Tramway Canyon is a short hike into the southwestern corner of the Black Mountains which visits mining ruins and the bottom of an intact tramway station. Difficulties encountered on the hike include using caution if attempting to explore the tramway station and figuring out a bypass (if there is one) for getting past the 2nd dry fall in the canyon (if someone wishes to continue hiking). Google Earth maps of the hiking route (turned to the northwest for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 35° 54.684'N, 116° 40.406'W. GPS coordinates for the tramway station are 35° 55.668'N, 116° 38.941'W. GPS coordinates for the 2nd dry fall are 35° 55.718'N, 116° 38.656'W.
Tramway Canyon is an informally-named canyon which is located roughly 2 miles south of Ashford Canyon and 2 miles west of Kaleidoscope Canyon. It is the major canyon which is at the southwestern corner of the Black Mountains and wraps around the southern face of Ashford Peak. I looked back through my trip planning materials, and the first reference I can find to showing an interest in hiking this canyon was made on December 16, 2013. After that, it took me 2 years and 2 months before I actually carried out the hike. And that's about average because I've always been backed up on exploring various places which I have targeted over the years. What first interested me about Tramway Canyon were three things. First, it seemed to be an overlooked canyon (I couldn't find any trip reports or references to it online). Second, it was a shorter hike, being only about 1 3/4 miles from the parking area to the canyon mouth, with a total hiking distance of about 2 1/2 miles one-way to what looked like a major dry fall on satellite imagery. Third, topographical maps show a tramway in the canyon. So I figured there would be some type of tramway and mining ruins to explore within the canyon. Despite these interesting aspects, I never got around to exploring it, because I had other priorities on my trips and I doubted that the canyon would be exceptional. However, my priorities changed when the 2016 Superbloom of wildflowers took over Death Valley's landscape. As I was sitting at home (10 hours away from the park), news reports and park releases kept emphasizing the heavy amount of wildflower blooms taking place at the southern end of Badwater Road near the Ashford Junction area. Seeing that this was in close vicinity to Tramway Canyon made me realize that there would never be a better time to hike and document the canyon. Even if the canyon itself did not prove to be exceptional, surely the wildflowers on the fan leading up to the canyon mouth would be. Thus, I set out to make this particular hike the centerpiece of my 2016 Superbloom trip to Death Valley. And it did not disappoint. Upon reaching Badwater Road by driving in from Harry Wade Road, I could see vehicles parked and photographers taking pictures everywhere. The landscape was blanketed all over with Desert Gold wildflowers. After taking some pictures at various spots myself, I drove the short distance of 1 1/4 miles from the junction to the parking area for the hike. Looking up at the canyon mouth, I was stunned to see very thick Desert Gold wildflowers which I would have to pass directly through. This was truly going to be a fantastic hike and wildflower experience, just as I had hoped it would be. I began hiking up toward the canyon and quickly noticed that although Desert Golds were standing out due to their abundance and bright yellow color, there were actually many other types of wildflowers also blooming beautifully. You will see many of those within the full set of pictures included with this report down below. It wasn't long before I reached the edge of the thick Desert Gold wildflowers. Walking through the Desert Golds was a surreal experience. The yellow flowers got thicker and thicker until I couldn't avoid making contact with them. There was no way to progress further without allowing my shoes, socks, legs, and shorts to get completely covered with a yellow dusting from the flowers. After a while, I could turn around in a circle and see endless Desert Golds in all directions. You will see a couple of nice panoramics showcasing that scene. All of the flowers were healthy, vibrant, and standing tall as my visit took place during the peak bloom. Upon finally reaching the canyon mouth, I started finding mining remnants within the wash and up on the banks of lower canyon walls. The tramway station itself was quite interesting, as there is still an intact cable which stretches up high above the canyon to the area where rocks were being mined and sent down for processing. Beyond the tramway, the canyon narrows down and two dry falls are encountered. The second of these dry falls is a major one and will be the stopping point for most hikers. It is possible there could be a bypass in the area, but as it was starting to get late, I decided to stop there for the day and head back. I have a feeling there may be more to see and explore in the upper canyon. I will leave that opportunity for potential discovery to my fellow Death Valley hikers. Just make sure to be safe if you attempt a bypass of the major dry fall. My hike took place on February 26, 2016.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT