Indian Pass Canyon is an excellent backpacking destination in the Funeral Mountains which is located close to Furnace Creek and has nice conglomerate and breccia rock scenery along with several springs which usually have lightly flowing water. Difficulties encountered on the hike include figuring out how to find the canyon entrance in the midst of a maze of washes and bypassing a couple of major dry falls within the canyon. Google Earth maps of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the canyon mouth are 36° 35.569'N, 116° 51.034'W. GPS coordinates for the grotto area are 36° 36.468'N, 116° 49.092'W. GPS coordinates for Poison Spring are 36° 36.586'N, 116° 48.251'W.
Indian Pass Canyon was a place I had been trying to hike into for years before finally accomplishing it in March of 2011. What held me back was the fact that it is a backpacking canyon and requires at least 2 days and 1 night to fully explore. In fact, outside of the Cottonwood-Marble loop route, Indian Pass Canyon is actually the main backpacking destination in Death Valley. The reasons for that are simple -- Indian Pass Canyon is located close to Furnace Creek, there is good information on it in guidebooks, there is usually some water available along the route, and it is mostly a family-friendly hike. About the only challenging aspect of hiking Indian Pass Canyon is getting into the canyon in the first place. Reaching the canyon requires a 4 mile hike from the road to the mouth with several critical turns at junctions. Because of this, we had heard that between 1/3 and 1/2 of all hikers who try to reach Indian Pass Canyon fail and end up getting lost. During our hike, it was easy to see why this is the case. In fact, in confirmation of the statistics, we came across one backpacking group who was completely lost and disoriented. They were hiking ahead of us, and when they reached one of the critical junctions, one member of the group climbed a small hill and looked for nearly 10 minutes, apparently trying to figure out which way to go. Before we reached them, they ended up choosing the wrong way and headed off into some random foothills of the Funeral Mountains. Later, I realized we should have helped them by stopping them and asking them if they knew where they were going. But it just goes to show that it is somewhat of a challenge to find the correct route into the canyon. Fortunately, we successfully reached Indian Pass Canyon with very few mistakes and soon found ourselves immersed in the grand scenery while being fascinated by the endless mixture of conglomerate rock (rounded rock fragments) and breccia rock (angular rock fragments). Highlights of the canyon included the grotto area, Poison Spring, the plunge pools, and the huge 50 foot dry fall at the end. We also hiked all the way up to an overlook point not far from Indian Pass, which was not the most exciting viewpoint but still a good goal to reach. We camped overnight at Lower spring, which had just a small seep coming out of the side of the rock. Shawn was able to pump enough water out of Lower spring to fill up our bottles both heading up and coming back down, but it took him a little longer than normal due to the slow trickle. Joining me for this hike were good friends Shawn and Kathy, who were backpacking with me in Death Valley for the third consecutive year (previously we had done Cottonwood-Marble and Anvil Spring Canyon together). Also, Senta and another fellow hiker from back home who were on their first ever trips to Death Valley. In the end, I feel like our hike through Indian Pass Canyon was a perfect introduction to backpacking in Death Valley at a family-friendly level that just about anybody could handle. Along with hiking with friends, the other thing I enjoyed most about my time in Indian Pass Canyon was hiking with the butterflies. We saw many butterflies throughout our journey and at times they would fly right alongside us for long periods of time. On the way down, we ran into another backpacking group which included an injured girl. She had slipped on a rock and fallen face first onto the ground and had a bloody chin. We provided medical assistance to her before heading back down and out of the canyon. Our hike took place on March 17-18, 2011.
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.
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