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South Fork Trail Canyon/Mine Camps - DVNP, CA

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Guide 3 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List CA > Death Valley
5 of 5 by 2
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance One Way 3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,255 feet
Elevation Gain 2,095 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,300 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.66
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
47  2010-02-18 gpsjoe
30  2010-02-18 Grasshopper
27  2010-02-18 Grasshopper
Author Grasshopper
author avatar Guides 42
Routes 458
Photos 8,104
Trips 508 map ( 5,318 miles )
Age 74 Male Gender
Location Scottsdale, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Apr, May → 10 AM
Seasons   Early Spring to Early Summer
Sun  5:31am - 5:54pm
3 Alternative
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
- One of DVs Hidden Gems -
by Grasshopper

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).

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2010-02-27 Grasshopper
    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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    South Fork Trail Canyon/Mine Camps - DVNP
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5

    This last full day of our seven day visit to Death Valley National Park, we enjoyed the first five hours of this eleven hour day soaking in the history and scenic beauty- taking pics along the 5.25ml drive on West Side Road, the 9.7miles on Trail Canyon Road to its end at the historic Broken Pick Millsite-Camp and then further in on the 1.3ml 4WD section of the South Fork of Trail Canyon to end at the remote Morning Glory Camp complex in the Panamint Mountain Range at 4255ft elevation.

    At the TH Start on the far south end of the Morning Glory Camp complex is where this trip log begins and ends, our planned afternoon day hike loop to the Morning Glory high Mines located on a high, forested ridge (at 6350ft) at the far end of the south forks rugged narrows with clear views of the thickly-forested slopes of Wildrose Peak (at 9064ft).

    Prior to this trip, I had spent a considerable amount of time reviewing topo maps, entering into my GPS reference way points, and reading the recommended hiking book write-up on DVNP for this area hike, Hiking Death Valley by Michel Digonnet. If planning on doing a loop hike to the Morning Glory high Mines, Michel's recommendation was to first hike up the rugged canyon narrows (see my posted pic set#11-26 for ref) to the high mines, then complete this lolly-pop loop by coming back down from the high mines on the old 1.8ml (-1450ft) switch-back mining road (see my posted pic set#10 for ref). Michel did not mention what it might be like taking this beautiful, but strenuous canyon narrows route up in February after recent weeks of DVNP heavy rains with high elevation snow and I did not think much about the additional risks of trying this clockwise loop route with winter snow while I was doing my planning for this trip a month earlier in Arizona.

    Due to daylight time constraints with slow going in snow conditions, we were not able to make it to our planned hike destination- the Morning Glory high Mines at 6350ft elevation. Hopefully on a next visit the plan will be to do this complete loop counter-clockwise. (Please note that my HAZ hike description is written to recommend the counter-clockwise loop option or to do this hike as an in and out via the old Morning Glory high mine road..see pic#10).

    We had another very rewarding and enjoyable day to end our seven day visit in awesome DVNP :D .
    South Fork Trail Canyon/Mine Camps - DVNP
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5

    Finally, on our planned last full day in DVNP and after seven days of sun drying from the previous weeks Death Valley floor flooding rains and high elevation snows, this day gpsjoe and I were now legally able to have driving and hiking access to enjoy this most memorable area for me deep in the Panamint Mountain Range of Death Valley National Park.

    This "first trip log" of two that I will post for 2/18 (with associated pic sets), is for the morning part of our day trip to drive the 22 mile "one way" distance from Furnace Creek-DVNP to the end of Trail Canyon Road to visit the historic Broken Pick Millsite-Camp and then on to visit the colorful Morning Glory Camp (elevation changes in this 22 mile one way drive are from -225ft below sea level on West Side Road to +4255ft at the Morning Glory Camp).

    My "second trip log" to be posted for this day will document an afternoon attempt at hiking a beautiful but difficult DV winter canyon loop deep in the South Fork of Trail Canyon from the Morning Glory Camp, past perennial Morning Glory Spring and the Old Dependable Antimony Mine complex to the high Morning Glory Mines at forested 6350ft elevation with panoramic views to the thickly-forested and winter snowed-in slopes of Wildrose Peak (at 9064ft).

    My detailed ;) HAZ hike description "tells the full story" (with posted pic sets, GPS Driving/Hiking Routes and for your convenience- all key way points noted) of this so diverse, historic mining, remote, scenic area to 4WD, document in pics, and hike. I do hope some of you will have an opportunity to visit this special place in time and enjoy all it has to offer.. :D
    South Fork Trail Canyon/Mine Camps - DVNP
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    A 4WD where we made some virgin tracks through a wash area that had not been driven since the last large rainfalls. Visited two mining camps and hiked up the scenic Trail canyon. Some of the hiking was tough since we had to climb very steeply to get around 50 foot dry waterfalls. We decided to turn back at 3:30 PM with some risk of dark but we made it to the car with 10 minutes to spare.

    Coming back we had to come down about 200 feet on a 45 percent grade and I got a chance to glissade (a fancy word for butt sliding) in about 8 inches of snow. The snow held me back nicely and I got down in less than a minute. That was good fun for this guy who spent his childhood in northeastern PA where we did that sort of thing a lot. A fun adventure all the way.

    Did the long drive back in the dark to the sound of good music on Serius/XM satellite radio.

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Strictly 4x4

    To canyon trip
    From Furnace Creek, CA: FIRST TO "BROKEN PICK MILLSITE & MINE CAMP"- From the intersection of SR190/Badwater Road(SR178), drive south on Badwater Road for 5.75 miles to signed West Side Road; Turn Right(SW) on to West Side Road and drive 5.25 miles to the intersection of signed Trail Canyon Road; Turn Right(west) on to Trail Canyon Road and drive 9.65 miles to Trail Canyon Road end at the Broken Pick Millsite and Mine Camp (at way point N36.31830 W-117.04478); Note: It is highly recommended that you enter these referenced way points and that you download and follow the 1st GPS Driving Route posted to this hike description;

    SECOND TO "MORNING GLORY MINE CAMP & HIKE TH/PARKING"- From the above noted road end way point at the Broken Pick Millsite and Mine Camp, backtrack in your 4x4 vehicle for ~.25 mile to the intersection of Trail Canyon Road with the primitive road intersection of the South Fork of Trail Canyon (at way point N36.32025 W-117.04266); Turn Right(south) on to the South Fork of Trail Canyon and continue driving south for 1.3 miles (4x4 high-clearance) to the road end at the Morning Glory Mine Camp and Hike TH/Parking (way point N36.30335 W-117.04780); Note: It is highly recommended that you enter these referenced way points and that you download and follow the 2nd GPS Driving Route posted to this hike description;
    page created by Grasshopper on Feb 27 2010 8:47 pm
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