PSR Fuel

Pleasant Canyon / South Park Canyon

(28 miles, or more with side trips)

The ghost town of Ballerat serves as the anchor point for this loop trail, the upper elevations of which are within Death Valley National Park. Trail conditions change periodically, worsening with bad weather, and improving with regular use. Traveling the entire loop is an all day activity; allow a minimum of six hours for this trip.

If ascending Pleasant Canyon, expect the fun to begin about five miles up the road, which heads east straight behind Ballerat. Here the trail joins the riparian streambed made of wet soccer-ball sized rocks and occasional granite steps. At times the vegetation is quite thick in one's windshield, limiting visibility to only a few feet. This stretch is nearly a half mile long, concluding with a stair step that for some requires the help of a strap. High clearance is most helpful here.

Upper Pleasant Canyon yields visitors a glimpse of Panamint Valley's rich mining past with the Radcliff Mine and the remains of the Clair Camp, and the World Beater Mine and cabin. At the top of the canyon is Rogers Pass, 6,430 feet in elevation, high above eastern Butte Valley. Route choices are continuing south along the ridge (careful! steep grades), or west descending into Middle Park, an open valley near the crest of the Panamints. Both routes meet and cross South Park valley and descend back to Panamint Valley via South Park Canyon.

About two miles below the trailside Colter Spring begins the half-mile long shelf road featuring the downward-tilting Chicken Rock and the famous log bridge. High up along the cliffside these two normally-tame obstacles present a challenge to one's nerves. At the bottom of the cliff is the fabulous Briggs Camp, and the boulder-sitting Thorndike Camp.

Below the camps the canyon narrows dramatically, and the route winds over the occasional staircase that provide those choosing to ascend the canyon an even tougher challenge. Finally, the route leaves the canyon floor to panoramic views of Panamint Vlley, then descending the final few miles on a slow and steep but graded road to the Ballerat Road, about 4 miles south of Ballarat.

For another account with milepoints see this BLM flyer.

Difficulty Rating: 3