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North Ranch Mountain Bikers' Off-Schedule Ride


Titus Canyon in Death Valley


Walt ()


April 7, 2007




 I (Walt) am planning a trip through Titus Canyon the weekend of April 6th, weather permitting. This is a shuttle ride of apprx. 27 miles on a dirt/gravel road. It is strenuous but not technical except for a patch or two of deep gravel. Incredible views, a ghost town, petroglyphs, and a stunning finish as the canyon walls climb vertically to over 500' while the road narrows to only 20' wide. This ride climbs gradually about 2000' over 13 miles and then a 5000' gradual descent into & out of Titus Canyon. No reliable water sources however, a spring is usually running about mid-way of the trip. Temperatures are not bad that time of year, 65-75 degrees at altitude and 85-95 on the valley floor. Will be staying Friday night, the 6th, in Stovepipe Wells, riding Saturday and another night in Stovepipe Wells. Depending on preferences, camping is available @ $12/nite and I am also holding 5 standard rooms ( 2 twins per room )@ apprx. $101/nite. First come first served. There is also a $20 NPS auto entrance fee. Need to know asap if you're interested.

Walt's report after the trip

Photos of the trail, virtural and real

Profile of Titus Canyon Rd, starting at Hwy 374 on the mesa 3400 ft above Death Valley. The ghost town of Leadfield is at mile 14.
Google Earth view of the Titus Canyon Rd, heading west towards Death Valley, where it starts to enter the mountains.
Google Earth view, a little further west along the road.
The next few images are from Google Earth as we move west along the Titus Canyon Rd, towards Death Valley.
The road is accentuated in these images to make it easier to follow the trail.


Coming to the end, with Death Valley beyond.
This last Google Earth view is from the Death Valley side, where the road emerges from Titus Canyon.
From the canyon floor, this is what it looks like near the exit to Death Valley.




Emerging from the Canyon into Death Valley.
Out of Titus Canyon and into Death Valley.

Walt's photos from the ride

1st rate accomadations.JPG
500' drop from false pass.JPG
After 3 hr road climb from D.V., ready for dirt.JPG
All the comforts of home.JPG
Bungalow suites with a view.JPG
Cool rock formations.JPG
Desert colors.JPG
Initial 4200' climb out of D.V..JPG
Kinda ominous.JPG
Long Beach State geology students on top of Red Pass.JPG
Lovely vacation spot.JPG
Start of Titus Canyon rd..JPG
Sunrise from camp.JPG
Sunset from desert camp site.JPG
Swithbacks leading to Red Pass.JPG
The last stretch to top of Red Pass.JPG
The view down into Death Valley.JPG
Tough little climb.JPG
View north towards Titus Canyon from Red Pass.JPG

Walt's report after the trip: My original thought was to solo this, which is what happened after other folks had cancelled. Drove to Stovepipe Wells on Friday April 6th, where it was 102 degrees by noon. Hung out in Death Valley seeing the sites then drove to the termination of Titus Canyon and Hwy 267 to cache extra food & water. Then, near sunset, I drove up and out of Death Valley 20.2 miles to the start of the Titus Canyon Rd and drove in a 1/4 mi to a secluded spot to camp for the night. The desert at night is soooo quiet, just me, a few bats flyin around, and the Vegas lights glowing 100 miles to the south.

Up at 5am, left another cache of food, water and clothes then drove back down into Death Valley to my starting point at the junction of Hwy's 267 & 374 where there is an information kiosk and parking lot. At 7am, popped 60 psi in the tires and at 200' elevation and already 82 degrees, started the 2 1/2 hr climb back up Hwy 374. It's 4100' of gain in 13.2 miles on a very consistent grade but the scenery is awesome as you look back at the panorama of DV. You ride through "Mud Canyon", past "Hells Gate" till finally topping out at "Daylight Pass" (elev. 4316'). From here it was a screaming 4-mile downhill into Nevada and 3 additional miles of flat desert road riding to the Titus Canyon road (elev. 3,400') and my morning cache of supplies.

While resting I began encountering the first of a daylong caravan of vehicles starting up the dirt road. Being Saturday, this was to be a common occurrence, with everything from jeeps to mustang convertibles creeping by. Most people slowed down and asked if I needed water or food. I literally could have ridden the entire road with no supplies save for the handouts from the tourists!

The first 7 miles of dirt consist of wide-open views as I very gradually climbed towards the mountains. Although the riding was easy, ya gotta luv washboards, as that makes up the first 10 miles or so of riding. At apprx. 7 miles the road gradually steepens as I entered an area of black volcanic rock formations. The climbing continued as I reached a false summit at mile 11. From here I could see the high point of the ride, "Red Pass" (elev. 5,250') as well as the 500' drop that had to be regained by a steep set of switchbacks in order to reach the pass. Being almost a mile high, the temps were pleasant and the grind to the pass wasn't that bad (not)!

Red Pass is, well, red! A group of Long Beach State geology students were clamoring around studying the twisted geology while I kicked back and ate lunch. The view from Red Pass is awesome as everywhere you look there is a rainbow of muted colors covering the distant mountains. The other cool thing about Red Pass is that I knew the remaining 13 miles of dirt/gravel riding was all downhill.

After lunch, a steep, mildly technical switchback descent brought me to the ghost town of "Leadfield". Not much there so I continued on. At this point the cliffs began to rise around me and the road surface turned to deep gravel. The riding was easy so long as I stayed in vehicle tire tracks, miss those however, and the gravel just sucked the front tire in like quicksand. A few more miles and an ominous sign announced I was entering THE Titus Canyon.

As I continued descending there were two things I was constantly aware of, the walls were gettin higher and closer and it was definitely gettin warmer. Another mile brought me to one of the stranger sights of the trip, a large water puddle in the middle of the road. Upon closer inspection I noticed water running into the puddle from a tiny stream running parallel to the road for 200'. The source was Klare Spring, hidden amongst a thicket of green willows, apparently the only green things growing anywhere in sight. Even though I had a filter, it wasn't needed as I was still carrying plenty of H2O. Next to the spring were rock petroglyphs. They were easy to see and quite interesting.

A bit further and I could see the beginning of the canyon narrows. Although this section is only about 3 miles long it was a 10 on the impressive scale. The canyon walls are now vertical and continuously closing in as the road snakes its way downhill. The temperature began a sudden rise but I was in complete shade the whole way. I had to keep riding my brakes to slow enough so I could enjoy the otherworldly formations and different rock textures, which appeared around every corner. Photos just don't do this section justice; you have to see it first hand.

A final sudden corner and bright light and a blast of hot air told me the canyon exit was at hand. I flew past some hikers as the expanse of Death Valley opened like a book in front of me. From here it was a flying 600' descent in 2.7 miles to the valley floor, Hwy 267 and my last water cache. Here, at 4:30 pm, it was 102 degrees again but with the added pain of a 15-20 mph south wind. I rehydrated, downed some gels and headed south on the highway directly into the wind. Although only 14.3 miles with some moderate ups and downs, this section, which I expected to cruise, turned out to be the crux of the route due to the strong winds.

I finally arrived at my vehicle at 6pm. Eleven hours total but only 7 hours of actual riding time (stopped for TONS of pictures & lunch). Total distance, 61 miles, of which 27 were on dirt and apprx. 6,500' of elevation gain. Overall this was an enjoyable and very scenic ride and not as taxing as I initially thought it would be. Yes, it would be much easier as a shuttle ride, but hey, maybe next time.


Thanks for looking at Steve's guide to mountain biking trails in Ventura County, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) and other locations frequented by the North Ranch Mountain Bikers.