Pleasant Canyon Loop Trail

Ballarat, California (Inyo County)

Last Updated: 05/01/2019
4.8 / 5 ( 5 reviews )
Information
Nearby Trails
Status: Open
Typically Open: Year Round
Permit Information: Permit Required - Click Here
Length: 26.8 miles
Highest Elevation: 7900 feet
Duration: About 6 hours, 40 minutes
Shape of Trail: Straight Through
Best Direction to Travel: N/A
Nearest Town: Ballarat
Nearest Town w/ Services: Furnace Creek
Official Road Name: Pleasant Canyon Trail
Management Agency: Death Valley National Park
District:
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Highlights

Highlight: Pleasant Canyon Loop Trail
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.

Video

Weather

7 day forecast for Pleasant Canyon Loop Trail

Route Information

Technical Rating:
( DIFFICULT - SEVERE )

Read more about our rating system

Waypoints

1. Ballarat (0 mi)
Ballarat is a living ghost town with one resident. He owns the general store which has maps, soda, and t-shirts for sale. It is customary to make a small donation for each vehicle entering Pleasant Canyon.

Directions to Trailhead

Trailhead Coordinates: 36.048046, -117.223957

Starting Point: Ballarat

From Trona, head north on Highway 178 north until you reach Ballarat Road. Head east to the remains of Ballarat ghost town. There is a general store and a few abandoned adobe walls, shacks, trucks, and machinery nearby. A great area to air down is at the corner of Wingate Road and Pleasant Canyon Road near the general store. From Panamint Springs in the north, head east on Highway 190. Turn right (south) on Panamint Valley Road then turn left on Ballarat Road to Ballarat ghost town. There are no gas stations in Ballarat so fill up in Trona (25 miles away) or Panamint Springs (30 miles away). Carry extra fuel with you, especially if you want to explore any side roads along the trail.

Camping

Dispersed

Land Use Issues

The vehicle and motorcycle entrance fees are $25 and $20, respectively, for 7 days. Vehicles are allowed to enter and exit the national park at will as many times as they want. For all entrance fee payment locations, go to: https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/fees-2016.htm. Pleasant Canyon Loop Trail is currently open but in the past it has been known to close near the wooden bridge in South Park Canyon. If so, signs may be posted on both ends of the bridge and travelers are required to turn around and head back the way they came. For the most up-to-date road conditions in Death Valley, check this Trailsoffroad website, the Death Valley National Park website (click on "More Information" below), or the Death Valley Road Conditions page on Facebook. The Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/DeathValleyRoadConditions/.

Trail Reviews (8)

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
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.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
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!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
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!

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
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....

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
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.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
Please note that the bridge shown as Waypoint #10 in the Trail Guide has been removed and the gap has now been filled in with rock allowing easier passage for all types of vehicles. When time permits, the Trail Guide will be updated to remove the bridge from the guide, GPS track, and video.

Author: Official Crew
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
A small group of us intended to spend the weekend at Briggs and Stone Cabins. We entered from South Park Canyon Road and the road was very rocky compared to when we visited in April 2017. There were large rocks, over 24" tall, and enormous washouts along the trail due to storm damage this past summer. One of our vehicles actually fell into one of the washouts and it required three (3) winches and a stabilizing tow strap to recover it.

Author:
Status: Open
Offroaded on:
Rating:
I cannot overemphasize what a beautiful trail this is. I've driven it perhaps 3 times and I recommend it most frequently to wheelers of all experience levels. The video focused mostly on Chicken Rock, which is daunting, but I'll say that just cruising around the maze of trails in both Middle and South Park Canyons is also awesome. There are places to camp everywhere and the area is filled with wild burros, too. There are some very interesting spur trails as well; one heading south from Upper South Park Canyon will take you a long ways through some fascinating terrain before it peters out. The spur trails on the north side of Pleasant Canyon are also worth exploring. Finally, for those with an interest in history, the story of the Manley and Rogers, the ones who passed over Rogers Pass, is also extraordinary. Their heroism is one of the most unrecognized stories in American history.

Questions & Answers (1)

Q: When was the trail description written, specifically the section that describes the bridge? Descriptions of features that aren't always open need timestamps. I've seen too many poor trail reviews that describe a trail only to find out that the review is many many years old and no longer applicable. From this article it appears that the author has been there at least 3 times. "Campfires are prohibited, except in fire pits in developed campgrounds." How many developed campgrounds are there along this route that have the required fire pits for campfires?
–Jim Means (04/29/2019)
–Marc Nitz (05/01/2019)
–Marc Nitz (05/01/2019)

Writer Information

Marc Nitz

Mapping Crew - California

Marc Nitz is a southern California native who loves exploring the outdoors. This is in large part due to his parents' love of summer road trips. Each summer the Nitz clan would venture out for at least one week driving and camping to assorted U.S. destinations west of the Rocky Mountains. Marc bought his first 4x4 at 17 years old and began seeking out more places off the beaten path. Now 30 years later, Marc explores the countryside with a family of his own. Some of Marc's favorite trails include California's Titus Canyon Road and the Pleasant Canyon Loop Trail, Colorado's Alpine Loop, and Utah's White Rim Trail. Most of all, Marc enjoys meeting fellow off-roaders and he is affiliated with a few 4X4 clubs in Southern California that has allowed him to do just that.
For individual use only, not to be shared.