Scramble up a remote slot canyon in the Funeral Mountains off of Hole in the Wall Road to Widowmaker Dryfall. Serious scrambling is required – you may want ropes for this one.
|Total Distance: 5.0 miles out & back||Elevation Gain: 1,917ft. (1,891ft. to 3,597ft.)|
|Difficulty: Strenuous||0-5 Mile Difficulty: Very Strenuous|
|View Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0 stars||Author’s Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0 stars|
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|Pets: No||Horses: Yes (likely cannot scramble the dryfalls)|
|Best Seasons: November-April||Special Permits: None|
|Water Availability: None||Overnight Options: Yes; free permit required if you’re near the Hole in the Wall Road|
|Trailhead Amenities: None||Crowd Factor: Solitude|
|Trailhead Access: 1.5|
Mile-by-Mile: Undertaker Canyon Route
0.0 North side of Hole in the Wall (1,891ft.). Park in the wash on the north (not CA-190) side of the Hole in the Wall formation, where the road turns sharply to the right (east). (If you don’t have high clearance/4×4, you may wish to park on the south side of the formation and walk the short distance to the “trailhead.”) Walk north up the wash. Stay in the main wash, but hug to the right (east) side to be on the correct side of the canyon to see Undertaker Canyon. If you look back, you can see how Hole in the Wall received its name. If you are funneled into a twisting, winding canyon, you’ve gone too far and have entered Slit Canyon. (36.414876°, -116.723567°)
1.0 Mouth of Undertaker Canyon (2,318ft.). The mouth is blocked by boulders that form a nearly impenetrable chokestone. You’ll have to find a way to scramble up, over, under, and through these boulders to be able to access the canyon. This is no easy feat, and you may need ropes. The first obstacle can be scrambled up via an undercut boulder with a very high first step; the second may be accessible by scrambling under an undercut boulder. For the third obstacle, you can use a highly-polished slot between two boulders above an overhang. The fourth obstacle may be the hardest without a rope, as it’s a high cleft between two boulders. The fourth obstacle also has very significant exposure, adding to the drama. If you can get to the fifth obstacle, it’s an extremely slippery chimney-able pouroff (at least, it’s chimney-able if you have very grippy shoes!) Beyond the fifth obstacle (about 0.25 miles from the mouth of the canyon), you’re rewarded with a lovely set of narrows. After the narrows, the wash opens up again with views of nearby colorful mountains. (36.427454°, -116.716707°)
2.2 Wash split (3,018ft.). Stay in the right (easterly) wash. The wash does a gooseneck back on itself, then back to continue north, then turns slightly east to Widowmaker Falls. (36.436747°, -116.705485°)
2.5 Widowmaker Falls (3,597ft.). This is the end of upcanyon travel without technical gear. (36.438766°, -116.702289°)
History & More
If you don’t have 4×4, you may wish to park just before (south of) the Hole in the Wall. Only drive as far as you’re absolutely certain you can retrace your route back. The road beyond the “parking area” requires 4×4 due to deep gravel and washouts.
I’m not sure how Undertaker Canyon or Widowmaker Falls received their rather unusual names. My best guess is that it’s a play off of the range of peaks within which the canyon resides – the Funeral Mountains.
Undertaker Canyon is a very strenuous scramble. Ropes may be required; at the very least, don’t dry anything that you’re not absolutely certain you can both ascend – and descend – and don’t attempt the canyon alone.
I’ve never heard of anyone going up or beyond Widowmaker Falls, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible – especially if you’re an experienced canyoneer with a good knowledge of how to use ropes. It appears that the canyon above the dryfall is narrow for a short section before widening out to wind deep into the Funeral Mountains.
You may find people camping in the wash. The Hole in the Wall Road is one of the preferred areas of the park for roadside dispersed camping.
Download Trail Map
Take CA-190 to the Hole in the Wall Road. Drive the gravel road up the wash for 3.7 miles to the Hole in the Wall formation. Park out of the way of traffic in the wash just on the other side of the formation. (Note: If you have 2WD, you would be advised to park shortly before passing through the Hole in the Wall and then walk through the formation – the wash on the other side tends to have deep gravel.)
Camping in a canyon is discouraged due to the danger of flash floods.
Remember, it may be easier to climb up dryfalls than down them (or vice versa). Be sure you can climb in the other direction before climbing up or down a dryfall.
Camping is not allowed within one mile of a paved road, developed area, or dirt road that is closed to camping.
Camping is not permitted within 100 feet of a flowing stream, spring, or other natural body of open water.
No camping is permitted on the floor of Death Valley, within one mile of Darwin Falls and Greenwater Canyon, on the active/shifting sand dunes, and certain other canyons and backcountry areas.
Camping is also prohibited within one mile of the Ubehebe Lead Mine, Leadfield Mines, Keane Wonder Mill, and Skidoo Mill.
Camping is limited to 30 days per calendar year within the park.
Fires are permitted in NPS-provided fire grates or grills ONLY.
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
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.)