Middle Slab Canyon is an extremely difficult place to reach which contains lengthy polished narrows, dry falls, and ancient fossils. Difficulties encountered on the hike include hiking 9 miles one-way just to reach the ridge above the middle canyon, dealing with a challenging bypass to get down into the middle canyon, using good judgment and stopping at the dry falls within the canyon, and having enough daylight to get back to your vehicle if attempting this as a long 20+ mile day hike. A Google Earth map of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the ridge gully above the middle canyon are 36° 44.330'N, 117° 18.893'W. GPS coordinates for Middle Slab Canyon are 36° 44.257'N, 117° 18.907'W.
The report for Middle Slab Canyon is a continuation of the Lower Slab Canyon report. Slab Canyon can be divided into three different sections -- Lower, Middle, and Upper. These three sections are also properly done as three entirely different hikes. The lower canyon is best accessed from the mouth. The middle canyon can be most safely accessed from the eastern ridge above the canyon at the spot where the canyon makes a dramatic turn to the west. Due to safety concerns when it comes to other hikers in view of the abundance of dry falls and exposed bypasses in Slab Canyon, I am encouraging everyone who visits this area to be extremely careful. This is one of the most difficult hikes that is being shared on this site. For those who have the proper abilities, let me explain how to access the middle canyon. From the canyon mouth, measure a path that is about .85 of a mile long directly from the canyon mouth to the northwest, staying above the canyon on the eastern rim. That should bring you to the exact spot where you want to try to bypass down into the canyon. On satellite imagery, you can see a faint gully heading down into the canyon. You can get to this spot from a number of ways, but the easiest seems to be by heading up toward the rim from the neighboring canyon to the east. Dropping into the canyon is fairly basic from there. Toward the bottom, things get a little bit tougher and there is only one correct route. So a hiker would have to search that out and be smart and safe. Once on the canyon bottom, a hiker could turn left and see a little bit of canyon up to the top of the 4th major dry fall. To the right, a hiker enters the middle canyon and passes through some of the most fantastic narrows I have ever seen in Death Valley. The narrows are polished, tight, and ever-changing. Within the narrows, there is a huge dry plunge pool (or giant pothole) that rivals what is found in Indian Pass Canyon. There are also a number of reverse dry falls and several tinajas (or potholes). To put it simply, this place is magnificent. It was heartbreaking to get stopped by the 5th major dry fall. After we were stopped, we scrambled up to the ridge and could see farther up the canyon. Based on satellite imagery, another major dry fall, probably the tallest of them all in the canyon, awaits not too far out of sight. So in order to access the upper canyon, it would be necessary to go back out to the main ridge and hike all the way up to the canyon head and then start hiking down from there. Someday, I hope to return to Slab Canyon and see the upper canyon. But it is so far away from everything else that it would almost have to be done as an overnight backpacking trip. And there are probably more dry falls in the upper canyon, so it may not be worth the time and effort. For this report, I recommend using the Slideshow format to view my photos of Middle Slab Canyon. The narrows are too spectacular to see on a small scale with the smaller photos used in the Trip Report format. Keep in mind that I do not recommend hiking all of Lower and Middle Slab Canyon together as one hike without exiting the canyon and using the long bypass I described above. There are 4 major dry falls in close proximity which separate the lower and middle canyon from each other. The 1st dry fall bypass has a terrifying ledge with 150+ feet of exposure. The 2nd dry fall has very slippery smooth rock to cross at a heavily sloping angle just before reaching it with around 20 feet of exposure. And the 3rd dry fall bypass has a difficult down climb with 35+ feet of exposure. I can share all of this information because there was a professional climber in our group. But for us mere hikers, it is necessary to hike the lower and middle parts of Slab Canyon separately. To use the long bypass from lower to middle canyon could take around 2 hours but is well worth the effort. Our hike took place on February 8, 2013.
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 either consider completely avoiding this hike or exercise extreme caution when entering and hiking in the 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