Panamint Valley is a great location for fall and winter off-roading. Temperatures are not too hot during the day and night time temperatures are reasonable. This two-day overland trip included rock crawling up to the old defense mine on day one and a longer adventure on day two. Panamint Valley Springs Resort, basically the only facilities in Panamint Valley, has a quiet campground with spectacular views across the valley. On this overland trip, we tent camped one night in the PVSR campground. PVSR also has rooms and a restaurant that serves a wide variety of beers and warm meals, in case you forgot your camp kitchen.
An early morning departure landed us in Panamint Valley well before lunch time, providing some time for initial exploring and this photo with the Death Valley National Park sign.
We randomly came across a fellow off-roader and quickly made plans to climb up to the Defense Mine.
With three Jeeps in our group, we were able to make it up to the mine in good time. Decades ago, when the mine was functional, the trail was a well maintained dirt road. But after years of erosion and falling rock, a high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicle is necessary.
Continuing the climb up from the valley floor.
Nearing the mine, there is plenty of parking. A short hike leads up to the mine entrance.
There are remains of some mining equipment, plus the structures and chutes.
Looking up the remainder of the canyon. If you are a good driver and equipped, you can attempt the climb up the face of this V canyon.
Entering the mine. It gets dark quickly, lighting is a must have. Overall, the defense mine has very little rubble on the floors, indicating how solid this rock mountain really is. You also need to pay close attention to your route as there are many additional chambers that go off into other directions, making getting lost an easy thing to do. There are also multiple levels of this mine, ladders climb up to additional levels that then have eventual exits at higher points in the mountainside.
Departing from Defense Mine, there is an easy 4 wheel route up to Lookout City, a point that provides incredible views spanning across Panamint Valley. Especially nice as the sun was setting. Old structures are found along the roadside.
The view from Lookout City as the sun begins to set.
Airing up at the end of the trail, before hitting the pavement back to Panamint Springs Valley Resort for dinner and some sleep back at the tent.
After dinner, we literally mapped out day two, using the map on the wall of the PVSR restaurant.
Day two started out with a hearty breakfast and a short drive to the trailhead for Darwin Falls. The hike to Darwin Falls takes about 30 minutes up a large sand wash. The water here flows year round and also supplies PVSR with water year round.
After our hike to Darwin Falls and some moderate 4 wheel exploring, we crossed the valley floor in search of the Pleasant Valley trail head.
Quickly gaining altitude.
The terrain varied while climbing Pleasant Canyon, coming across water and mud where you might least expect it.
The valley disappears behind us.
Nearing the top of Pleasant Canyon.
Literally the high desert. Here the trail cuts across to Southpark Trail.
Nearing Southpark Trailhead.
Before heading down Southpark.
We were somehow pre-occupied with safely navigating around “chicken corner” and forgot to take pictures at that point. The trail gets skinny on the shelf road and is also off-camber, angling your vehicle to the shelf side of the trail. It helps to have a spotter to get around chicken corner. The bridge crossing that followed was in good condition, though there are warnings for vehicle weight limits. Coming down the remainder of Southpark took some time, with boulders and other obstacles to navigate.
There are a few tight switchbacks on the way down, with slippery gravel. Though the Jeeps held tight.
The descent continued on with deep ruts, rocks, and, switchbacks….but provided outstanding views of the valley below.
Hitting the pavement as the sun went down and the moon rose. Just enough light to air up and head home into the darkness.
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