Rosy Canyon is an extremely isolated area located deep in the northern Grapevine Mountains which features the Rim of the World drive, three tafoni slot canyons, a colorful main canyon leading to an area of big trees, and the spectacular Rosy Amphitheater. Difficulties encountered on the hike include finding and reaching the correct parking area, successfully dropping into Gravevines WSA Canyon, and route finding while passing through the forks of Rosy Canyon. Topographical maps of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 37.030498, -117.246258. GPS coordinates for Slot #1 are 37.017517, -117.260800. GPS coordinates for the pass area above the big trees are 36.997234, -117.228156. GPS coordinates for Rosy Amphitheater are 37.001232, -117.253956.
The area of the northern Grapevine Mountains located between Backthrust Canyon (also known as North Moonlight Canyon) and Grey Wall Canyon has not been documented at all by Death Valley hikers. Grey Wall Canyon is located 5 miles northwest of Backthrust Canyon. In looking at a map of the area in between the two canyons (which are seldom-visited themselves), it appears that there are about 25 square miles of hills, canyons, and mountains which are beckoning to be explored. I had been hoping to create a hike in this particular area for several years. After doing some research, I came up with what looked to be an interesting loop route which would follow a larger canyon up into the mountains toward a grove of big trees before looping back down a smaller canyon on the other side. The only problem with carrying out this hike would be reaching the area, because it is so far away from any roads. To better describe the area, the hike starts out as a continuation of Grey Wall Canyon. Most people who hike Grey Wall Canyon stop near the first major fork in the canyon located at about 3,380 feet in elevation. However, if you take the right fork and continue hiking farther up canyon and staying in the main drainage, you will reach the boundary between Death Valley and the Grapevine Mountains WSA (or Wilderness Study Area) about 4 miles later. That major canyon then continues on for several more miles deep into the Grapevines WSA. Thus, for reference purposes, I am referring to what would be the upper Grey Wall Canyon area as Grapevines WSA Canyon. Rosy Canyon, which is the name we have assigned to our loop route, splits off of Grapevines WSA Canyon and heads to the southeast toward the general direction of P8460. The north fork of Rosy Canyon begins about 2 miles past the first major fork in Grey Wall Canyon at an elevation of 3,860 feet, while the south fork splits off about 1 mile earlier at 3,710 feet. Since all of that information is probably a bit confusing, check out the detailed topographical maps linked to above and this one which has a wider view. But getting back to the challenge of just starting the hike, in order to reach the north fork of Rosy Canyon, it would require a nearly 8-mile hike from Scotty's Castle Road. And that mileage wouldn't include exploring Grapevines WSA Canyon, the three tafoni slot canyons within, or either fork of Rosy Canyon. So that option would be impossible as a day hike. Thus, we needed to find a faster way to get into the central area of exploration in order to see the most of this potentially incredible area.
Upon looking at topographical maps, there appeared to be some old 4WD roads and Jeep Trails which headed to the south off Hwy 267 not far from Bonnie Claire Flat and climbed up into the Grapevines WSA. These dirt roads would get us close enough to the area that we wanted to explore to allow for a long day hike. So that's what we ended up trying. Because the road through Grapevine Canyon (the Scotty's Castle area) was closed due to flood damage, we had to drive all the way around through Beatty and then Bonnie Claire in order to check out these dirt roads. Unfortunately, we had some trouble once we got there. We noted that the BLM had signed some of the dirt roads heading up into the mountains as closed. But we eventually found one which looked like it could be used. The rough road we took climbed 1,170 feet in elevation over the course of 4.55 miles. From there we began what I call the Rim of the World drive. The Rim of the World drive follows along the rim of Grapevines WSA Canyon with dramatic views down into the canyon with the mountain peaks in the background. The Rim of the World drive continues for 1.3 miles (trending downhill) before crossing over into Death Valley NP and ending. Even though it was challenging, we had finally made it to our ideal parking area for the hike. From there, we began our hike by walking along the rim of the canyon until we found a safe way to take the 500-foot elevation drop to the canyon floor. Grapevines WSA Canyon was a wide and majestic place. Highlights included some spectacular tafoni walls and hillsides, along with three very impressive slot canyons. The main slot canyon (marked as Slot #1 on the map) contained white sculpted narrows which went on for quite some time. At the end of the slot, we attained the hillside and dropped over the other side into the north fork of Rosy Canyon. This caused us to miss a one-mile section of canyon (marked in red on the map). But because our hiking route was so long, it was a necessary sacrifice. We were now heading up the north fork of Rosy Canyon and were continuously impressed with the wide variety of colors on display. The rocks, the walls, and the hillsides kept things interesting as we progressed up canyon. We had a neat experience about halfway up the canyon when a huge flock of playful Gray-crowned Rosy Finch birds flew in and completely took over a hillside. We spent a good amount of time just watching and photographing them as they searched for food and kept up a noisy chatter. Farther up canyon, there were some confusing forks. But after consulting together, we always chose the correct route. We finally arrived at the area of big trees which we had identified on satellite imagery as a worthy goal. Some of the trees were immense in size. We then obtained the pass above by following a steep gully up. On the way, more Gray-crowned Rosy Finch birds arrived and entertained us yet again. The pass area was quite interesting, with snow-capped Grapevine Mountain peaks all around us, including 7932T and P8460. We next dropped down the other side into the south fork of Rosy Canyon. Our objective on this side was a colorful area which we had spotted on satellite imagery and wanted to check out. To reach this area, it was necessary to climb out of the main canyon and drop into a side canyon which runs parallel to it a little bit to the north. When we arrived at the colorful area, we were totally overwhelmed by the beauty on display. The amphitheater area had an amazing array of colors, shapes, and patterns on a grand scale. We ended up naming the place Rosy Amphitheater. I actually think it is worth hiking an entire day just to reach this place alone (and that could be done as a day hike from Scotty's Castle Road). Due to fading daylight hours, we couldn't explore the various mini-forks of Rosy Amphitheater as much as we would have liked, but we were grateful for the time we did have there. You will see an impressive panoramic of this area included within the full set of photographs. A while later, we found ourselves at the spot where Rosy Canyon's south fork connects with Grapevines WSA Canyon. As mentioned earlier, this is about 1 mile past where most people stop their Grey Wall Canyon hike. We then completed our loop by hiking up Grapevines WSA Canyon and back to our vehicle. The entire loop route that we hiked was 13.7 miles in length with a cumulative elevation gain of about 3,300 feet. It was a true Death Valley adventure hike and another memorable and outstanding day in the Grapevine Mountains. We chose the name Rosy Canyon due to the abundance of Gray-crowned Rosy Finches and because it is a good match for the colors in the canyon. Joining me on this hike were my sister Tiffany, friends Tom and Sarah, and one of their friends who was visiting DV. Our hike took place on February 25, 2017.
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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