Chalk Canyon is a favorite canyon of locals with white-colored hillsides and narrow canyon walls along with a dramatic tafoni slot canyon deep in the Saline Range. Difficulties encountered on the hike include having the proper 4WD vehicle to drive to the starting point, route finding to access the canyon, and getting past a boulder blockade just past the first major junction. Google Earth maps of the hiking route (with the second map turned to the west for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 36° 54.914'N, 117° 40.774'W. GPS coordinates for the mouth of Chalk Canyon are 36° 55.245'N, 117° 41.776'W. GPS coordinates for the beginning of Chalk Slot are 36° 55.279'N, 117° 42.065'W.
Chalk Canyon (also called White Cliffs Canyon by some Saline Valley regulars) is a hard-to-reach colorful canyon located in the Saline Range. While the canyon is quite well known to frequent area visitors, it sees little visitation due to its extreme isolation and requirement of having a 4WD vehicle to get to it. I had been wanting to carry out a hike of Chalk Canyon for about a decade before finally getting the chance to in January of 2016. What finally pushed this hike forward was being reminded of it while hiking Grand View Canyon in November of 2013. During that hike, there is an outstanding view across the small valley of Chalk Canyon that is seen from the lower part of Grand View Canyon. My first sample photo below shows that view, which also features the sun's first light shining on Saline Peak. Looking at the first sample photo can give you a good idea of the layout of the canyon. In that photo, you will notice that the hillsides of a wide area are covered by a white mineral or substance. This is where Chalk Canyon gets its name. Although the white substance covering the hillsides is not chalk, the area has the appearance of being painted with a natural "chalk" and thus the name is fitting. The completely white area measures about 1 mile north to south and nearly 1/2 of a mile west to east. In the photo, the two forks of the lower portion of Chalk Canyon are located along the bottom of the biggest section of white hillside (bottom center). Moving over to the right side of the photo, you can actually see the upper portion of Chalk Canyon as it splits into two smaller forks (at the 4,475 foot level) and eventually transitions into regular terrain. As mentioned earlier, 4WD is necessary in order to reach the starting point for the hike. Thus, the night before our hike of Chalk Canyon, my friend Tobin and I drove out to Saline Valley and camped at the Saline Valley Warm Springs. It was a frigid winter night, but I slept well because I had brought a sleeping bag rated for -5 degrees F. Once the sun began shining on our tents the next morning, we woke up and drove about 10.5 miles up Steel Pass Road and parked our rental Jeep. From there, it was going to be about 1 3/4 miles hike with 600 feet of elevation gain to reach the first major junction in Chalk Canyon. The bottom of the fan proved to be a bit tedious with less-than-ideal terrain. But it eventually became easier and we found ourselves hiking along a ridge above a major wash below us to our right. At the top, we joined up with an old miners trail and entered the mouth of the canyon. The early part of the canyon is covered by tafoni formations similar to what is found in nearby Tafoni Canyon (although on a much smaller scale). To our surprise, the lower canyon also featured a side slot canyon with beautiful narrows which forked off to the left. In looking at other reports online covering the surrounding area (of which, there are only a few with fleeting references to Chalk Canyon), I noticed that one hiker described Chalk Slot as "a beautiful slot canyon comparable to those of Utah and Arizona." Past Chalk Slot, the main canyon soon reaches the first major junction. This is an interesting spot, because looking to the right there is giant black boulder which blocks entrance to the right fork (which is the main canyon). In order to continue, a hiker has to take the left fork, which has a less difficult series of small boulders to climb past. Before completing the bypass to continue up the main canyon, we went ahead and explored the left fork fully. The left fork contained walls of white, stretches of canyon narrows, colorful hillsides, and a few obstacles as it continued for nearly 1/2 of a mile. We then returned back and used the second half of the bypass to continue up the right fork (or main canyon). It wasn't long before Chalk Canyon lived up to its name by completely immersing us in a world of white. The chalk-colored hillsides and pathway through the canyon became solid white and there were times when no other color was visible. The farther we continued up canyon, the more dramatic the white canyon narrows became. The canyon walls grew higher and higher as we continued for over one mile up the right fork. Eventually, another major junction is reached. Near this junction is the spot where we decided to turn around and head back to our Jeep. Visiting Chalk Canyon had proved to be a very interesting experience and was well worth the time and effort which it took to get there. The hike as we did it was about 7 miles RT with 1,650 feet of cumulative elevation gain. Our hike took place on January 2, 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