Fall Canyon's 1st Side Canyon is an advanced hike into an inaccessible side canyon of Fall Canyon which splits into two forks and contains steep boulder fields to climb through. Difficulties encountered on the hike include route finding to access the canyon by way of a bypass out of Palmer Canyon and challenging terrain up both forks of the canyon with steep boulder fields in the washes. Google Earth maps of the route which I used to explore the canyon can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the bypass start point in Palmer Canyon are 36° 51.033'N, 117° 9.900'W. GPS coordinates for the bypass crossover ridge point are 36° 50.979'N, 117° 9.795'W. GPS coordinates for the bypass entry point into Fall 1SC are 36° 50.821'N, 117° 9.759'W.
My hike into Fall Canyon's 1st Side Canyon was a true adventure hike and challenging endeavor to carry out. Fall Canyon's 1st Side Canyon (from here on referred to as Fall 1SC) is literally passed by thousands of hikers every year as they journey up Fall Canyon. Most of these hikers either look to the left into Fall 1SC or actually turn off into it to briefly check it out for a couple of minutes. However, hikers who do this are never able to get very far. This is because Fall 1SC almost immediately dead-ends at an impassable double dry fall in a beautiful grotto-like setting. The main guidebook that I use in referencing Death Valley hikes actually mentions this in the Fall Canyon chapter. One day, while looking at satellite imagery of the Grapevine Mountains, I happened to take note of the open area in the middle of Fall 1SC. I then zoomed in and began studying the lower portion of Fall 1SC and could see that there seemed to be some interesting narrows above the major dry falls that stop all hiking groups. In the upper canyon, I could see that there was a junction with two equally large forks splitting off in different directions. Both of these forks appeared to have interesting terrain that would be worthy of further exploration. Now that Fall 1SC had my full attention as a potential hiking destination, the next challenge would be how to bypass the major dry falls at the bottom of the canyon. It didn't take me long to spot a fairly easy bypass that looped over a small ridge from an area just past the 2nd Narrows of Palmer Canyon. Upon seeing that the hike could actually be done, I decided to include it on my February 2014 trip. I figured that since Fall Canyon is such an amazing place, its 1st side canyon could potentially have some similarly beautiful scenery. In an effort to make it a loop hike, at the last minute I decided to test out a potential long bypass route which started at the mouth of Fall Canyon and obtained the north ridge above the canyon. Thus, my hike began by parking at the Titus Canyon parking area and crossing over the Fall Canyon wash. As I approached the mouth of Fall Canyon, I had serious doubts as to whether or not I could obtain the northern ridge. The terrain looked steep, rocky, and potentially impassable. However, as I got closer to the steep section, I saw a clear route that I could use to continue up the ridge. Along the way, I even spotted a couple of rock cairns, confirming that someone else had used this route before. Likely, it had been a canyoneer who wanted to rappel down those two major dry falls in the lower part of Fall 1SC. While climbing along the northern ridge of Fall Canyon, I enjoyed views into Fall Canyon, the badlands between Fall and Palmer, and the surrounding areas. Eventually, the ridge flattened out and I ended up on another ridge which was just above Fall 1SC. There were multiple routes down into the canyon, so I chose one and descended. Once I was finally in Fall 1SC, I headed down canyon to walk through the narrows and look over the major dry falls at the bottom of the canyon. The narrows were interesting and when I reached the top of the dry falls, I could actually see into Fall Canyon. It would have been neat to see a hiker walking by at this point. But none did, so I headed back up canyon. After some time, I reached the major junction in the canyon. I decided to check out the right fork first. The right fork passed by a couple of arches early on. The wash then got noticeably steeper and became filled with boulders. Just when I began to wonder if it was going to drag on forever with such difficult terrain, I reached a section of slot narrows. It was exactly what I had been hoping to find while sitting at home studying satellite imagery. The slot narrows were high, polished, and quite beautiful to pass through. They eventually ended at a dry fall which I deemed unsafe to climb. Thus, I headed back down the right fork and found an area where I could cross over into the left fork and save some time. The left fork was longer, steeper, and filled with even more boulders than the right fork. It was very tiring to keep hiking as I gained elevation at a furious pace through an endless field of fallen boulders. Eventually, the left fork narrowed down. It also got twice as steep and that's when I decided to stop for the day. The canyon did keep going but I decided that I'd had enough, especially being on a solo hike so deep into an area that no hiker had probably ever seen before. On the way back down, I looped over into Palmer Canyon and took the originally conceived bypass route back to my car. And just as I had thought, the Palmer-Fall 1SC bypass was fairly easy to carry out. In conclusion, my hike of Fall Canyon's 1st Side Canyon was very memorable and it was fascinating to check out an undocumented area so close to Fall Canyon. On the return hike to my car, I caught up to a couple of hikers who were hiking out of Fall Canyon. As I approached them, they surprised me when they called out my name and recognized me. Their names were Paulo and Cecelia and they were visiting Death Valley from Canada. In preparing for their trip, they had made use of my site to help plan out their hikes. It was definitely nice to be able to contribute in a positive way to their trip and help them in a small way to enjoy Death Valley more. My hike took place on February 26, 2014.
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 only access Fall Canyon's 1st Side Canyon by way of the Palmer Canyon bypass and should use extreme caution up both forks.
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