Dry Bone Canyon is an isolated canyon in the Cottonwood Mountains that is hard to reach and contains several sections of beautiful narrows along with one of the most challenging bypasses in the park. Difficulties encountered on the hike include needing high clearance (and potentially 4WD) to reach the starting point for the hike and route finding while being safety conscious if carrying out the extremely challenging bypass to get into the middle canyon. A Google Earth map of the hiking route (turned to the northeast for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 36° 46.228'N, 117° 25.615'W. GPS coordinates for the beginning of the upper 1st Narrows are 36° 45.249'N, 117° 25.222'W. GPS coordinates for the bypass route are not provided because if you can't figure that out on your own, you probably shouldn't be attempting it.
Dry Bone Canyon is one of Death Valley's somewhat well-known adventure hikes. There are two ways to hike the canyon and both of them take a lot of time and effort. The long way to hike into the canyon is to start from Scotty's Castle Road and hike up the infamous Dry Bone Canyon fan. This is about a 10 mile hike one-way from the road to the Dry Bone Main Side Canyon junction. If you are interested in seeing this portion of the hike, check out my report for Dry Bone Main Side Canyon. From there, you have to hike several more miles to see the lower and middle canyon. This cannot be done as a day hike. The other way to hike Dry Bone Canyon is to start at the top and hike down as far as possible in one day. This is the hike which is discussed here on this report. There are two things to keep in mind regarding doing the hike this way. First off, it can be a challenging drive just to reach the starting point for the hike about halfway up White Top Mountain Road. The road is known to have portions that are washed out at times, which means you will need HC or even 4WD. Even when the road is in good condition, it is a long drive from Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells to get up to the parking area. Second, the hike is extremely challenging if you want to see any more of the canyon other than the top of the 1st Narrows. It is a relatively easy hike from the parking area down the Joshua tree filled wash to the upper 1st Narrows. But going beyond that requires one of Death Valley's most difficult known bypasses. When I first carried out this hike, I gave this bypass the letter grade "F". And that was for good reason. It takes about 1 1/2 hours at minimum each way, the rocks are loose and slippery, the route is very steep and brutal, and there are a few somewhat dangerous areas which require either minor climbing or finding alternate routes, particularly towards the end. However, instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the bypass, I figured it was best to focus on the canyon itself. And even if somebody were to only visit the upper 1st Narrows, I think they would feel that this is a great place. Our original goal for the hike had been the 3rd Narrows. But after taking the nightmarish bypass down, we were only able to reach the 2nd Narrows. To get to the 3rd Narrows would have required an additional 3 1/2 miles round-trip of hiking, and that was just too much with the knowledge that we would have to return up the bypass later that day. I should also mention that I actually found going up the bypass to be easier than going down. While you are going down, you need to figure out the best route, which can only be done by trial and error. Once you've done that, you're kind of home free on the way back up, with the exception of the time and great effort that it takes. All things considered this was an excellent hike and Dry Bone Canyon will always be known as a special hike that I did with my sister Tiffany in the park. The narrows are quite spectacular. Detailed information about the Dry Bone Canyon major bypass can be found in Michel Digonnet's book Hiking Death Valley. Our hike took place on March 17, 2009.
This hike contains sections of climbing, exposed bypasses and/or high dry falls and may require safety ropes and equipment in order to complete the entire hike. Those without the proper training, experience, and safety gear should not attempt to carry out the major bypass connecting the upper and middle canyon.
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