Each Sidekick Off Road Map features:
- A State Map showing where the trail is located.
-A Vicinity Map (shown online) to guide you to the area where the trail is located.
-A Detailed Topographic Map drawn to scale. The topographical map guides you through the trail or area by showing roads, 4x4 trails, creeks, washes, gates, trail difficulty ratings, camping locations and points of interest that are numbered to correspond with the Trail Guide.
-A Trail Guide describes the trail or trails through the area. Full color photos are used to help show the area.
-The General Information (shown online) section provides background on the area.
-The Statistics Section (Stats) gives all the vital information about the area. For example: costs, nearest hospital, land manager's phone number, camping information, limits, etc..
-The Off Road Tips section includes safety, equipment and driving techniques.
THIS MAP: Published 1995.
The Panamint Mountains are 38 miles northeast of Ridgecrest, California. Most of the mountains are within the Death Valley National Park. Street legal vehicle is required within the National Park. OHVs (green stickered vehicles) are allowed on existing roads outside the Park on public lands managed by the BLM. Desert terrain full of history and mines.
NOTE: Surprised Canyon is now CLOSED to motorized vehicles! (6/01)
The Panamint Mountains contain considerable history about mining in the late 1800's. Ballarat began in 1897 after the miners outgrew their settlement in Pleasant Canyon (Clair Camp). Each day miners rode on wagons nearly six miles to Clair Camp before taking the 2,400' aerial tramway to the Radcliffe Mine (6,496'). Chris Wicht, Ballarat's bartender, made his home at the mouth of Surprise Canyon. Today George Novak and his son, Rocky, are living there and mining a nearby claim. Panamint City is located at the top of Surprise Canyon. During the Panamint City boom days, 1873-1876, the main street housed nearly 2,000 miners and some population figures are as high as 5,000. The bottom section of the road washed out in 1984 and now requires a winch to get over the seven falls.
The road into Happy Canyon was closed by the Desert Protection Act (DPA) about 2.5 miles up the canyon. If you hike it, the road winds up into the Panamint Mountains past an old mill site and through brush as it follows the stream. Near the end of Happy Canyon is a cabin and small mine of the Westons, who still operate it. Surprise Canyon requires a winch to climb over three washed out sections.
The Trail Guide describes Surprise Canyon, Pleasant Canyon and gives details on a trip through Goler Wash across Mengel Pass and into Death Valley. This is the only connecting 4WD road between Panamint Valley and Death Valley. Of course, the trip wouldn't be complete without stopping by Barker Ranch, the place where Charles Manson was captured. There are many cabins throughout the area which welcome visitors to stay on a first-come basis. The owners simply ask you to keep the cabins neat and sign the "guest book."
These mountains are a great place to explore. However, with the expansion of Death Valley "green stickered vehicles" can only travel a short distance up the canyons before reaching the park boundary. For street legal vehicles, only Happy Canyon was closed by the DPA. If you wish to explore the area with an organized group, contact the Calif. Association of 4Wheel Drive Clubs for details on their annual Panamint Valley Days event held in November each year (916) 332-8890.
It is possible that the new park could close Surprise Canyon. So if you're planning a trip up Surprise Canyon, call the park before you leave home.