Pleasant Canyon Loop Trail

4.8/5 (8 reviews)
Ballarat, California (Inyo County)
Last Updated: 05/01/2019
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Trail Information

Highlights

For the overlander who truly wants to explore the best of Death Valley, the Pleasant Canyon Loop Trail offers a little bit of everything. Mines, cabins, steep mountain ascents and descents, epic views, rocks, cliffs, wood bridges, and more. The loop begins and ends in the Panamint Valley and explores Pleasant Canyon, Middle Park, and South Park. Some of the many sites to visit are Claire Camp, World Beater Mine Cabin, Cooper Mine, Mormon Gulch, Rita's Cabin, Roger's Pass, Chicken Rock (see photo), Chicken Bridge, and Briggs Cabin. Chicken Rock is a downward-tilting, narrow section of the trail which tips your vehicle precariously towards a 200' vertical drop. Once past this obstacle, you face the famous 3-ton limit wooden bridge before descending back into the Panamint Valley to complete the loop.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

Trail Reviews

4.8/5 (8 reviews)
Erik
800
Status: Open
Visited: 10/05/2020

Ran this clockwise starting at Ballarat. The lower section on the way up is very overgrown but made for an interesting drive, expect some pinstriping. The entire trail is super scenic but the smoke was pretty heavy making the views from Roger's pass not as great as we had hoped. We had originally planned on camping in the South Park area but decided to push on to Butte Valley. There is a washed out section just above Chicken Rock that was, in my opinion, even sketchier. Chicken Rock is definitely an experience but not all that difficult. We were glad to get down off the shelf road and stopped at the cabins for lunch. One of the cabins was occupied and one was not. Overall, a great trail that has great views and a ton of history. Definitely worth the trip.
Status: Open
Visited: 02/16/2020

Did this counterclockwise in a 2017 RAM 2500 Power Wagon and do not recommend it to anyone with a huge full size unless you have an experienced co-pilot, there is minimal room for error on the South Park side. Everything was super easy including the infamous chicken rock, no lockers at all, maybe no 4WD. The trail description says no full size and I agree, I would not do this again in a full size because it was very slow going trying to keep the rig from scraping the wall and simultaneously not sliding off the cliff, you need expert eyes on both sides of the shelf road portion at all times. Jeeps and Tacos will enjoy a lot more than I did. I've been back to pleasant Canyon a few times and love that area of DV, but not via the South Park shelf road, that will probably be my only time on that road in a full size. Have I made my point about the full size?? Be safe, enjoy!
Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 02/16/2020

I just wanted to update since I'd been about a year since someone posted. This trail is open and in great condition! I kept it in 2 wheel drive for most of the trip, with 4 wheel drive being necessary for Roger's Pass climb and decent, and also needed for the section with Chicken Rock (and probably need 10" of clearance for the 2 main obstacles on that section of trail). Go have fun! See the video of my adventure below!
Status: Open
Rated 4/5
Visited: 07/03/2019

Took a quick day trip around this loop. On entry I took a slightly different route. About 0.5 miles from Ballarat I took a road that veered slightly to the left instead of the main road heading for the narrow entry of the canyon. This road stayed up higher on the ridge and then rejoined the trail after about 3 miles. This keep me from driving through at least part of the canyon with brush in it. Actually saw a bobcat on this detour. Past Rita's Cabin the trees get pretty thick and close to the road, wide or long vehicles will get pinstriped driving through. The drive along the Panamint crest is interesting, partly lost the road going over one of the peaks. Stopped for lunch at the overlook point. Saw a lot of burros going through the South Park area. Briggs and World Beater Mine cabins would make excellent spots to stay. Rita's cabin is trashed inside, but there appeared to be many good places around the cabin to camp. The old bridge just beyond Chicken Rock has been replaced. They built a steel retaining wall to block off the ravine and filled it. Photos are of this structure. Returned to Ridgecrest to experience the shaking that occurred over the following days....
Trail Review: Pleasant Canyon Loop Trail - Jim Means
Trail Review: Pleasant Canyon Loop Trail - Jim Means
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Status: Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 05/02/2019

Our first trail we visited in Death Valley and I'm sure glad we did! It's a great loop type trail full of burros, rocks, mining equipment and free cabins! Chicken rock was a blast, more exciting than a roller coaster. Definitely recommend starting on the northern entrance of the loop and going "counter clockwise" on the loop. Some real nice camping on the halfway part of the loop amongst some shade bearing trees. Also towards the end of the loop there are 2 free cabins that are worth trying to snag if you get there early enough. Highly recommend this trail.

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