Camping · Hiking · Trip Report

Trip Report: Death Valley 2016, Part 3

In 2016 we spent a week exploring Death Valley.

Follow these links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Day 6- Titus Canyon, Fall Canyon

Our ambitious plan for day six was to summit Thimble Peak, and then drive down the Titus Canyon Trail. We began at the turnoff from Highway 374. When we got to the Thimble Peak trail head we loaded the kids on our backs and started up the use trail. We hadn’t gone more than 200 feet before J started wailing. She didn’t like the cold wind in her face and there was little we could do to convince her otherwise. So, back down the trail we went.

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Riding in the warm truck was immediately J’s preferred method of transportation, so we continued on to Part B of our trip down Titus Canyon Road.

We enjoyed visiting the strange old ghost town of Leadville. We explored all the old buildings we could find. A favorite discovery was the old mine workshop that still contained an anvil pedestal.

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An anvil mount in the old workshop.
Past Leadville, the canyon narrowed down and we enjoyed the amazing curvature in the rock, marveling at the geological events that somehow bent and folded the rock layers on top of each other.

When we reached the mouth of Titus Canyon it was still early in the afternoon, so we decided to take a hike up nearby Fall Canyon.

A sandy wash ran the length of Fall Canyon, with none of the spectacular narrows that we had seen in other DV canyons. What was impressive was the sheer height of the canyon walls.

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Heading into Fall Canyon.
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We hiked 2.4 miles to the foot of the 18′ falls obstruction before turning around. It got dark on the way out, but we had headlamps and little concern about finding our way out of the canyon in the warm desert evening.

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Day 7- Chloride City

On our last full day in the park, we explored Chloride City. Taking the turnoff from Daylight Pass Road, we encountered the true ‘high clearance’ bumps and rock obstacles that we had been anticipating (and kind of hoping for) the whole trip. We spent the day covering the area, zigging and zagging over the spiderweb of mining roads. We found some miner’s dugout shelters which were cut directly out of the rock, and several of the older mills and mines in the area.

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We thought about driving down the steep cable road to Big Bell mine but decided against it after scoping out the condition of the road. Another trip we will have to take a hike down there. Our visit ended on Chloride Cliff with a spectacular view of Death Valley all the way to Badwater.

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The road to Big Bell Mine.
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Day 8- Warm Springs Canyon

Sadly, the day had come for us to pack up our camp and head home. Of course, we had a whole day to get home and we knew it would only take us 5 1/2 hours on paved roads to get there, so we decided on a slightly (haha) longer and rougher route through Warm Springs Canyon.

To reach Warm Springs Canyon, we took Badwater Road down to the dirt route that crosses the Devil’s Golfcourse- a trial by fire if we had any question about our commitment to taking this route! I’ve never been on such a jarring road in my life.

When at last we had survived the jolting to the entrance of Warm Springs Canyon, we were quickly rewarded. The mine-filled road up to the Warm Springs Talc camp was fascinating. Warm Springs was used as a mining base camp in 1930’s. It consists of three ranch-style homes with gardens, a running spring, and even a swimming pool! Some people might be tempted to stay there, but we thought it was pretty creepy.

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Warm Springs talc mine.
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The creepiest pool I have ever seen!
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We continued up Warm Springs Canyon into gorgeous Butte Valley. We kept seeing lots of manure on the road and thought it might be from horses, but in the distance we finally saw them- a herd of wild burros! There were groups all the way up the valley. They would perk up their long ears and watch us curiously as we passed before returning to their grazing.

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At the top of the valley near Mendel Pass, we were surprised to come across two stone cabins that were set up complete with tables and chairs and basic camping necessities. One of the cabins was built in the late 1800’s (The Geologist’s Cabin). It wasn’t until after our return home that we did some research and learned that these cabins are one of the pleasant ‘secrets’ of Death Valley. It’s obvious that these are well protected by the people that know about them. They are the sort of place that takes quite a bit of trouble to get to, and it’s nice to see that the people who know about these cabins are careful to preserve and protect them for future enjoyment. I hope we can return eventually to spend the night in one of the treasures.

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The Geologist’s Cabin.
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We then followed the rough 4WD trail up and over Mengel Pass, then down spectacular and narrow Goler Canyon. Unbeknownst to me we also passed the spur road that goes to Charles Manson’s Barker Ranch cabin (I’m glad I didn’t know that or I would have been even more creeped out). We went past an interesting mining site (Keystone Mine?) with several breathtaking aerial tramways, and then up the ridge to Manley Pass via the extremely rough Escape Trail, which was first used by settlers to “escape” from Death Valley in the 1850’s.

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A rough section heading up Mengel Pass.
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We made it to Mengel Pass! Carl unfortunately did not.
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The sun set around the time we left Manley Pass- driving this route took us two or three times longer than we anticipated. By the time we returned to the paved highway at Trona we had been traveling on dirt roads for over 50 miles. It was an epic day to end our wonderful trip, and though there was little doubt we would fall in love with Death Valley when we first arrived, we certainly are now!

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Sunset from the top of the Escape Route at Manley Pass.
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