Nova Canyon is one of the most isolated and least visited major canyons in the Panamint Mountains and contains sections of narrows, a major dry fall, and a deep rocky gorge area. Difficulties encountered on the hike include crossing sometimes brutal terrain in order to reach Nova Canyon, route finding to progress up the maze-like canyon, and overcoming a major dryfall with a treacherous bypass in order to see the entire canyon. 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° 20.541'N, 117° 18.661'W. GPS coordinates for the mouth of Nova Canyon are 36° 18.989'N, 117° 17.613'W. GPS coordinates for the major dry fall are 36° 20.235'N, 117° 15.727'W.
Nova Canyon proved to be a very interesting and worthwhile destination. About one year prior to the hike, I began thinking seriously about visiting the canyon and even explored some of the smaller side canyons which are just to the north. I also took note of the majestic view of what I call the Ridges Section of Nova Canyon, as seen to the east when driving on Panamint Valley Road a few miles before it connects with Hwy 190. Nova Canyon particularly caught my attention because of the fact that it is not covered in any guidebooks, there are no pictures of the canyon in existence online anywhere (as of the time of writing), and it is a major officially named Death Valley canyon. Thus, this would be another opportunity for me to explore a location which nobody knew anything about and be able to share what I learned with others. As I hiked through Nova Canyon, one thing I realized is that the canyon is a bit confusing. Without a 7.5 minute topographical map or GPS unit, the likelihood of getting lost and ending up in the wrong side canyon is very high. There are three to four major turns in the canyon in which you need to take the smaller wash to stay in the main canyon while common sense dictates that you should be going the other way. Even with my maps, I was a bit confused and worried for the first half of the hike as to whether or not I was hiking in the correct canyon. But fortunately, I ended up making no mistakes and was able to see Nova Canyon from the beginning to the end in one day. The best way to reach the mouth of Nova Canyon is from the East Side Panamint Valley Road, which runs along the opposite side of Panamint Dry Lake. However, I decided to hike cross-country to Nova Canyon from Hwy. 190, in order to save 1,000 feet of elevation gain and about 1 mile of hiking. I don't recommend this route, as it was a total nightmare with constant ups and downs over drainages. I would never take it again and regretted it about 15 minutes after starting out. A few years later, I figured out a better route to take when I hiked out to the same area to explore what I call the Nova Slots. Because nothing is known about Nova Canyon, I'm including a Google Earth route map which shows the four main sections of the canyon as I have labeled them -- the 1st Narrows, the Ridges Section, the 2nd Narrows, and the Gorge Area. This should give you a good overview and idea of what it is like to hike the canyon by following along with my pictures and captions. Highlights of Nova Canyon include the great variety of colors found on the canyon walls and within rock formations and also the narrower sections of canyon that are passed through. If I had to guess, I would say that this canyon is likely only hiked once every couple of years. So you will have plenty of solitude if you go. Just a brief warning that the bypass of the major dry fall in the canyon is a bit exposed and treacherous, so I wouldn't recommend trying it unless you are with a skilled climber who has safety gear. If you do attempt the bypass, stay to the right so that you can avoid the exposure of the cliffs. And hike back down to the canyon floor very, very slowly. While I was on the bypass, I noticed that a bird of prey kept circling overhead, no doubt wondering if I was going to become its next meal. My hike took place on November 16, 2009.
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 stop at the major dry fall in the middle of the canyon and not try to get past it.
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