Rockfall Canyon is one of the longest and most scenic canyons in the Funeral Mountains as it contains sections of extensive rockfall and one major rockfall obstacle with no bypass. Difficulties encountered on the hike include route finding to locate the canyon and dealing with the major rockfall obstacle, which means for most people that the lower and upper canyon must be hiked separately in order to see the entire canyon. A Google Earth map of the hiking route (turned to the northwest for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the mouth of the canyon are 36° 26.839'N, 116° 44.642'W. GPS coordinates for major rockfall obstacle are 36° 27.140'N, 116° 43.755'W. GPS coordinates for crossover saddle into Slit Canyon are 36° 28.315'N, 116° 42.754'W.
Rockfall Canyon is the name that we have assigned to the major canyon between Echo Canyon and Slit Canyon in the Funeral Mountains. Before I explain why we chose that name, let me share some background information about the events which led up to this hike. A couple of years ago, while studying maps, I took notice of the fact that the largest canyon with hiking potential in the Funeral Mountains was just south of Echo Canyon and appeared to be relatively unexplored. After checking it out on Google Earth, I noticed that the canyon looked like it went on for quite a few miles, if it was passable. I say "if" because I also noticed what appeared to be some sections of narrows that had potential dry falls in the lower 2 miles of the canyon. But it would be impossible to tell without going out there. After talking to a friend in the park service, he mentioned that he had hiked out to this canyon about a decade earlier but did indeed find an obstacle that stopped him about 1 mile into the canyon. After hearing that, my heart sank and I kind of forgot about the canyon for a while. I figured if he couldn't get past it, there was no way that I was going to be able to either. Fast forward a couple of years later and I noticed online that a few other hiking groups had ended up hiking into this major canyon between Echo and Slit. One hiking group even published a picture of the major rockfall (or boulder jam) obstacle about 1 mile into the canyon. It was obvious that this obstacle could not be safely climbed by hikers and there were apparently no bypass routes around it. By all appearances, it seemed like the major canyon between Echo and Slit would continue to hold its secrets for some time to come. But then I decided to ask my friend Patrick what he thought of the rockfall obstacle. So I text messaged him the photograph of the obstacle that another hiker named Kauri had published in her report. Patrick is a professional climber who has had many great accomplishments in Yosemite and other places, so I figured if anybody could defeat this major obstacle, it would be him. After studying the photograph for a while, Patrick informed me that he had a plan that just might work to get us past the rockfall obstacle, which is essentially two giant wedged boulders that are side by side, too high to climb past. Thus, in February of 2013, Patrick, Tobin, Charlie, and I hiked out into the canyon we had been calling Echo/Slit and gave it a shot. The parking area for the hike was at Hole-In-the-Wall at 1,900 feet in elevation. From there, we started hiking toward Slit Canyon but immediately veered off to the left, following a drainage to the northwest up to a small saddle at 2,050 feet. We then crossed over and went down the other side until we got into another wash leading to the north. This wash brought us to the mouth of Echo/Slit at 2,400 feet and the total mileage so far was 3 miles. We hiked into Echo/Slit and immediately were surprised to see so much rockfall in the canyon. Right from the start, we walked through a narrow section where massive boulders have tumbled down into the wash and must be navigated around. 1 mile later (4 miles total into the hike) we arrived at the base of the major rockfall (or boulder jam) at 3,200 feet. We knew this was coming and all sat down to check out this menacing obstacle. Tobin, Charlie, and I all knew that we would not be able to overcome this obstacle on our own. And that's when Patrick went to work. I am not going to reveal his trade secrets, being that he is a professional and he has spent many years learning his techniques. But the bottom line is that he was able to place a climbing rope above him using only the terrain and safely get above the rockfall obstacle. Once he did that, he set up both a regular climbing rope with footholds for us and a safety rope that we would wear on our safety belts as a backup. So he made the climbing completely safe for us. It wasn't long before the rest of our group was at the top, looking back down on the obstacle which had stopped all previous hiking groups. Our hike had now turned into the first ascent of Echo/Slit and we were going to see a canyon that was undocumented and visited by very few (if any) hiking groups before. For the next 3 miles, we enjoyed seeing many spectacular sights -- stunning arches, sections of narrows, colorful areas, more dry falls, snow, and many more sections of rockfall. In view of this, as we reached the end of the canyon, we decided to name this canyon Rockfall Canyon. It was a very appropriate name, as you will see in the included pictures. At the head of the canyon (7 miles from the start and 5,100 feet in elevation), we obtained the ridge and then dropped down into Upper Slit Canyon. In contrast with Rockfall Canyon (which was interesting from beginning to end), Upper Slit Canyon actually turned out to be one of the most uninteresting places I have ever seen in the park. The scenery did get better once we got into Slit's 3rd Narrows. In conclusion, we were all very impressed with Rockfall Canyon and hope that you will be as well. Please don't attempt to climb the major rockfall that is 1 mile into the canyon, as it can only be done safely by professional rock climbers. If you are interested in seeing the entire canyon as we did, your best option is to hike the lower and upper canyon separately on two different hikes. Our hike took place on February 9, 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 stop at the bottom of the first major rockfall encountered during the hike and not try to climb it.
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