plenty of tight places. Even though this is a side canyon, surely this is what give the area the name Corkscrew.

At about 0.5 miles up the side canyon, hikers encounter Corkscrew Natural Bridge (Wpt. 07). The bridge isn't huge, but is it a real natural bridge. Continuing beyond the bridge, the canyon continues to wind about, eventually opening a bit near the top of the canyon as it starts to climb into the Black Mountains.

Corkscrew Canyon
Hikers in the wash (view SE)
Corkscrew Canyon
Old borax mine site (view SE)
Corkscrew Canyon
Old borax mine site above the wash (view SE)
Corkscrew Canyon
Looking back, hiker exiting the unexpected narrows (view NW)
Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Wash (view SE)
Corkscrew Canyon
Marked stones
Corkscrew CanyonMarked stones Corkscrew Canyon
Approaching Corkscrew Canyon (view SE)
Corkscrew Canyon
Entrance into Corkscrew Canyon with mining debris (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
Mining debris (view E)
Corkscrew Canyon
Colorful muds and gravels in Corkscrew Canyon (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
Approaching the unsigned pipe gate (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
Approaching Corkscrew Canyon side canyon (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
Entrance to side canyon marked with odd stone pillar (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
"Fossilized" mud crack from some ancient lake bed
Corkscrew Canyon
Colorful rock bands above yellow mud hills (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Canyon
Hiker squeezing through narrow slot
Corkscrew Canyon
Hiker crawling under boulder pile
Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Natural Bridge (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
High in the side canyon (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
High in the side canyon (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
Colorful cliff in the Artist's Palate area (view S)

Hiking back down Corkscrew Canyon

Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Natural Bridge (view N)
Corkscrew Canyon
Hiker ducking under Corkscrew Natural Bridge (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
Too many natural bridges to count them all!
Corkscrew Canyon
Hikers in the narrow side canyon (view N)
Corkscrew Canyon Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Canyon Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Canyon Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Canyon Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Canyon
Narrow slot
Corkscrew Canyon
Hiker approaching exit from side canyon (view N)
Corkscrew Canyon
Approaching exit from Corkscrew Canyon (view N)
Corkscrew Canyon
Passing the marked stones (view NW)
Corkscrew Canyon
Don't miss the unexpected slot (view NW)
Corkscrew Canyon
Alternative ending: continuing down Corkscrew Wash (view N)
Corkscrew Canyon
Alternative ending: continuing down Corkscrew Wash (view N)
Corkscrew Canyon
Alternative ending: continuing down Corkscrew Wash (view N)
Corkscrew Canyon
Alternative ending: continuing down Corkscrew Wash (view N)
more to come ...

Hiking in from Hwy 190 Wash Trailhead. The mouth of the wash is guarded by low conglomerate cliffs, and mud hills can be seen beyond the cliffs. The Black Mountains (Artist's Palate area) loom in the background.

Corkscrew Canyon
Hwy 190, approaching Hwy 190 Wash Trailhead (view SE)
Corkscrew Canyon
Hwy 190 Wash Trailhead (view SE from edge of Hwy 190)
Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Wash (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
Route runs up Corkscrew Wash (view S)
Corkscrew Canyon
Route runs up Corkscrew Wash (view S)
more to come ...

Twenty Mule Team Road Exit Trailhead

Corkscrew Canyon
Consider parking here when 20 Mule Team Rd is closed (view SE)
more to come ...

Hwy 190 Old Road Trailhead

Corkscrew Canyon
Hwy 190, approaching Hwy 190 Old Road Trailhead (view SE)
Corkscrew Canyon
Hwy 190, approaching Hwy 190 Old Road Trailhead (view SE)
Corkscrew Canyon
Hwy 190 Old Road Trailhead (view S from Hwy 190)
more to come ...

Corkscrew Mine Site I didn't know at the time, but I may have be trespassing here. Enjoy the photos, but please respect private property rights. Chainlink fencing now encloses the ore hopper.

Corkscrew Canyon Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Canyon Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Canyon Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Canyon Corkscrew Canyon

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates and Distances based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download hiking GPS waypoints (gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Twenty Mule Team Rd Trailhead 520373 4027335 1,141 0.00 0.00 GPS
01A Hwy 190 Wash Trailhead 520950 4027722 1,202 . . GPS
01B Hwy 190 Old Road Trailhead 522031 4026746 1,385 . . GPS
02 Fork in the Wash (top of narrows) 521211 4026423 1,388 0.89 0.89 GPS
03 Wash at Old Road 521573 4025696 1,492 0.51 1.40 GPS
04 Gate 521306 4024971 1,653 0.50 1.90 GPS
05 Entrance to Narrow Side Canyon 521260 4024626 1,754 0.30 2.20 GPS
06 Crawl-Under Narrows 521323 4024388 1,909 0.45 2.65 GPS
07 Natural Bridge 521329 4024370 1,925 0.01 2.66 GPS
08 Old Mill Site 521190 4024477 1,831 . . GPS
01 Twenty Mule Team Rd Trailhead 520373 4027335 1,141 2.66 5.32 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 160329

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