Head BM (3,485 ft) is the second-highest named summit in the Quail Mountains, behind only Quail BM (5,103 ft). The Quail Mountains were added to Death Valley National Park on March 12, 2019. (More details about this can be found on our hiking report for Quail BM.) Because our hike to Quail BM turned out so well, I was really looking forward to seeing more of the Quail Mountains. And Head BM seemed like the next logical destination to hike to. The Quail Mountains are the smallest mountain range in Death Valley. So other than hiking to the two major summits, it would be hard to create a day hike with clear objectives. But I will certainly do more research on that possibility in the future. For this hike, I wanted to maximize the scenery and exploration of the Quail Mountains rather than just choosing the fastest route to the summit. For someone who wants to simply hike to the summit of Head BM just to reach it, the most efficient route would be to park at the major bend on Owlshead Mountains Rd just as it turns away from the military land fence (located at 35.627158, -116.682983) and hike about 3.75 miles one-way uphill until the summit is reached. However, the standard route to the summit lacks interesting scenery, as you are simply hiking uphill across open desert terrain. Thus, I came up with a brand new route which would allow for a loop hike of two colorful canyons which are located northwest of the summit.
To carry out our hike, we camped the night before in Sagenite Canyon. Weather conditions were perfect during the night (fairly warm with no wind), and we were able to enjoy a peaceful night looking up at the stars while keeping the top of our tent off. The next morning, we woke up and drove a short distance to the parking area for the hike. The ideal parking area to carry out our loop route is located 1.7 miles west along Owlshead Mountains Rd once you emerge from the section of road in between the mountains. This is just past the area where you would park if you were going to hike out to Owl Lake in the opposite direction. The hike begins by climbing a gentle rise for 3/4 of a mile until you drop into a main wash that heads southwest along the foot of the range. About 3/4 of a mile farther and you turn off to the south into a small canyon (labeled canyon #1 on our map) that cuts directly through the range. This is where the impressive scenery really starts. The canyon is a little less than one mile long, but there is a lot of scenery packed into that short distance. The scenery is mainly a combination of a variety of colors and unique rock formations. There are some narrow sections and some sections with towering cliffs high above. After a minor dry fall is climbed, the canyon comes to an end in a large circular amphitheater. This is where the steepest part of the hike begins with the ridge climb. While climbing up the ridge, you can look over to the left into the basin and canyon which will be used to loop back later in the day. Upon gaining 500 feet of elevation, a plateau is reached at the top of the range. Looking across the plateau, Head BM is visible for the first time. Another 150 feet in elevation must be gained in order to reach the summit. The Head BM summit has some very good views. My favorite views were of Owl BM, Owlhead BM, the Panamint Mountains, Owl Lake, and Epaulet Peak. But a lot more was visible than what I have listed. If you are willing to drop 100 feet in elevation down the other side, you can check out the remains of a crashed Dart. In fact, during our hike, I came across a number of Dart and aircraft remnants. A lot can be found by just paying attention and looking around while hiking. To complete the loop, we hiked back across the plateau and chose a different route down into the basin located east of the amphitheater we climbed out of earlier. There were many possible routes down but we chose the one which appeared to have the most gradual descent ridge. There is one large hillside above this basin which has incredibly vivid colors that rival Artists Palette (see Sample Photo #1 below). The purple, blue, and red colors are truly astounding. Eventually, all of the small washes of the basin join up and there is one canyon to follow all the way down (labeled canyon #2 on our map). This canyon had its own share of surprises and interesting sights to check out. Once we were about halfway through the canyon, we ran into two wild burros who were meandering down the canyon. We followed them out the rest of the way before crossing back over toward the parking area. Head BM had delivered a second memorable day of exploring the Quail Mountains and hopefully our two reports on the area (Quail BM and Head BM) will encourage other hikers to check out this newest area of Death Valley National Park. The hiking loop was 7.5 miles total with an elevation gain of 1,300 feet. Our hike took place on October 21, 2019.