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hiking Fall Canyon, Death Valley, California

Posted Jun 04 2009 11:23pm

Trip report by site editor Rick McCharles.

12mi return

I was the only one on the Trail June 2nd.

Most hikers feel it is too hot in June to do valley hikes safely.

Actually, 100 degrees in the shade and zero humidity is not all that uncomfortable. I took plenty of water. And I love these slot canyons.

Fall Canyon is one of many colorful ravines in the hills surrounding Death Valley in California; shaped by occasional flash floods that flow from the higher mountains beyond, the canyon is remote and little-visited; deep and moderately narrow for many miles, with occasional shaded, cave-like passageways of great beauty. Some of these narrow, twisting sections are enclosed by smooth granitic walls with an unusual bluish tint. As with most other Southwest canyons, the rocks are layered, but quite differently to the orderly slot canyons of Utah – here the strata are multi-colored, buckled, twisted and eroded, the result of ancient geological forces. Fall Canyon is easily reached and offers a perfect wilderness experience, though it should be avoided during the summer months when the weather becomes too extreme.

more photos

The highlight comes 2.8mi in when you reach this 20ft wall.


Actually, you’d be crazy to scale this wall without ropes.

Instead look for cairns on the right hand side of the cliff. They lead up to a relatively easy path up and over the obstacle.

The next half mile is the best section.

Location: Fall Canyon is located in the Grapevine Mountains, towards the less-traveled north end of Death Valley National Park. It is close to Titus Canyon, another colorful ravine that is popular because of the rough one-way track that extends through it – this is a 4WD route …

The American Southwest

I left my pack behind (carrying only water) before the cliff. My thinking in hanging it was to keep out scorpions and snakes.


In fact I did see one golden snake further up the canyon. And several chuckwallas.

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