The Cauldron is a circular area of scenic badlands which contains sections of narrows, minor and false natural bridges, rock-topped pinnacles, and eroded cliff formations. Difficulties encountered on the hike include route finding to navigate the mazes of forks within The Cauldron and using basic crossover trails to connect different forks. A Google Earth map of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the use trail out of the Fall Canyon wash are 36° 49.886'N, 117° 10.539'W. GPS coordinates for Badlands Bridge and the junction of all forks within The Cauldron is 36° 50.044'N, 117° 11.004'W.
In between the mouth of Fall Canyon and the mouth of Palmer Canyon, there is a circular areas of badlands which measures about 6/10 of a mile north-to-south and 4/10 of a mile west-to-east. The NPS refers to this area simply as The Badlands, but I have labeled it as The Cauldron ever since my first visit. The reason that I assigned this name was that the area is circular in shape, especially if you note the shape of the main south fork and main north fork as connected together. The word cauldron can be defined as "a large, round container for cooking in, usually supported over a fire, and used especially in the past". The definition fits well, especially because miners in Death Valley's past times no doubt used cauldrons over their campfires to cook meals. The Cauldron is a location which I had partially visited many times before carrying out a full exploration of the entire area. The first time I came across the area was in November of 2009 while on my way to hike Palmer Canyon. In order to reach Palmer Canyon using the shortest route from the Titus Canyon parking area, it is necessary to circle around the ridge above The Cauldron on use trails. From the ridge, the view down into the badlands looks quite spectacular and beckons you to explore further. Being that the area looked so interesting from above, I felt that The Cauldron deserved a hike of its own. Thus, I went about putting together a route which would cover the highlights of all the various forks. Exploring the entire area using my route requires a half day of hiking. For those who prefer it, this hike can easily be combined with a hike of either Palmer Canyon or Fall Canyon, especially on days where there are longer daylight hours. The hike is probably a little bit too rough for younger children, but older children would likely enjoy seeing some of the highlights. Let me go ahead and share with you my suggested route for exploring this area.
As you are hiking the connector trail from Titus Canyon to Fall Canyon, there is a fairly obvious trail which splits off 4/5 of the way there that heads toward Palmer Canyon. This spur trail drops you into the Fall Canyon wash earlier, which must be crossed to the other side. At the other side, there is an use trail which climbs up the bank and overlooks the vast circular area of The Cauldron. At this point, you will have sweeping views to enjoy. The map that I am providing above shows how I have broken down the area into eight different named forks. These are labeled as main south fork, main north fork, chaos fork, tight slot fork, best slot fork, false bridges fork, mini-Bryce fork, and pinnacles fork. A complete exploration of the entire area involves visiting all eight of these forks. From this initial overlook location, I recommend immediately scrambling down (at a safe spot) into the main south fork of The Cauldron. This fork is uninteresting for the most part, but it helps you to appreciate the scale of the area you are now exploring. As the fork heads downhill, it eventually passes through some short narrows and reaches the junction of all major forks. At the junction is Badlands Bridge, the name of a minor natural bridge which stands at the gateway into The Cauldron's central area. Upon getting some photographs of the natural bridge, I suggest heading briefly up the main north fork to check out the rugged and dramatic narrows. This early part of the main north fork is labeled as the chaos fork due the shapes and designs of the rocks and canyon walls. Once you have passed through the best parts, return back down to the junction and head to the east into the central area. About 1/10 of a mile through the canyon, turn off to the right (or southeast) into the tight slot fork. The reasons for the name will be obvious. We continued quite a ways up this fork, but that's not really necessary once you have seen the best parts. You can return back to the canyon and continue hiking to the east until you pass through some dramatic narrows. There is soon another split and turning to the right puts you into the best slot fork. Again, the reasons for the name will be clear. We hiked this fork all the way to the end and then returned back down to the central area. Continue up this fork at least until you pass through both main sets of narrows. Returning back down to the canyon, the route soon curves to the northeast and enters the false bridges fork. This is an area where canyon walls have collapsed and boulders have fallen into the canyon creating a couple of false natural bridges. It is a very interesting area to check out. However, there is a major dry fall in the middle of the fork which we were unable to climb. So we backtracked down canyon a little ways until we found a safe and easy spot to attain the minor ridge above (about 60 feet in elevation higher). From here, you can hike along the upper plateau towards a fork which drains to the west. Following this drainage for 1/10 of a mile deposits you back into the main north fork. From this spot, there are two more forks to check out up canyon. The first is the mini-Bryce fork, which features some of the most spectacular eroded cliffs formations in the Grapevine Mountains. This is definitely a must-see area. The second is the pinnacles fork, which features several tall pinnacles topped by rocks. We found a way to exit by scrambling out of The Cauldron in this area. But most hikers will probably find it easier to return back down the main north fork to the junction of all forks. Somewhat nearby The Cauldron (about one mile to the northwest) is Turret Natural Bridge. We decided to include Turret Bridge (as well as the lower section of Little Arches Canyon) on our day hike. Thus, you will see some photographs of Turret Bridge included within this report. Turret Bridge was discovered by Kauri in December of 2014. Our hike took place on November 26, 2016.
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