Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
- One of DVs Hidden Gems -
Overview: The steep 9.7 mile Trail Canyon Road (starts at -225ft & ends at +3530ft) through rugged Trail Canyon offers a scenic ride deep into the Panamint Mountains within Death Valley National Park. The road-less upper canyon at Trail Canyon end at the colorful Broken Pick Millsite camp and its south fork contain several mines and colorful, well preserved mining camps, springs, narrows, and eventually panoramic views from the thickly-forested slopes of Wildrose Peak (at 9064ft).
For day hiking and backpacking, the south fork is the most scenic part of Trail Canyon. In this lower canyon the colorful and well preserved Morning Glory camp (at 4255ft), its small perennial spring, and the Old Dependable Antimony Mine are all a short driving and hiking distance from the main Trail Canyon entrance road. The very best part of hiking the south fork is the old Morning Glory Mines, on a high, forested ridge (at 6350ft) at the far end of the south fork's rugged narrows with clear views of close Wildrose Peak. With its unlikely tramway, spectacular 1.8 mile rugged mine road (switch-backing up 1450ft), and with its beautiful ore specimens, this hike to the high Morning Glory Mines is an excellent example why Trail Canyon and its South Fork are truly one of Death Valley's hidden gems.
Warning: Though beautiful and so intriguing to lure you in, this area of DVNP is very remote and rugged to 4x4 drive and hike. Temperatures between your drive start (below sea level elevation) and hike end (as high as 6350ft) can vary drastically, so be prepared. There is no cell service in this area, most perennial water sources can be counted-on but not guaranteed, and most all hiking is via old sketchy mining roads and/or canyons requiring good route finding skills. If you are a GPS user, it is highly recommended that prior-to this trip you load into your GPS all way points detailed in this hike description and also download to your GPS, the author's two driving routes posted to this hike description along with the author's referenced South Fork Trail Canyon hiking route, dated 2/18/10. Please Note: The author's posted 2/18 GPS hiking route is to be used only for this hike description "from" the Starting TH/Parking location at the South Fork's- Morning Glory Camp (way point N36.30335 W-117.04780) hiking this GPS Route up canyon for 1.1 miles "to" the intersection with the old, obscure-easy to miss, 1.8 mile rugged uphill Morning Glory Mine Road (at way point N36.28930 W-117.05155).
History: The Trail Canyon area of Death Valley has a 250-million-Year Geology Record and witnessed a fair amount of mining, betrayed today by numerous sites. First it was gold in March 1906, with three active companies mining. By the spring of 1907 all three companies had folded. Trail Canyon came alive again thirty-some years later with the discovery of antimony. From 1939 to 1941 around $50k was invested in the Old Dependable Antimony Mine Complex (which this hike passes by in the South Fork of Trail Canyon). These mines produced about 70 tons of high-grade ore before the operations were suspended during World War II. Next it was the discovery of rare tungsten in the South Fork of Trail Canyon at the high Morning Glory Mines and at the Broken Pick Millsite. Tungsten mining was still going on in the South Fork as late as 1971, but it is doubtful that the financial return was ever substantial.
Drive-in and Hike: The DRIVE-IN for this hike description has two recommended and posted GPS Routes discussed below in the Driving Directions section: "First"- Drive to/visit the colorful, well-preserved "Broken Pick Millsite & Mine Camp", then "Second"- Drive to/visit the even more colorful, well-preserved "Morning Glory Mine Camp". After mandatory photo shoots, here is where your HIKE TH begins (at way point N36.30335 W-117.04780) for your 3 mile one way hike further up the South Fork of Trail Canyon, past perennial Morning Glory Spring (at way point N36.30267 W-117.04835), past the site of the Old Dependable Antimony Mine, and onward (1.1ml from TH Start) to the easy to miss canyon intersection with the continuing 1.8 mile, obscure, rugged, 1450 feet uphill, switch-back Morning Glory Mine Road (at way point N36.28930 W-117.05155). At 6350 feet after hiking up this spectacular mining road, at 3.0 miles in from your TH Start, you should arrive at this Death Valley gem location- the High Morning Glory Mines (at way point N36.28156 W-117.06104).
Please Note: This hike description is written as an "in and out" hike, but it is possible to make a lasso loop out of this hike for a 5.2 mile R/T vs a 6.0 mile in and out R/T, but a more time consuming and rugged day hike. The author's recommended route from the same TH Start for a lasso loop: first hike to, then up the 1.8 mile mine road to the Morning Glory Mines, then ~1.2 miles down the beautiful but rugged and narrow unnamed canyon to the west of the Morning Glory Mines (with some time consuming high dry/wet waterfalls to negotiate down and/or around). This unnamed canyon is beautiful but can be very slow, demanding, and time consuming so plan accordingly IF you elect to try it. On 2/18/10, two of us tried this lasso loop going the opposite direction, and started hiking too late in the day with snow and wetness in the upper reaches of this unnamed canyon, and turn around in barely enough time to reach our TH Start before dark (My posted 2/18/10 GPS Hiking Route details this lasso loop attempt).
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.