Funeral Slot Main Side Canyon contains a short but very interesting stretch of narrows, colorful hillsides, and unique formations that is quite challenging to fully explore. Difficulties encountered on the hike include dealing with low to medium difficulty obstacles while progressing up Funeral Slot Canyon, route finding to locate the main side canyon junction, and climbing or bypassing a difficult dry fall with considerable time and effort. A Google Earth map of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the junction of Funeral Slot and Funeral Slot Main Side Canyon are 36° 28.839'N, 116° 48.367'W. GPS coordinates for the possible bypass ridge between the two canyons are 36° 28.952'N, 116° 48.045'W.
In the Funeral Slot Canyon general area, there are actually three significant canyons worth fully exploring. The first is Funeral Slot Canyon, which is the main canyon that passes through the entire area. Most hikers only check out the bottom half of this canyon. The second is Funeral Slot, which breaks off to the left from the main canyon at the first major junction. Funeral Slot is the main destination for most hikers who visit this area, and for good reason. Funeral Slot contains some of the most impressive conglomerate rock slot narrows in the park. The third is Funeral Slot Main Side Canyon (or MSC), which splits off of Funeral Slot about halfway through before it reaches Twin Dry Falls at the end of the passable canyon. Very few hikers have ever seen more than the first few minutes of Funeral Slot MSC. This report covers that third canyon -- Funeral Slot MSC. I should start off this discussion about Funeral Slot MSC by letting everyone know that the canyon is not passable for most hikers. At least, the way that we did the hike. The reason is that a short distance into the canyon, a major dry fall is encountered which will stop most hikers. Even if you think you can climb it, keep in mind that you will have to climb back down it on the return hike, which can be a lot harder. Probably 95% or more of the people who read and use my reports will not be able to climb this dry fall. Thus, if you are interested in fully exploring the canyon, you will need to either bring climbing gear and safety ropes or look for a way to bypass into the canyon. For those looking for a bypass, your best bet is probably to attain the northern or southern ridge and then look for a safe gully or hillside to descend into the canyon. I have marked one potential southern ridge spot on the included Google Earth route map above. But since I have not tested out the route, I have no idea as to whether or not it goes through. It is possible that the route will get cliffed out. The only way to know for sure is to attempt it. If I'm ever in the area again, I will certainly check out the potential bypass and update this report accordingly. Although it involves greater elevation gain and loss, the northern ridge might provide a way into the canyon as well. Getting back to Funeral Slot MSC, let me describe what it is like to hike the canyon from the lower end to the upper end. The junction between Funeral Slot and Funeral Slot MSC is fairly obvious. It comes shortly after hiking through some of the most exciting sections of Funeral Slot, such as the boulder tunnel climbing area. Funeral Slot MSC features shallower but still very nice narrows. An early highlight is passing under several large wedged boulders. The major dry fall is encountered shortly thereafter. The canyon walls are narrow enough at the dry fall to chimney (or friction) climb most (if not all) of the way up. The challenging part is that there is a large solid rock boulder which is hanging over the edge of the dry fall, making the final move difficult to get up and over the dry fall. Coming back down, this spot is even more difficult because you must start off by getting around the boulder with exposed air below you. Past the dry fall, there is a corridor-like slot to pass through before the canyon opens up with scenic hillsides all around. About halfway through Funeral Slot MSC, Crown Bridge and Oriel Tunnel are encountered. Crown Bridge has been confirmed as Death Valley's 15th major natural bridge. It was discovered by Kauri in December of 2014. Crown Bridge is an unusual natural bridge in that it has been formed on one canyon wall. No other major natural bridges within the park have that interesting distinction. You can almost visualize the force of the water cascading down the hillside, through the short but steep narrows, and pushing out the conglomerate rock canyon wall with such great force that Crown Bridge was formed. Oriel Tunnel (discovered by myself and Kauri) is only a few steps away from Crown Bridge. Oriel Tunnel is a natural tunnel that is very interesting to check out from below. Oriel Tunnel is the largest natural tunnel which is passable that has been discovered in Death Valley. That being said, please keep in mind the warning which I have included on the Death Valley Natural Bridges database page. It says there: Please keep yourself safe and do not try to enter or pass through Oriel Tunnel. While I did pass back and forth through Oriel Tunnel in order to get some photographs, at the time I wasn't thinking about the structural integrity of the natural tunnel. I have no way to determine whether or not it is safe to enter natural tunnels, whether they might collapse, or how stable the walls or ceilings are. Thus, it is best to stay outside of Oriel Tunnel and enjoy the dramatic entrance view from the canyon floor. So that I do not fully repeat myself, please visit the Death Valley Natural Bridges database page (link in the top left box of the main page) in order to read much more about Oriel Tunnel, including the basic dimensions. Past Oriel Tunnel, Funeral Slot MSC eventually splits into smaller forks and comes to an end. I was not able to test out any potential bypasses from any of these forks during my visit because a steady rain began pouring down and we had to exit the area promptly. Our hike took place on November 27, 2016.
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 directly climb the major dry fall near the beginning of Funeral Slot Main Side Canyon but instead search out a safe bypass route (if there is one).
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