December 19, 2015

Smelter tower in Panamint City Death Valley

Panamint City is a high desert ghost town located in California's Death Valley national park in the Panamint mountain range. Panamint city was booming destination for mining prospectors in the late 1800s which rewarded these committed miners and families with silver and copper to prospectors and their families.

Panamint City, Death Valley
 The revenue generating city in the Panamint mountain had a mile long road which was destroyed in a flash flood that consequently limited the functionality of the city and created a challenging obstacle for future prospectors.
 Panamint City

 The resident living quarters, hotel, post office, and brothel, were starved to the point where the road was completely washed out in the 1980s which isolated Panamint City turning this thriving and lucrative establishment into a eerie and well preserved ghost town. 
Motel in Panamint City, Death Valley

Today the few intrepid hikers that visit this historic American mining frontier can find a ghost town full of artifacts including cars left behind, foundations to homes, a motel, a garage, old car remains, other house structures and a crumbling smelter tower with some interesting brick structure surrounding the town.
Panamint City Death Valey

 The city is at around 6250ft. above sea level so conditions can be quite different than they are in the valley or even at the Chris camp trailhead in surprise canyon.
Panamint City Death Valley

Laura and I encountered sub freezing temperatures upon our morning arrival and frost lightly sprinkled on the ground. It appears you can camp around Panamint city today as there were spots where camp fire remains were found and one of the buildings appeared to have a register where hikers have stayed inside and slept.
Panamint City, Death Valley

To get to Panamint city is not exactly a walk in the park. To visit this remote ghost town, there is around a 20 mile drive from Panamint springs to a dirt road that takes you across a dry lake bed to Ballarat ghost town.
Ballarat Ghost Town, Death Valley

 Ballarat has a few structures standing including rusted out machinery scattered around the property. We were greeted by a man who owns the property and had cold beers and soda available which was nice.
Ballarat Ghost Town, Death Valley

He mentioned that the truck in front belonged to Charlie Mansion which might be true but no evidence that it belonged to him. I'll take his word on it as it's an interesting story.
Ballarat Ghost Town, Death Valley

After you leave ballarat you have another few miles on a dirt road to a side road which became a 2WH high clearance road with a steady slope surrounded by a screw pile into the mouth of surprise canyon. After a couple miles up the road, come to
The trailhead for surprise canyon and a old mining claim fixed with some artifacts and a wooden device used to separate material from composition.
Laura mentioned that we are going to be camping on the trek to Panamint City because of the 6 mile one way up hill hike which I wasn't prepared for but we made it work with a little extra packing.
The trail to Panamint city from the trail head of surprise canyon is the most direct route and is also the road the led to Panamint city which can be noticed from time To time while hiking up to the top.
The trail leading to Panamint city has a steady slope that can give the experienced hiker a vascular manageable pace on this 6 mile, one way, trek to the top. Along the way you will pass a couple series of waterfall sections in the lower narrow corridors of the canyon that allow all kinds of plants to thrive with the surge of constant flowing spring water.
Surprise Canyon Hike to Panamint City

  The canyon opens up into larger gorge sections and narrows as you slowly ascend in elevation and pass different strata layers of rock. Some of the layers have mineral veins and a section of granite and marble was passed in a narrow section which was beautiful.
Surprise Canyon Hike to Panamint City

Did I mention that this hike is awesome? Well it was!!! Laura picked out a fantastic hike and I was surprised to see how interesting the hike was with a great piece of historic treasure to encounter. There was a lot of variety of interesting trail to encounter from scrambling over slippery waterfalls to pushing through heavily vegetated trail sections that grab your pack and can be a little Mis orienting at times until you pop through back into the talus and scree covered trail.
Surprise Canyon Hike to Panamint City

 At times you can get your feet wet from the spring water which abruptly starts at the springs resurgence and loses back underground or continues to flow out the head of the canyon. I looked for the springs resurgence and found it to be small clear water and heavily vegetated to the point where it will take quite a while to hack through. A large section of vines protects and feeds itself at the resurgence.
Surprise Canyon Hike to Panamint City

We ended up camping for a night in the middle of the canyon as sunlight was running out but found there were some great and pretty plentiful locations to set up camp the further you head up canyon.
Surprise Canyon Hike campsite Panamint City
The following day we passed another spring which had a small cave entrance around the bend from the small resurgence which appeared to be not much passage.

 The canyon continued to climb a dry and cold ascent meandering until we got to a final stretch where automobile parts were noticed on the side of the broken road along with foundation structures starting to appear as we passed the juniper line. I noticed a red tower of sorts and soon after, we came to the front line center of Panamint City!!!
Surprise Canyon Hike to Panamint City

This was a fantastic and a very unique hike which takes you through a variety of interesting features and rewards you with a destination being a historic ghost town locked in time. This easily a top 10 favorite hike of all time and I was absolutely surprised with the whole route from start to finish!!!

Panamint City, Death Valley

The remaining portion of this trip was a visit to the Panamint Dunes for an evening vista overlook of Panamint lake during sunset, a hike through falls canyon which was a nice hike to a dry fall, and a loop trip through Helios Canyon 3AII in Badwater basin which had some amazing views while hiking and scrambling to the top of the mountain.
Fall Canyon

The Dunes are a "must visit" because it is remote and you will most likely be the only group there.  the 5 mile road is a little rough getting to the dunes but once you are there, the hike is a 4 mile B line to the dunes.
Panamint Dunes

There is a great place to camp at the base of the dunes which overlooks Panamint Lake, the town and another 30-40 miles of Playa.
Panamint Dunes

 Upon our final approach to the dunes, the sun had set and we were left with a beautiful vista overlook of the valley below.  Laura and I enjoyed a beautiful night with the sun setting as we lounged on one of the dunes with a massive valley overlook and a beautiful sky above us!!! It was incredible.

Panamint Lake, Death Valley

Helios canyon had a drop which was around 180ft and another which was around 160ft but the other drops were less than 100ft.

Top of the 160ft drop in Helios Canyon, Death Valley
 The canyon narrowed and expanded and you descended down with dramatic views of Badwater basin.

overlooking badwater basin in Helios Canyon, Death Valley
 The route was completely dry and the anchors are natural so you want to check the webbing and replace it if needed. Also check the anchor to ensure rocks have not shifted which could create a fatal decision due to believing the rock pile is bomber left unchecked.
Rapid Fire drops in Helios Canyon, Death Valley
 I really enjoyed this canyon and our trip and I am looking forward to returning back to Death Valley in the near future.

Helios Canyon, Death Valley

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