National Park Service Visitor Information.

Backcountry Hikes

Suggested Backpacking Routes

Indian Pass

Difficulty moderately strenuous
Type of Hike   no trail; walk gravel wash and cross-country.
Distance   6 miles to springs; 8 miles to pass.
Elevation gain   3000 feet to pass
Water   yes, in canyon
Start   6.5 miles north of Furnace Creek Visitor Center on Hwy 190.
Vehicle needed   all vehicles
Maps   Nevares Peak 7.5 minute topo

Follow wash bearing left (north) staying in drainage nearest ridge; head for low pass in mountains to the east. Last four miles in canyon. No camping within 2 miles of the road or 200 yards from springs.


Difficulty moderate to strenuous
Type of Hike   no trail; walk gravel wash and cross-country.
Distance   2 to 10 miles
Elevation gain   300 to 1500 feet to pass
Water   no
Start   Hole-in-the-Wall
Vehicle needed   high-clearance to Hole-in-the-Wall; 4x4 beyond
Maps   Echo Canyon 7.5 minute topo

Many variations possible. In the large "amphitheater" between Schwaub and Pyramid Peaks many small side canyons make good loop hikes by crossing low divides and returning via another canyon. Several rugged canyons in Funeral Mountains just above Hole-in-the-Wall can be explored depending on your climbing ability. No camping within
2 miles of the paved road.

Hungry Bill's Ranch

Difficulty moderately strenuous
Type of Hike   informal path and cross-country
Distance   2 miles to ranch site from road end; 7 miles to Panamint City.
Elevation gain   1100 feet to ranch site; 4100 feet to pass
Water   yes
Start   end of Johnson Canyon Road
Vehicle needed   high-clearance to canyon mouth; 4x4 on last 4 miles to road end
Maps   Panamint and Galena Canyon 7.5 minute topos

Historic ranch site from 1870's contains rock terraces, corral and orchard. It is possible to continue over pass (no trail) to ghost town of Panamint City.

Hanaupah Canyon

Difficulty moderately strenuous
Type of Hike   walk 4x4 road and gravel wash
Distance   3 miles to spring in south fork.
Elevation gain   2200 feet to spring
Water   yes
Start   park at top of alluvial fan, 5 miles up Hanaupah Canyon Rd.
Vehicle needed   high-clearance to mouth of canyon; 4x4 needed beyond
Maps   Telescope Peak and Hanaupah Canyon 7.5 minute topos

At top of alluvial fan, the road drops into the rocky wash and becomes 4x4. Walk to the road end then continue up canyon to the old mining area and spring.

Surprise Canyon

Difficulty strenuous
Type of Hike   wet canyon with remnants of old jeep road, some rock scrambling.
Distance   5 miles to ghost town
Elevation gain   4000 feet to ghost town
Water   yes
Start   6 miles northeast of Ballarat
Vehicle needed   high-clearance; 4x4 final 2 miles to trailhead
Maps   Panamint and Ballarat 7.5 minute topos

Old jeep road washed out in 1980s and offically closed to vehicles but
makes a great hiking trail. Ghost town of Panamint City is a good goal but mountain scenery, abundant springs and bighorn sheep all make it a worthy hike. Another 7 miles of mostly trailless hiking over pass leads to Johnson Canyon Road.

Panamint Dunes

Difficulty moderate
Type of Hike   no trail; cross-country
Distance   3 miles to dunes
Elevation gain   1000 feet
Water   no
Start   5 miles north of Hwy 190 on unmarked dirt road leading past Lake Hill.
Vehicle needed   high-clearance
Maps   Dunes 7.5 minute topo or Trails Illustrated Map of Death Valley

Hike across the gently rising upper end of Panamint Valley to star-shaped dunes. These remote dunes are more impressive than they look from a distance. Military jets often use Panamint Valley to practice low elevation flight maneuvers, but are less likely on weekends.

Bighorn Gorge

Difficulty strenuous
Type of Hike   no trail; walk gravel wash and cross-country, some rock scrambling.
Distance   10 miles from Scotty's Castle Road to upper dry fall
Elevation gain   4000 feet
Water   no
Start   3.9 miles south of Grapevine Ranger Station on Scotty.s Castle Road.
Vehicle needed   all vehicles
Maps   Tin Mountain and Whitetop Mountain 7.5 minute topos

From the Scotty's Castle Road, hike down to Death Valley Wash then follow main drainage up alluvial fan to canyon. Several small dry falls are easily passed, but at upper end of gorge an 80 foot dry fall requires scrambling up talus slope on north side to continue beyond. No camping within 2 miles of the road.

Fall Canyon

Difficulty moderately strenuous
Type of Hike   informal path first mile, then gravel wash and rock scrambling.
Distance   3 miles to first dry fall; 6 miles to second dry fall.
Elevation gain   1400 feet to first dry fall
Water   no
Start   parking area at mouth of Titus Canyon (west end)
Vehicle needed   all vehicles
Maps   Fall Canyon 7.5 minute topo

Narrow canyon with high walls, similar to Titus. From parking area, hike north along base of mountains ½ mile to large wash , then up into Fall Canyon. At 3 miles you reach a dry fall, which can be passed on the south side with moderate difficulty. Day-use is heavy below dry falls. Backpackers should plan on camping beyond that point. No camping within 2 miles of the road.

Titantothere Canyon

Difficulty moderately strenuous
Type of Hike   no trail; walk gravel wash and cross-country.
Distance   4.5 miles to Lostman Spring; 12 miles to Scotty's Castle Road.
Elevation gain   1700 feet down to spring; 4700 feet down to road
Water   maybe, at Lostman Spring
Start   11 miles from start of Titus Canyon Road (do not block road)
Vehicle needed   high-clearance
Maps   Thimble Peak 7.5 minute topo

With a 2-car shuttle you can hike all the way through to Scotty's Castle Road, but a more practical way is to hike to Lostman Spring and return to your car. No camping within 2 miles of the road or 100 yards from springs.

Owlshead Mountains

Difficulty moderate
Type of Hike   cross-country and gravel wash
Distance   7 miles to upper Through Cyn, 16 mile loop to return via Granite Canyon
Elevation gain   1900 feet
Water   no
Start   Confidence Mill site, 6.6 miles from Ashford Junction on Harry Wade Road
Vehicle needed   high-clearance
Maps   Confidence Hills East and Confidence Hills West 7.5 minute topo.

The east side of the Owlshead Mountains have several nice canyons for hikers to explore. Through Canyon is one of the largest and passes through to a hidden basin at the heart of the mountains. The only known stand of smoke trees in the park are found here. A possible loop trip is return via Granite Canyon.

Cottonwood/Marble Canyon Loop Hike
Telescope Peak
Wildrose Peak
Suggested Backpacking Routes

Things to See & Do
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