“A good half-day adventure in the northern end of the Funeral Mountains on the east side of Death Valley.”
— Bruce Hope
Waterfall · Wildflowers
This trail is within Death Valley National Park, so all of the usual park regulations apply. Practice Leave No Trace (LNT) backcountry skills and ethics. There is no water along the route. Although the falls are spring-fed, don't count on finding any drinkable water at the base of the falls.
There is no trail to the base of the waterfall in lower Monarch Canyon, but the canyon mouth is easily reached by hiking cross-country, starting from the closest approach on the Beatty Cutoff Road, about 0.8 miles south of Hells Gate junction. The roadsides are wide here, so there are plenty of parking places. The relatively high elevation (1,700 feet) affords excellent views across Death Valley towards the Mesquite Dunes, ten miles to the southwest.
From the parking spot, hike cross-country heading due east, staying nearly perpendicular to the road. The terrain is level for the first mile or so, over a typical gravelly fan. You may encounter pieces of a use trail from time to time. Aim for the right side of some pinkish mounds, past which you’ll reach the wide wash exiting the canyon. Hike up the wash, past two tributaries, while staying in what is obviously the main drainage.
As you continue due east, the wash will gradually narrow. After several wide bends, you’ll pass some highly convoluted rocks, do any easy climb around a short dryfall, and soon arrive at the base of the 180-foot waterfall. You may also find a stretch of flowing water, a brief overgrown area around the base, and a shallow, mossy pool. Rather than one long drop, the falls cascade in stages down a smooth, near vertical chute. Only the lowest part of the falls can be seen from below, but most of the upper section can be seen by climbing a little away up the left side of the canyon.