Our last full day of the annual Thanksgiving Trip to the desert was an adventure! We decided to do the run up Warm Springs canyon into Butte Valley, but instead of continuing through the valley and up towards Mengel Pass, we turned off towards Arrastre Springs to explore that area. The day was primarily spent on 4×4 road with regular stops to run around and explore interesting places. Two of the vehicles were 4×4 with good clearance. Our 4×4 was a bit lower and the road was pushing our clearance limits at times, and the fourth vehicle had lots of clearance but not 4×4. Everyone made it on the route just fine, with minimal white-knuckling.
The road from West Side road into Warm Springs canyon is washboarded but quite passable in any car. In fact, as you continue through the canyon the road is quite good for a while. We stopped at the first place of interest, the old Grantham talc mining area, and spent a long time exploring all the ruins in the area. We continued up the canyon and saw several people at Warm Springs so decided to leave it for our return down the canyon later in the day.
At Warm Springs the nice road deteriorates and we passed a tricky 4×4 section. After that it was much smoother 2-track, except the buildup of gravel and rocks in the middle was occasionally a bit high for our Trailblazer. Emerging from Warm Springs canyon, we found ourselves in the wide open Butte Valley with beautiful views of the mountains around us. Here, we turned off of Warm Springs road and up an even smaller 2-track towards Arrastre Springs.
It took us about 30 minutes to cover the 2 miles to the end of this road where we left the cars and hiked in toward the spring. We spent most of the afternoon in this general area, exploring petroglyphs, being nerdy at a confluence point (where latitude and longitude degree lines cross), and looking for wild burro. It was a ton of fun, but as the stupid winter sun began to set we knew we had to be on our way back through Warm Springs before dark.
We stopped by the springs on the way back and explored the old mining equipment and buildings. Several people were camped out here – I wouldn’t camp here myself given the popularity and number of people who are exploring the area. If I want to backcountry camp, I don’t want to be in the ‘middle of nowhere’ with three other groups.
On our way out of the canyon and back into Death Valley we caught a great sunset over the Funeral Range, a wonderful ending to what was once again a perfect trip to the desert.
Pictures and a detailed trip report from today are here: Warm Springs Canyon to Butte Valley