Lower Big Fall Canyon is a short but spectacular canyon highlighted by towering narrows, glowing walls, beautifully polished rock, and a very scenic 15-foot dry fall at the end of the passable canyon. Difficulties encountered on the hike include advanced route finding to use one of four different routes to get to Lower Big Fall Canyon and having enough daylight to get back to your vehicle if attempting this as a potential 20-mile day hike. Topographical maps of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the beginning of Route #1 are 36.647243, -117.302499. GPS coordinates for the canyon entrance of Route #2 are 36.686695, -117.279642. GPS coordinates for the beginning of Lower Big Fall Canyon are 36.711190, -117.321383.
Lower Big Fall Canyon is located about as far away in the Cottonwood Mountains as you can get from the nearest road. It is a very challenging canyon to get to, no matter which route you choose to take. But it is well worth the effort because it is a very special place. The length of the passable canyon from the junction area is only about 1 mile long. But the latter part of that mile contains some of the most amazing narrows which can be found anywhere. The first thing you should know about Big Fall Canyon is that it has an informal name. However, it wasn't me who assigned the informal name to the area. A friend of mine who does a lot of hiking in Death Valley off the grid to unknown places discovered this area. He named it Big Fall Canyon, first of all, because of the similarity of the high towering narrows to what you can find in Fall Canyon. And, secondly, because there are several huge dry falls which cannot be climbed up or down without ropes and assistance. One of these dry falls is known as Big Fall, being 125 feet in height. Unfortunately, Big Fall is not visible during a hike of the lower canyon. While my friend has used ropes and canyoneering equipment to descend the entire canyon, I was only able to enter the bottom narrows to get some pictures. Once I reached the first dry fall, I was unable to continue. However, in that short span of time, I did indeed see some narrows which rivaled Fall Canyon and were amazing to walk through. Originallly, we did not publish the location of this canyon, and there were good reasons for that. However, eight years after publishing this original report, the canyon has become fairly well known in Death Valley hiking circles. And because there is nothing about Big Fall Canyon itself which would need special protection, I now feel that it is okay to share the location. Especially since certain aspects of its location have already leaked online over the past couple of years, which cannot be undone. As you check out my topographical maps, you will notice that there are four different routes which can be used to reach Lower Big Fall Canyon. I have personally hiked all of these routes. Route #1 is my favorite route but it is also the most challenging. It requires serious route-finding skills, multiple complex advanced bypasses, and changing canyons at least five times. The route from the parking area (which shares the same starting point as the Upper Big Fall Canyon hike) to the end of the passable lower canyon is 9 miles each way. Explaining the route in detail would take a lot of time and is probably better left out of this report. Because it is so advanced, I would definitely discourage just about everyone from using this route. Routes #2 and #3 both start out at the parking area located at the Cottonwood Canyon mouth. Instead of hiking a series of side canyons through the middle of the range, these routes follow the outside edge of the range along the east. This makes for some very challenging terrain due to endless wash crossings. The route is not very fun at all. Slightly making up for this is the fact that Route #2 visits a beautiful side canyon to connect the outside of the range with the 2/3 point of Route #1. Meanwhile, Route #3 continues all the way around the outside of the range as the terrain gets even rougher and nastier. Route #2 is 9.5 miles each way and Route #3 is 10.5 miles each way. On my very first hike to the area, I loop hiked Route #3 and Route #2, making for a 20-mile day. Route #4 starts at Scotty's Castle Road and is 11 miles each way. It should not even be considered except for on a backpacking trip. My first visit to Lower Big Fall Canyon took place on March 16, 2009. My second visit to Lower Big Fall Canyon took place on March 9, 2012. This report has been updated with over 50 new pictures from my second visit because I had much better lighting during that hike.
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