Telephone Canyon is a short canyon hike which contains a stunning rock arch shaped like a telephone and ruins of mining activity which include a circular arrastre lined with large polished stones. Difficulties encountered on the hike include needing high clearance (and possibly 4WD) to reach the starting point for the hike and advanced route-finding abilities if hiking farther up canyon past the mining ruins or if attempting the bonus hike referenced below to Jalopy Canyon. A topographical map of the hiking route can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 36.486936, -117.199330. GPS coordinates for the Telephone Arch are 36.482505, -117.197496. GPS coordinates for the old car in Jalopy Canyon are 36.486174, -117.178701.
Telephone Canyon contains the Telephone Arch, which is perhaps the most famous arch in Death Valley. It is one of the few arches to have an official name. Although identified as an arch, an argument could be made that the Telephone Arch is actually a major natural bridge, because a wash which drains water from the hillside above flows directly underneath the arch. Regardless of its designation, visiting the Telephone Arch, Telephone Canyon, and nearby Tucki Mine combines for a great day of activity in Death Valley, assuming you have the proper vehicle to handle the road conditions. As far as actual hikes, there are three options in the Telephone Canyon area. All three options involve parking at the junction of Telephone Canyon and Tucki Mine Road. Getting to this spot requires a HC (high clearance) vehicle at the minimum. During my most recent visit in March of 2018, I found the road to be very rough, to the point where 4WD and good quality tires would almost be essential. There is a minor rock-step climb just prior to the parking area which some drivers will find challenging. The first hiking option is to do the short (1 mile round-trip) hike up Telephone Canyon to see the Telephone Arch and mining ruins at Telephone Dry Spring. This is the option that most everyone does when visiting the area. The mining ruins are quite interesting because of the presence of the circular arrastre. When viewed for the first time, an arrastre resembles a fancy man-made pond for holding water. When Telephone Spring had flowing water long ago, water was diverted into this arrastre. An arrastre is a complex mechanism for crushing ore and releasing the gold within. There is much more to it than just the water holder. Next to the arrastre, you can see a rock-lined channel once used for draining the water and ore remnants, as well as a couple of rock wall dams just beyond. The second hiking option is to continue hiking up Telephone Canyon past the well-known spots. About 3 miles up canyon, you can find one of the few remnants of the freight road which contained the telephone line between Skidoo and Rhyolite. You can pick up the road on the right side of the wash (heading up canyon) just before reaching 4,000 feet in elevation. If attempting this hike, keep in mind that there is a major 3-way junction in Telephone Canyon at about 3,275 feet in elevation. Upon reaching this junction (heading up canyon), take the right (or southwest) fork. The third option is to start at the same parking area, but hike to a nearby canyon which I refer to as Jalopy Canyon.
In an effort to expand exploration of the area, I ended up crossing over two major ridges to drop into the next major canyon to the northwest of the parking area. A number of the other unnamed canyons located in between Stretched-Pebble Canyon and Telephone Canyon have been documented by hikers during the past decade, but not this one. Getting to it was not an easy task. Reaching the canyon involved a 300-foot steep climb up to the first ridge, walking along the top of the ridge, finding a safe route down into the middle wash and then back out on the opposite side, walking along the top of the second ridge, and then finally dropping into the main canyon being targeted. This canyon would be more easily accessible by hiking in from Hwy 190, but that route would also be a lot longer (about 1 1/2 miles extra each way). Upon dropping into the canyon (at 3,325 feet in elevation), I was surprised to find an old car partially buried in the wash. It was a surprising find, since no previous hikers or reference materials had ever reported an abandoned car in this area. It also showed that at one time somebody had driven about 4 miles up this canyon. The car was somewhat intact but pieces of it were scattered all around in the wash. Thus, the informal name Jalopy Canyon was suggested by fellow DV hiker Kauri, which I thought fit perfectly. With the help of some antique car experts, the car I found was identified as a 1918 Briscoe Touring Car Model B424 (proof here). Beyond the car, I hiked up canyon about one mile to 3,950 feet in elevation, where I encountered twin dry falls which looked too challenging to bypass. While I was unable to get past this obstacle, I watched as a Kit fox with a beautiful red coat made getting past it look easy. I'm sure you'll enjoy seeing some of the scenery within this obscure canyon by checking out the included full set of photographs. My first hike into Telephone Canyon took place on February 20, 2009. But this report is based on my most recent hike, which took place on March 19, 2018.
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