Mud Drip Canyon is an obscure canyon in the northwestern Panamints which contains mud drip structures and a secret side slot of considerable length. Difficulties encountered on the hike include navigating a rough (potentially 4WD) road to get to the starting point, route finding to access the canyon, and safely exploring the secret slot. A Google Earth map of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 36° 15.484'N, 117° 18.078'W. GPS coordinates for the mouth of Mud Drip Canyon are 36° 16.531'N, 117° 16.813'W.
This is the hike that kicked off our in-depth exploration of the major canyons between Nova Canyon and Nemo Canyon in the northwestern Panamint Mountains. This series of hikes came about because I was performing some minor updates to my Nova Canyon report one day. As I did this, I was reflecting back on my Nova Canyon hike in 2009 and I remembered passing by some side canyons in Lower Nova Canyon. I decided to take a closer look at these side canyons through satellite imagery. The side canyons within Nova Canyon turned out to look somewhat uninteresting. However, as I studied the entire area stretching from the mouth of Nova Canyon all the way down to Nemo Canyon (about 6 air miles to the southeast), I was surprised to find a large number of undocumented canyons with potential slots within them. After spending hours carefully studying this area, I targeted seven specific small and large canyons which I was interested in checking out on my February 2014 trip. These seven canyons were by no means all of the canyons, but they were the ones which seemed to hold the most potential to contain either true slot narrows or undiscovered natural bridges. I temporarily labeled these seven canyons as Nova Slots 1-7 to keep track of the area during our hiking, since nothing was officially named in between Nova Canyon and Nemo Canyon. Upon returning home, we decided to label Nova Slot 7 as Mud Drip Canyon and Nova Slots 5-6 as Teddy Bear Canyon because of what we found there. Nova Slots 1-4 became known as The Nova Slots because these four short canyons were all located very close to Nova Canyon.
For Part 1 of our three-day exploration of this area, Tobin and I started out by renting a Jeep at Farabee's. This would save us several miles of hiking in each direction, as we could then drive to a closer starting point along East Side Panamint Valley Road. There were a few spots along this road where we were glad that we had 4WD. As of November 2013, Jeep rentals are now a part of every Death Valley trip, as they allow me to explore areas I previously did not have regular access to. The hike up from the parking area at 2,050 feet to the mouth of the canyon at 2,950 feet was just under 2 miles, but it was over rough terrain. We had to angle slightly to the left the entire way up while crossing washes and walking along rough patches of hillside. Also, it was tricky to figure out which canyon to head towards, even with a GPS. When we finally made it into the canyon, the hiking became easier, although it was steep with sometimes deep gravel. About one mile into the canyon, the scenery became incredible. Massive walls rose up all around us. The late afternoon lighting brought out the colors of the walls. We passed by some of the most outstanding mud drip structures I have seen in Death Valley canyons. According to UC Berkeley, "these unusual features are formed when muddy water trickling down the wall of a canyon evaporates rapidly in hot, dry conditions, leaving behind a thin film of silt. As the process repeats, the layers build up, creating solid mud drippings." Being that mud drip structures are found throughout Death Valley and are especially prominent in this particular canyon, we decided to assign it the informal name Mud Drip Canyon. Beyond the mud drip structures, the canyon took a wide horseshoe turn through some nice narrows. It then passed through some tight spots created by fallen boulders, before dead-ending at a major dry fall. Tobin scrambled up some of the surrounding hillsides but found no safe way to proceed. At this point, we headed back down canyon past the mud drips to a side canyon I had also wanted to check out. Heading up the side canyon, we didn't expect much. The day was starting to get late and we would have to turn back soon. To our surprise, the side canyon ended up branching off into a very tight secret slot. The secret slot went on for a long distance. Eventually, it opened up into a small lost valley. From there, we were able to attain the ridge and look down the other side into the main canyon past the major dry fall. We had a great view from that spot at 4,250 feet, but that is where our hike had to come to an end. We likely could have bypassed down the other side into the main canyon. But with the sun setting and with a mostly wide upper canyon, continuing the hike was not in our plans. Thus, we headed back to our vehicle and reached it after dark. It had been a very successful start to our exploration of this area. Our hike took place on February 22, 2014.
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