Contact Canyon is the most scenic of the five officially-named canyons in the northeastern Owlsheads with a spectacular area called the 4-Way Junction which has colorful cliffs and an arch. Difficulties encountered on the hike include route finding to access the canyon and bypassing major dry falls in order to continue beyond the 4-Way Junction. Google Earth maps of the hiking route (turned to the northeast for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 35° 53.212'N, 116° 38.206'W. GPS coordinates for the 4-Way Junction area are 35° 48.891'N, 116° 41.406'W. GPS coordinates for Con BM are 35° 48.931'N, 116° 39.860'W.
Successfully visiting Contact Canyon was an important moment in my Death Valley adventures, as upon its completion I was able to wrap up hiking all five of the officially-named canyons in the Owlshead Mountains. That's an accomplishment which has been done by very few people, especially considering that the Owlsheads are not a popular hiking destination and exploring these canyons involves hiking long distances. I had long heard that Contact Canyon was the best of the five officially-named canyons in the Owlshead Mountains because it has the most interesting scenery. After hiking it, I can say that the reputation was well deserved. Reaching Contact Canyon requires a hike of 4 miles down to and across the (usually dry) Amargosa River and then up through the Confidence Hills. The Confidence Hills can be slightly tricky to navigate through. If you choose the wrong wash (as we did), you can always attain a small ridge and cross over to the right place. The mouth of Contact Canyon is very distinct when seen from a distance, so it should be easy to target while hiking. From the mouth, it is another 3 1/2 miles to reach the 4-Way Junction. So that is 7 1/2 miles one-way from the parking area to the 4-Way Junction. The scenery along the way is quite enjoyable to check out. The canyon is never extremely wide and there are always rocks and formations to keep your interest. The 4-Way Junction is a melting pot of different rocks and minerals of various colors. Everywhere you look, the cliffs have unique textures and formations. There is even a fairly large arch above the canyon which we nicknamed the Contact Arch. We have labeled the area the 4-Way Junction because that's exactly what it is -- a place where the main canyon divides into four smaller washes with minor canyons heading to the northwest, west, southwest, and south. The western and southwestern forks seem to be a continuation of the main canyon for the most part. We first followed the western fork back a short distance until we could climb up the hillside and get a better view of the Contact Arch. We then returned to the 4-Way Junction and took the southwestern fork. This was fairly difficult as we had to bypass two major dry falls which could not be safely climbed. But we successfully got past them and had a view of the upper canyon once it heads into the volcanic section. From there, we attained the ridge and got some outstanding views of Through Canyon, Granite Canyon, and Owl Lake. We followed along the ridge to Con BM, which was an excellent viewpoint and place to stop for a break. Finally, we followed a ridge back down and caught a side canyon which deposited us close to the mouth of Contact Canyon. At the end of this side canyon, there was one challenging downclimb which we got past with caution. It turned out to be an incredible loop and an amazing hiking day that we will never forget. This canyon is definitely highly recommended to see some of the Owlshead's best scenery. Our entire hiking route turned out to be 17 miles RT with a cumulative elevation gain of 2,900 feet. Our hike took place on March 9, 2011.
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