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Titus Canyon Road
Backroads Around Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park
Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon road sign along Hwy 374 (view NE)

Overview

Titus Canyon Road is a one-way, dirt road normally suitable for 2WD-HC vehicles. The road starts outside the National Park on Daylight Pass Road near Beatty, Nevada. Running west into the park, the road climbs over two high points in the Grapevine Mountains (including Red Pass at 5,500 ft elevation), drops past the ghost town of Leadfield, and finally descends through the narrow and sinuous canyon for which the road is famous. Finally, the road descends the alluvial fan to Scotty's Castle Road.

This road provides sightseers spectacular scenery, views of a mining ghost town, and a petroglyph panel, and it provides hiker access to Titanothere Canyon, Thimble Peak, and Leadfield, and myriad other unnamed destinations.

Link to map.

Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon road sign along Hwy 374 (view NE)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this road is pretty safe in appropriate vehicles, but be sure that your vehicle is in good working condition, carry plenty of water (radiator and drinking), and pack a lunch. Always drive slowly and carefully; even though the road is one-way, drivers may try to drive out backwards, causing hazards on the narrow blind curves. There are rough and rocky spots, especially crossing Red Pass, but the road generally is in good condition as the Park Service brings in gravel to fill in holes and around rocks. Time changes road conditions, so always use your own good judgement. The road sometimes can be navigated in a carefully driven sedan, but I wouldn't take mine.

While out, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. This road goes into remote areas, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon turnoff (view NE)

Getting to the Road

Titus Canyon Road is located in the east-central part of Death Valley National Park, about 2 hours northwest of Las Vegas driving directly, or about 1 hours north of the Death Valley Visitor Center at Furnace Creek.

From town, drive out to Death Valley. From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center (Table 1, Site 0712), drive north on Highway 190 for 10.9 miles to Beatty Cutoff Road. Turn right, and right again in another 10.0 miles onto Daylight Pass Road. Continue 7.5 miles to the Nevada state line, and another 5.6 miles to Titus Canyon Road (Site 0974), on the left; watch for highway signs. Turn here; this is the roadhead.

Directly from Las Vegas, drive north on Highway 95 to Beatty. At the stoplight in Beatty, turn left onto Highway 374. Drive west 6.2 miles to Titus Canyon Road (Site 0974), on the right; watch for highway signs. Turn here; this is the roadhead.

Titus Canyon Road
Beginning of Titus Canyon road (view SW)

The Road

From the pavement (Site 0974), the road runs west-southwest as it gently climbs across the creosote bush covered bajada towards the Grapevine Mountains in the far distance.

Near to the pavement, a sign announces "High Clearance 4x4 Recommended. Although 4WD rarely is necessary, sometimes the road is wet, icy, or washed out. When the road is freshly graded and dry, sedans can make it across, but probably with some undercarriage damage.

Titus Canyon Road
Caution signs (view SW)

At about 1.9 miles out, the road narrows as it crosses a cattle guard, and signs announce entry into Death Valley National Park. Signs should announce that this is a one-way road, but apparently sometimes they are missing. The one-way road is narrow, often with berms on the side, so drive carefully on blind corners as it is always possible for someone to be driving the wrong way (e.g., someone in a sedan that decided they couldn't make it all the way through).

At about 6.2 miles out, the road turns to the south and starts up into a broad canyon. Then, at about 7.0 miles out, the road enters the Death Valley wilderness Area. Actually, from here to the end of the road, the road runs in a 100-ft wide corridor of non-wilderness with designated Wilderness on both sides of the road.

Titus Canyon Road
Approaching NPS boundary (view SW)

The road climbs, sometimes winding and sometimes tight, to a saddle about about 9.6 miles out. There is a wide spot atop the saddle where drivers can stop and stretch the legs without blocking the road. The view ahead (west) is down into Titanothere Canyon. Titanotheres are extinct mammals that resembled a rhinoceros in size and shape, except with two bulbous and blunt horns, one on each side of the snout. Fossilized bones of these creatures were found in the red-clay layers of strata in this area.

The road drops rather steeply into the headwaters of Titanothere Canyon. For hikers, there are two unmarked trailheads for the Titanothere Canyon hike. The first drops into the wash at about 10.2 miles out, and the second drops into another wash at about 11.2 miles out. The first trailhead starts down a canyon said to be more interesting, but both converge in less than a mile.

Titus Canyon Road
Continuing towards the Grapevine Mountains

After passing the second trailhead, the road begins to climb somewhat steeply towards Red Pass. The road twists and turns as it hugs the terrain and climbs across steep hillsides where the worst of the rocky spots seem to be on the sharpest and most precipitous curves.

Eventually, the grade relaxes somewhat, and at about 12.4 miles out, as the road runs up onto Red Pass (Site 1443). Parking is limited, but there is space for 3-4 vehicles on the south side and parking for another on the north side. Views in both directions are grand, but the view north is worth pulling out the folding chairs and stopping for lunch. This is also the trailhead for Thimble Peak, which lies some 3 miles to the south-southwest along the ridge.

Titus Canyon Road
Still continuing towards the Grapevine Mountains

Descending past Red Pass into Leadfield Canyon, the road twists and turns as it hugs the terrain and drops steeply across steep hillsides where the worst of the rocky spots seem to be on the sharpest and most precipitous curves. The first curve past Red Pass, a tight hairpin turn, provides quite a view off the side of the road, and then from below, stonework can be seen holding up the roadway. Note that this is the original mining road, so the hand-placed stones were set in the 1920s. Additional hand-built stone walls hold the road on the cliffs farther along.

Approaching Leadfield, at about 13.8 miles out, the road passes a number of prospects below the road. Then, beyond a few more curves, a mine with a large tailings pile can be seen across the canyon.

Titus Canyon Road
Starting into the hills

Continuing, the road traverses a steep hillside to make a tight and airy hairpin turn. Driving now south towards another tight turn in the bottom of the canyon, a parking area can be seen that provides access to the mining area up the canyon.

On more gentle slopes, the road descends towards rusty metal buildings and mine tailings ahead on the left. The rusted-out hulk of an old car alerts drivers to the approaching parking area (Site 1065; 15.6 miles out) for the ghost town of Leadfield. The town boomed and died in 1926, and old mines, buildings, and other materials serves as silent testament to the efforts of some 300 people.

Titus Canyon Road

Continuing past Leadfield, the northern-most mine can be seen with another tin building high on the hillside to to the left, and then the road curves hard to the left and enters the first of the narrows deeply cut into layered limestone cliffs. This is actually the last of Leadfield Canyon, but shortly the road winds around tightly and passes an "Entering Titus Canyon" sign at the confluence of Leadfield and Titus canyons (16.3 miles out).

The canyon feels narrow for about one more mile, but gradually it begins to feel like a deep desert canyon. At about 18.2 miles out, the road arrives at a sign announcing petroglyphs on a large boulder beside the road and only about 100 feet before Klare Spring (Site 1066).

Titus Canyon Road

The petroglyph boulder, and an adjacent boulder, have been badly marked by vandals, but the original rock art remains. The boulders are dark, probably dolomite rock, and pecking on the rock leaves a light-colored scar. Native peoples left odd shapes, humanoid forms, and glyphs thought to represent rain and the sun. There is also a nice little bighorn sheep.

A few steps down-canyon, Klare Spring wets the hillside and trickles down the side of the road. Here, a dense thicket of Arrowweed, sedges, some cattails, and even a few rushes cover almost all of the free water. Scat indicates that bighorn sheep, coyotes, and birds come in for water.

Titus Canyon Road

Beyond Klare Spring, the canyon runs wide for a bit more than a mile. Wide is nice for a change because the scenery is grand with layered and colorful mountains and cliffs all around. The road eventually climbs onto a bench above the wash, then drops back into the wash beyond some unseen obstruction in the wash. This point, at 19.6 miles out, marks entry into the lower narrows.

The lower narrows are almost entirely narrow, and they continue to get narrower and narrowed farther down the canyon. There is a brief opening at about 21.8 miles out, but after that (22.3 miles out), the narrowest and deepest of the narrows begin.

For the next 1.8 miles, the canyon runs deep and narrow. At the narrowest, the canyon walls are barely 15 feet apart - not really enough room for a road!

Titus Canyon Road

At about mile 23.4, the road passes a section of canyon with a black-and-white mosaic (modern art) plastered on the walls. This is the result of an ancient earthquake deep within the earth that fractured the rock into shards of black stones. Eventually, water percolating through the rock dissolved some of the limestone, then deposited it around the shards in the form of white calcite. Exposed and polished smooth in recent times, we now see a cross-section slice along the fault zone.

Beyond the mosaic walls, the road winds through the narrowest of the canyon, but eventually the roads makes a final curve and suddenly the canyon ends and the bright and sunny world of Death Valley opens up again.

Titus Canyon Road

Blinking in the bright sunlight and pulling on sunglasses, drivers exit the canyon, pass a gate and "do not enter" sign, and arrive at the Titus Canyon Hiking Trailhead parking (Site 0760; 24.2 miles out) with a vault toilet.

This is where hikers can park and walk up into the Titus Canyon Narrows, or hike north to Fall Canyon. This is also where the traffic becomes two-way.

Continuing down across the alluvial fan, the road runs another 2.6 miles to the pavement at Scotty's Castle Road (Site 0761; 26.8 miles out), and thus end, ungraciously, the Titus Canyon adventure.

Titus Canyon Road
First highpoint (view W into Titanothere watershed)
Titus Canyon Road
Starting down into the headwaters of Titanothere Canyon
Titus Canyon Road
Long view down Titanothere Canyon (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road
Winding along the hillside
Titus Canyon Road
Road climbing to Red Pass can be seen in the distance (view W)
Titus Canyon Road
Winding along the hillside
Titus Canyon Road Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon Road
Winding along the hillside
Titus Canyon Road
Second Titanothere trailhead (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road
Starting towards Red Pass
Titus Canyon Road
Climbing towards Red Pass
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Titus Canyon Road
Tight, steep, narrow, rocky, and precipitous curves
Titus Canyon Road
Red Pass is in sight
Titus Canyon Road
Arriving atop Red Pass (view NW)
Titus Canyon Road
Lunch with a view at Red Pass
Titus Canyon Road
Lunch with a bit of shade at Red Pass
Titus Canyon Road
Grand view down Leadfield Canyon (view NW)
Titus Canyon Road
Vehicle descending past Red Pass
Titus Canyon Road
Looking back down from Red Pass (view SE)
Titus Canyon Road
Vehicle climbing towards Red Pass (view S)
Titus Canyon Road
Vehicle arriving at Red Pass (view S)
Titus Canyon Road
Descending past Red Pass (view NW)
Titus Canyon Road
Steep, narrow, and precipitous hair-pin curve (view W)
Titus Canyon Road
1920s hand-built stone wall holding up hair-pin curve (view SE)
Titus Canyon Road
Descending under Red Pass (view SE)
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Titus Canyon Road
Descending across steep hillsides (view NW)
Titus Canyon Road
Mine and tailing pile across the canyon (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon Road
Approaching another steep and precipitous hair-pin curve (view N)
Titus Canyon Road
Approaching parking to walk up canyon to mining area (view S)
Titus Canyon Road
Descending gradually towards Leadfield
Titus Canyon Road
Carcass of an old car along the road (view NE)
Titus Canyon Road
Leadfield sign at parking area (view NW)
Titus Canyon Road
Leadfield ghost town (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road
Continuing past Leadfield (view NW)
Titus Canyon Road
Starting into the Leadfield Canyon narrows (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon Road
Confluence of Leadfield and Titus canyons (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road
Sign: Entering Titus Canyon (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road
Many short views
Titus Canyon Road
Few long views
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Titus Canyon Road
Occasional road hazard, but generally good road
Titus Canyon Road
Approaching Klare Spring (view W)
Titus Canyon Road
Arriving at Petroglyphs and Klare Spring (view W)
Titus Canyon Road
Parking at petroglyph site (view N)
Titus Canyon Road
Petroglyph sign (view N)
Titus Canyon Road
Petroglyphs and sign (view NE)
Titus Canyon Road
Petroglyphs
Titus Canyon Road
Petroglyphs (close-up)
Titus Canyon Road
Petroglyphs (close-up)
Klare Spring
Klare Spring (view SW from above)
Klare Spring
Klare Spring: a tangle of vegetation on hillside (view N)
Klare Spring
Klare Spring: a bit of free water along the road edge (view N)
Titus Canyon Road Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon Road
Many rock walls
Titus Canyon Road
Pink stones eroding from the mountain tops
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Titus Canyon Road Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon Road Titus Canyon Road
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Titus Canyon Road
The narrows begin to narrow (view NW)
Titus Canyon Road
Narrows (view NW)
Titus Canyon Road Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon Road
Narrows (view NW)
Titus Canyon Road
Mosaic walls in the narrows (view NW)
Titus Canyon Road
Happy campers at the mosaic wall (view S)
Titus Canyon Road
mosaic wall details (view S)
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Titus Canyon Road v
Titus Canyon Road Titus Canyon Road
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Titus Canyon Road
Approaching the end of the canyon (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road
Last of the narrows (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road
Outhouse at Titus Canyon trailhead parking (view NE)
Titus Canyon Road
Descending the Titus Canyon alluvial fan (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road
Approaching Scotty's Castle Road (view SW)
Titus Canyon Road
Titus Canyon Road at Scotty's Castle Road (view SW)

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

Site Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Verified
0760 Titus Canyon Lower Parking 484552 4074937 36.82199 117.17321 917 Yes
0761 Scotty's Rd at Titus Rd 482992 4071148 36.78781 117.19062 169 Yes
1064 Hwy 374 at Tutus Canyon Rd 513806 4079060 36.85918 116.84512 3,405 Yes
1065 Titus Canyon Rd at Leadfield 494782 4077856 36.84842 117.05852 3,992 Yes
1066 Titus Rd at Klare Spring 491969 4077044 36.84108 117.09007 3,094 Yes
1443 Titus Canyon Rd at Red Pass 497194 4075671 36.82873 117.03147 5,222 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 130316

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