Forbidden Canyon is an extremely challenging hike through an obscure canyon into the depths of Tucki Mountain which visits two very beautiful dry falls. Difficulties encountered on the hike include route finding to access the canyon, hiking a long distance of 5 1/2 miles just to reach the mouth of the canyon, and overcoming the 1st dry fall by using an advanced skill bypass route that is very difficult. A Google Earth map of the hiking route (turned to the northwest for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the canyon mouth are 36° 32.724'N, 117° 3.793'W. GPS coordinates for the base of the 1st major dry fall are 36° 32.460'N, 117° 4.119'W.
Forbidden Canyon is one of the few major canyons in the park that I have assigned an informal name to. Up until my trip in February 2013, it was one of the largest Tucki Mountain canyons that had never before been documented by hikers. Although the canyon has likely seen several groups of canyoneers over the years, I am quite sure that no mere hiker has ever set foot in the inner canyon. The way the canyon has been formed, it is almost like it was made to keep hikers out to protect its secrets. The towering 80 foot dry fall that blocks passage a mere 10 minutes into the canyon is a menacing obstacle. Any previous hiking groups probably have felt that hikers are forbidden from seeing what lies beyond. And that's why I named it Forbidden Canyon. However, the time of secrecy for this canyon has now passed, as my friend Tobin and I were able to overcome the 80 foot dry fall by figuring out a bypass of high difficulty. The most challenging part of the bypass is figuring out the best and easiest routes. And there are several routes that go through. But there are also many other routes which will not work out and could create problems for a hiker. It is also a long bypass with a fair amount of elevation gain. Because the canyon mouth is located 5 1/2 miles from the parking area, it is doubtful that any other hiking groups would ever attempt this canyon. Once we became (likely) the first hiking group ever to overcome the 80 foot dry fall near the beginning of Forbidden Canyon, we had a much easier time coming back down the other side of the bypass and getting into the inner canyon. From there, we backtracked down the canyon and looked over the narrows and dry fall we had gotten past. Then, we headed up canyon. We were able to hike a full 3 miles up the canyon as we went past two major side canyons, through a short section of narrows, and finally reached the 50 foot 2nd major dry fall of the canyon. At the 2nd dry fall, we made a discovery that really shook us up. At the bottom of the dry fall, right near the polished chute, we found a recently deceased Kit fox. At first, I thought it was resting on the ground sleeping. But as I crept closer and kept taking pictures, it wasn't moving. It was then that it dawned on me that the Kit fox had suffered a horrible fate, perhaps only a few hours earlier. The Kit fox had obviously fallen off of the top of the dry fall. But what had caused the tragedy to take place? Thoughts raced through our minds and we discussed the possibilities. Perhaps the fox had slipped while scrambling across ledges at the top. Perhaps it had been cornered by a Bighorn sheep at the top of the dry fall and was knocked over the edge. Or perhaps the fox had even been spooked by canyoneers heading down the canyon and tried to make an impossible escape before tumbling over. Really, just about anything could have happened. But we took one lesson from the death of the Kit fox and it was this -- always be extremely careful when standing at the top of Death Valley dry falls. Don't get too close to the edge and stay off of ledges with exposure. Because the fate of the Kit fox could be the fate of anybody who does not put safety first while hiking in Death Valley. After eating lunch by the 2nd dry fall, we attempted to bypass it on the right side. And we got most of the way to the other side. But just before reaching the bottom, the terrain got a little bit too steep for us, so we called off the hike. From the spot where we stopped, we had just entered the steep narrows of the canyon. So there likely were more dry falls just ahead. Being that we were 8 1/2 miles into our day hike at this point, and keeping in mind the lesson of the Kit fox, we turned around. On the way back, I explored Forbidden Canyon's 1st side canyon. I didn't have much energy left, but I appreciated the colorful hillsides that I found there. We took a different bypass route on the way down which was a little easier, but still medium difficulty. And that was the end of our late Winter 2013 trip. The day hike of Forbidden Canyon was so punishing on my body that it took me a full week to recover after returning home before I felt like I was back to normal again. Forbidden Canyon had proved to be another great Death Valley adventure that we will never forget. Our hike took place on February 15, 2013.
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.
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