The gravel road used to access the Keane Wonder Trailhead.
|Total Distance: 2.8 miles point to point (dead end)||Elevation Gain: 665ft. up, 230ft. down (676ft. to 1,325ft.)|
|Road Difficulty: 1.2||Bicycle Difficulty: More Difficult|
|View Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0 stars||Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0 stars|
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|Pets: Yes||Horses: No|
|Best Seasons: October-May||Special Permits: None. Gate closes at dusk.|
|Water Availability: None||Overnight Options: None|
|Amenities: None||Crowd Factor: Moderate|
Mile-by-Mile: Keane Wonder Access Road
0.0 Keane Wonder Access Road on the Beatty Cutoff Road (890ft.). Follow the gravel road east across the desert toward the mountains. The road occasionally crosses washes, which may be rough or impassible after flash floods. Be sure to look up in the mountains for the remains of various mining relics – they’re especially photogenic in the morning or evening light. (36.667109°, -116.954438°)
History & More
The access road was built to allow machinery and supplies to be delivered to the Keane Wonder Mine, Mill, and bunkhouse. Today, it’s maintained by the national park service, who may close the road from time to time until they can regrade the road after storms, etc.
In 1903, Jack Keane and his friend Domingo Etcharren traveled into Death Valley to look for gold. Domingo gave up after a while, but on his way out, he discovered a vein of gold. He returned long enough to tell Jack of his find before walking back out to civilization. Jack Keane did some tests and found that the gold was not only high quality, but also easy to extract from the ground. The area was developed by Joseph DeLamar and then by Homer Wilson, who brought the mine into a profitable venture, including building the aerial tramway. By November of 1906, the mine was producing gold.
The aerial tramway was a feat of engineering, especially for its day. Ore buckets were automatically loaded with 600lb. of ore, the clutch was released, and the next ore bucket would be automatically pulled into position to be filled (the weight of the ore carried the buckets down the mountain). At the base of the tramway, the ore was dumped out and the buckets returned to the top of the mountain for more ore.
The gold ore from the Keane Wonder Mine was only partially processed on-site. The on-site 20-stamp mill could extract about 62% of the gold ore; when the cyanide plant was installed, it was able to recover 92% of the gold extracted from the mine. After being partially processed, the ore was transported to Rhyolite for final processing.
There was once a stamp mill at the site of the mill ruins (up the wash beyond the parking area). It was eventually sold to a company in Los Angeles. A cyanide processing plant was located just down the hill. The chemicals were used to extract gold from the tailings left over from processing the ore in the stamp mill.
Download Road Map
The Keane Wonder Access Road begins on the Beatty Cutoff Road – 4.3 miles south of Hell’s Gate on the Daylight Pass Road and 5.7 miles north of Beatty Junction (CA-190 between Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells).
Leave No Trace Principles are enforced
Drones and model aircrafts are prohibited
Camping is permitted only in designated sites or in areas open to dispersed backcountry camping
Click here for all park rules and regulations
12 Month Pass: $55/Death Valley Annual Pass (valid at Death Valley National Park). $80/America the Beautiful Annual Pass (valid at all national park and federal fee areas). $20/Annual Senior Pass (62 years or older US citizens; valid at all national park and federal fee areas). Free/4th Grade Pass (Valid Sept. 1-August 31 of the child’s 4th Grade school year). Free/Military Pass (valid for all active military personel and their dependents with a CAC Card or DD Form 1173).
Lifetime Pass: $80/Lifetime Senior Pass (62 years or older US citizens; valid at all national park and federal fee areas). Free/Access Pass (available to all US citizens with perminent disabilities). Free/Access for Veterans and Gold Star Families Pass (valid for all military and veterans with a CAC card, Veteran HJealth Identification Card, Veteran ID Card, or veteran’s designation on state-issued drivers license or identification card.)
Keane Wonder Access Road
There isn’t much to say about the Keane Wonder Access Road – it’s not like you can possibly get lost. The road begins along the Beatty Cutoff Road and takes you across the desert smack up to the base of the Funeral Mountains just below the Keane Wonder Mill Site.
However, there are a few things I can say about it, at least practically. Firstly, it’s quite scenic and it offers a great view of the Keane Wonder Mine Workings. Secondly, it’s moved a few times over the years. From time to time, a flash flood will tear down the wash and rip up the road. When this happens, the NPS sends out heavy equipment and regrades the road. If it’s bad enough, they may have to reroute the road. Also, I recall parking in a different place back in the early 2000s on our early visits – I’m guessing they moved the parking area further from the wash and also further from the talus left over from the cyanide plant that once refined gold ore on the site. Thirdly, the road does close from time to time – namely, due to flash flood damage. If the road is blocked off, respect the park service and find another hike for the day.
For the most part, the road is graded gravel. It’s perfectly passable to low-clearance vehicles, though you might need to go slowly due to washboard. As you drive, don’t forget to admire the Funeral Mountains. They’re very rugged, but they’re also beautiful in a desert sort of way. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon, the golden light makes for even better views.
After 2.8 miles, the road dead-ends in a long, narrow, gravel parking lot. It’s fairly large, and since most people only walk up to the Keane Wonder Mill Site and back, the turnover is fairly high. From this lot, you can access sites such as the Keane Wonder Mine and Keane Wonder Spring.