There are several scenic overlooks that are perched atop the towering mountains in Death Valley National Park and they all are well worth taking the time to check out. The most famous offer a unique view of the vast desolate Death Valley, but there are several other big canyons in this park that offer astounding vista overlooks as well. From high above on a mountain peak, the salt, shifting sands and dry wash mineral deposits paint each valley floor with soft sun faded colors that look like fine chalk sketch. This is the inspiration for doing the uphill trek to the high ground and one of the best perches to experience in this big park is Father Crowley Vista Point!
Father Crowley Vista Point is located in the mountains west of Panamint Springs on Highway 190 just a few dozen miles away from the Owens Valley park entrance. Father Crowley was a famous character in this region and this spot actually was one of his own personal favorite overlooks to spend time admiring the scenery. The vast pale silt valley in the distance is the Panamint Valley and the views certainly are spectacular, but this is not really what Father Crowley Point is famous for in modern times. Father Crowley Point is located directly above Rainbow Canyon, which is also known as "Star Wars Canyon" because this is where the high tech military fighter jets do their low level practice flights.
Needless to say, for an unknowing visitor who intends to do a peaceful landscape photo or painting at the end of the vista point in the morning, that first powerful loud fighter jet flying right over the shoulder a few yards away will surely cause a sheer state of panic! The fighter jets have been the chief source of entertainment at Rainbow Canyon for many decades and because of military secrecy, there is no set schedule for the show. In fact, it really is a rare moment to catch a view of the jet fighters doing aerial acrobatics and some visitors actually stake this spot out for several days. I have been to Rainbow Canyon no less than four times in daylight hours and have never even seen so much as a paper airplane, so the top gun experience at Father Crowley Vista Point truly depends on the luck of the draw.
Even if there is no free military air show going on, Father Crowley Vista Point is still a must to experience. The views of Rainbow Canyon and the Panamint Valley are worth writing home about and after a rare winter snow storm there may even be a snowman greeter, which is an even a rarer sight than the military jets! The dirt road to the end point on the vista only closes during inclement weather, so there is usually plenty of room to roam. This is one great Death Valley National Park attraction to spend some extra time and when the fighter jets roar by it is like the icing on a cake!
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