The trail/route up Funeral Canyon starts next to the Texas Springs Campground not far from Furnace Creek in Death Valley. There are no signs nor trail markers, but the start of the route is obvious as it gently climbs through the Funeral Wash into the East Colman Hills. We hiked on a horse track through scenic badlands up to the mouth of Funeral Canyon. There was no vegetation anywhere along the whole trek and no shade until we reached the canyon. We were fortunate to have a friend with us who knew which canyon we were aiming for.
As we entered the lower end of Funeral Canyon the walls were mostly conglomerated alluvial materials (fanglomerate).
As we entered the narrows, the canyon a wider variety of colors and tones were presented and the canyon became deeper, darker, and more narrow.
Our guide (Jackie) took us up a narrow twisting side slot canyon. We had a few obstacles to bypass before reaching the end at a dryfall, then we came back by the same route. The side canyon by itself was worth the hike into the hills.
There are a number of narrow slot canyons in Death Valley but Funeral Canyon has several of the best ones. Taking good photos in the narrow dark slots is challenging. The key is to pick spots where there is reflected (not direct) light.
The route was a combination of narrows, open spots, barriers to scramble over, under, or around and rocky canyon grottos. At the upper end of our hike we reached a vertical dryfall. There were mor opportunites to explore above, but the distance was just right for a day hike so we returned the way we came for a total hike of about 8.5 miles (13.7 km).
On the way back we passed some old horizontal mine shafts. These were borate mines. Many of the old mines of the borax industry have been since closed with gates, but this one was away from the main tourist areas and was open for exploration.
Even at the end of February, this was a warm and dry hike. But it is such an interesting area with slot canyons, hoodoos, alcoves, fluted ridges, dryfalls, chokestones, colorful rocks, sheer cliffs, erosion gullies, buttresses, and twisted layers. The only other hike that was as good as this one was Sidewinder Canyon in the Black Mountains. We will be back to explore more of the Death Valley Canyons in late winter.
- mouth of Funeral Canyon – N33 28.377 W116 49.138
- Best Guidebook – Hiking Death Valley by Michel Digonnet