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Furnace Slots Route
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park
Furnace Slots Route
Furnace Slots Route
Trailhead at Texas Springs Camp (view N; Wpt. 01)


The Furnace Slots route, located in the Funeral Mountains just east of Furnace Creek, is a great hike that leads into the Death Valley Wilderness Area. The destination is an area with series of slot canyons that cut into colorful mud hills and conglomerate rock of grays and various other colors. The hike starts with a long walk up the gently sloping flanks of the starkly beautiful Death Valley floor. The route then enters a canyon that narrows and narrows until hikers find themselves wandering through tight slots and clambering up and over pour-overs. For hikers not wanting to tackle class-3 scrambles, there are plenty of colorful narrows and tight slots to enjoy.

Link to Area Map or Route Map.

Furnace Slots Route
Hikers starting up the main wash (view NE)


Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this route is fairly safe, but some pour-overs are a bit high. Be extra careful when high enough to fall and get hurt. There is evidence of recent and continuing rock falls in the canyon.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and please try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this hike is short, the area is remote, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials. The route runs up into the Death Valley Wilderness Area, so pay particular attention to respecting the land.

Furnace Slots Route
Leaving main wash (view NE, near Wpt. 02)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Death Valley National Park, about 2-1/2 hours northwest of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Death Valley. From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center (Table 1, Site 0712), drive south on Highway 190 for 0.5 miles to the Texas Springs Campground Road (Site 349). Turn towards the campground, pass the turnoff to Sunset Campground, and continue to the Texas Springs Campground entrance. Park on the wide road shoulder north of the pavement just outside the campground (Site 1043). Park here; this is the trailhead.

Furnace Slots Route
Passing S of mud hill island (view NE, near Wpt. 03)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 01), the route leaves the pavement, runs north over the road berm and into the adjacent wash. Following the main wash upstream, the route runs northeast between mud hills with varying shades of red and yellow.

Horse trails that start at the Furnace Creek Inn stables loop through the area and provide suitable foot trails up the wash through this area.

Furnace Slots Route
Approaching the canyon (view NE; nearing Wpt. 04)

After following the main wash northeast and then southeast for 1.00 miles (Wpt. 02), the route turns left and heads northeast in another broad wash, once again running towards the northeast. The mouth of the side wash is as broad or broader than the main wash, and the southeast corner of the side wash is marked by smooth, sloping white mudhill cliffs. The south side of the main wash had been rounded mud hills to about this point, but here the mud hills also expose blackish vertical cliffs.

The side wash is broad and flat with few landmarks, but at about 0.6 miles out, a triangular mud hill emerges from the alluvium (an island of mud in a sea of gravel). The mud hill island (Wpt. 03) can be passed on either side, although passing to the north is slightly more direct. The southeast corner of the mud hill is yellow.

Furnace Slots Route
Narrows in main canyon

Past the mud hill island (Wpt. 03), the sides of the wash become vertical due to recent erosion, so route finding becomes easier as the landscape naturally funnels hikers into the correct canyon (Wpt. 04).

The route follows the main canyon northeast. The colorful and sculpted walls rise and small pour-overs hint at the wonders to come.

Furnace Slots Route
Narrows in main canyon

After following the main canyon for 1.05 miles, the walls have risen and the wash has narrowed considerably. At a fork in the wash (Wpt. 05), a major side canyon comes in from the north. Cairns mark the confluence, and a large, oddly white rock lies in the wash at the mouth of the side canyon. This side canyon was our main route.

The side canyon becomes deep and very narrow with several obstacles to pass and other side canyon slots (e.g., Wpt. 06) to explore. Passing all of these leads to a high pour-over (40-50 ft) that marks a good place to turn around. The pour-over can be bypassed by climbing onto the ridges on either side of the canyon. Looking from below, the canyon past the pour-over probably holds more narrows and other exciting things, but aerial photos suggest that this is essentially the end of the narrows area.

Furnace Slots Route
Side canyon (view N; Wpt. 05)

Heading back down, be sure to look for and explore slot side canyons that were missed on the way up.

Back at the main wash (Wpt. 05), consider continuing upstream looking for more slots and grand scenery. At about 0.31 miles out, a slit in the canyon wall leads into an interesting slot. Following this canyon to the end leads to a viewpoint looking out on the 40-50 ft pour-over that marked the turn around in the previous side canyon.

Returning from the slit and continuing up the canyon, a pour-over provides an interesting obstacle, but passing that, the canyon runs southeast, out of the mud hills, and into the limestone mountains. Late on our long day, this was a good place to turn around and follow our footprints in the wash back to the trailhead.

Furnace Slots Route Hikers in slot canyon; much of the narrows were like this.
Furnace Slots Route Climber working up through recently fallen boulders. Notice the yellow rock dust covering the boulders: water hasn't run in the wash here since the canyon wall collapsed.
Furnace Slots Route Hikers anticipating a high pour-over. It looks like the canyon walls would be easy to climb using the apparently large and numerous hand and footholds, but this is an optical illusion and chimney techniques were safer and easier.
Furnace Slots Route Hiker at the 40-50-ft pour-over that marks the end of the canyon (view E; Wpt. 07). The pour-over can be bypassed on either side, but judging from aerial photos, this is quite close to the end of any narrows. It appears that there might be a large tinaja part-way up the falls, but it is full of gravel and holds no water. A small pocket in the rock wall near the base of the cliffs holds a bit of water.
Furnace Slots Route Back in the main canyon, the narrow entrance to this slot (view NE; Wpt. 08) is a good indication of the narrow hidden within.
Furnace Slots Route Hiker passing a challenging pour-over in the main canyon. The overhanging ledge above the climber makes this obstacle somewhat awkward to pass.
Furnace Slots Route Late afternoon colors near the end of the mud hills (view SE). Around the corner to the left, the mud hills end and the wash runs up into a "normal" limestone canyon.

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

Site # Location Latitude (N) Longitude (W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
0349 Hwy 190 at Texas Springs Camp Rd 36.45307 116.86289 512287 4034010 -133 GPS
0712 Furnace Creek Visitor Center 36.46159 116.86574 512030 4034954 -186 GPS
1043 Texas Spring Campground Entrance 36.46001 116.85609 512895 4034780 -75 GPS

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

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Trailhead at Texas Spring Camp Entrance 512854 4034797 -108 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Leave Main Wash 514178 4035245 177 1.00 1.00 GPS
03 North of Mud Hill 515128 4035644 472 0.69 1.69 GPS
04 Mouth of Canyon 515916 4035964 696 0.56 2.25 GPS
05 Fork in Canyon 517271 4036775 1,100 1.05 3.30 GPS
06 Fork in Canyon 517474 4037085 1,266 0.30 3.60 GPS
07 Base of Pour-Over 517941 4037204 1,457 0.29 3.89 GPS
. . . . . . . .
05 Fork in Canyon 517271 4036775 1,100 0.00 0.00 GPS
08 Fork in Canyon 517686 4036827 1,299 0.31 0.31 GPS
NA Main Canyon Turn Around (end mud hills) NA NA NA 0.21 0.52 GPS
NA Side Canyon Turn Around (top of slot) NA NA NA 0.10 NA GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 110327

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