Mustard Canyon is located on State Road 190 near Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park. The entrance to Mustard Canyon can be found in the north end of the historic Old Harmony Borax Works, so these two Death Valley attractions can be toured at the same time. A one way dirt road runs through the narrow Mustard Canyon and this trail is usually smooth enough for ordinary passenger cars. Hiking through this small canyon is an option, but blazing this trail is best done when the weather is cool for safety’s sake.
Mustard Canyon is composed of the small eroded remnants of yellow colored hills from the Pliocene Era. It is likely that the yellow rock outcrop was once submerged under the ancient lake that used to cover Death Valley, so water erosion was once a factor. In recent history, flash floods coming downhill from the Funeral Mountain and the blistering heat of summer have played a part in shaping this small canyon.
The Mustard Canyon trail is easy to navigate and the vehicular tour of this unique Death Valley feature lasts about 20 minutes if a visitors drives real slow. The yellow rock outcrop only rises about 30 feet up from the flat valley floor, so a tour through Mustard Canyon is like driving through a mountain dry wash ravine. The pathway is narrow, so the tall walls of eroded yellow rock are all that one can see. The visual effect can be compared to being surrounded by a big plop of mustard, so the name of this place definitely is apropos. There are a few shades of mustard tones to see that vary from American Yellow Mustard to Dijon, so this little canyon will please the tastes of nearly any gourmand that passes through!
A word of caution must be applied when exploring the canyons around the Death Valley basin floor. Water runs downhill and Death Valley is the lowest elevation in North America, so when it rains in this area the threat of flash floods dramatically increases. For this reason, it is best to not enter any desert canyon if it is raining anywhere in the region. Flash floods can start from a long distance away at an unseen place and without warning, a powerful flash flood can race through a low elevation canyon and there will be no time to run for cover. Mustard Canyon can be subject to flash floods running downhill from the Funeral Mountain, so it is best to steer clear of this canyon if it looks like rain will fall. As can be imagined, Death Valley and Funeral Mountain did not get their names for no reason at all, so it best to play it safe when visiting this area.
One thing that is striking to notice when driving through Mustard Canyon is that nothing lives or grows in this place. The soil is so parched in this area, that not even a tiny weed will grow in the shade of the yellow canyon walls. The lifeless nature creates an eerie feeling and the visual experience is like being on the moon, so the short drive through Mustard Canyon can be a rather interesting experience. Mustard Canyon is one of the most tastefully colored features in Death Valley, so this unique little spot is well worth checking out!
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