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Lower Fall Canyon
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park
Lower Fall Canyon
lower fall canyon
Trail across top of bajada (view north from trailhead).

Overview

This is an interesting hike in the Death Valley Wilderness Area that follows a deep, narrow, water-polished canyon for about 3 miles to a pour-over that, for day-hikers, marks a good place to turn around. The trail starts at the Titus Canyon parking area and runs north across the bajada to Fall Canyon, then turns east and follows the canyon as it progressively narrows to just a few feet wide at the pour-over. The route runs in the wash, which is mostly loose gravel, and although it isn't too steep, it is somewhat strenuous.

Link to an area map or a trail map.

lower fall canyon
Mouth of Fall Canyon (view east).

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a fairly safe hike, but stay out of the canyon if rain threatens, even if it falls high in the mountains, because of possible flash floods. The canyon is narrow, and in many places there would be no place to escape the floodwaters.

There is an anomaly in this area for maps based on Microsoft Terraserver-USA.com technology that I think is the result of a misalignment among map projections along the east side of California. The result is that the Terraserver map-tiles don't align properly and don't display the correct GPS coordinates. USGS topo maps are OK, but rely on your own instincts, route finding, and map reading skills here it there seems to be a problem; don't put too much weight on the technology.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and please try to Leave No Trace of your passage. This is a hike into an isolated canyon where rescue would be difficult, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

lower fall canyon
Lower part of lower Fall Canyon (view east).
Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Death Valley National Park, about 3.5 hours northwest of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Death Valley. From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center (Table 1, Site 712), drive north on Highway 190 for 17.4 miles to Scotty's Castle Road (Site 763). Turn right onto Scotty's Castle Road and drive north for 15.0 miles to the Titus Canyon turnoff (Site 761). There is a large sign at the intersection. Turn right onto Titus Canyon Road and drive east for 2.7 miles. The rocky road runs up the bajada to the parking area at the edge of the mountains. The road is a bit rough, but it is fine for all vehicles (except not trailers as there is nowhere to turn a trailer around). Stop in the parking lot just before the "one way, do not enter" sign (Site 760). The parking lot is at the end of the two-way road; the road is one-way, downhill, above this point. Park here; this is the trailhead.

lower fall canyon
Upper part of lower Fall Canyon (view east).

The Hike

From the trailhead behind the outhouse (Table 2, Waypoint 01), a use-trail runs north along the base of the mountains. The use-trail runs over little hills and along washes to near the mouth of Fall Canyon. Before getting to Fall Canyon Wash, the use-trail cuts east (right) following side-washes and little ridges. The trail is braided through here, but the trails are easy to follow and (except for trails that obviously just cut up the hillside) they all go in the same general direction.

The use-trail eventually arrives atop a ridge that overlooks the main Fall Canyon wash (Wpt. 02). Drop into the gravel wash and head upstream for a few yards to the actual mouth of Fall Canyon (Wpt. 03), which is marked by abrupt cliffs. Farther up, stay to the right at a fork in the canyon (Wpt. 04).

From the mouth, the route runs up the canyon. The canyon generally is narrow with high, steep sides, but some spots are narrower than others. The canyon is spectacular with lots of polished rock, and the geology is interesting. The mountains are layered limestone, most of which is various shades of gray, but there are lighter colors and some red layers. It seems that there should be fossils here, but I saw none. The vegetation is sparse with a few creosote bush and other shrubs here and there.

lower fall canyon
This 20-ft pour-over blocks easy access to the upper canyon (view east).

The canyon eventually narrows to a true, water-polished "narrows," but then further upstream progress is blocked by a shear, 20-ft pour-over (Wpt 05).

The pour-over is a good place to rest, eat lunch, and then hike back out. There is, however, a spectacular, narrow, water-polished section of canyon just above the pour-over. If you are inclined to see that part of the canyon, which requires a bit of 4th-class climbing that is a lot easier to climb up than it is to climb down, see the route description for Upper Fall Canyon.

Table 1. Highway Coordinates (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site Location Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
0712 Furnace Creek Visitor Center 36.46159 116.86574 512030 4034954 -186 Yes
0760 Titus Canyon Lower Parking 36.82199 117.17321 484552 4074937 917 Yes
0761 Scotty's Castle Rd at Titus Canyon Rd 36.78771 117.19063 482991 4071137 169 Yes-2
0763 Hwy 190 at Scotty's Castle Rd 36.63910 117.03531 496843 4054636 104 Yes-2

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27, UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
01 Fall Canyon trailhead 484523 4074919 940 GPS
02 Edge of Fall Canyon Wash 484530 4075884 1,184 GPS
03 Fall Canyon mouth 484621 4076021 1,211 GPS
04 Fork; go right 485860 4076917 1,735 GPS
05 Lower 20-ft pour-over 486875 4077625 2,500 map

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120423

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