No special permit is required, just a standard Death Valley National Park entry fee.
Photographs13 views of Fall Canyon
MapTopoQuest topographic map of Fall Canyon
The streamway at the mouth of Fall Canyon is quite deep and many yards across - larger than that of nearby Titus Canyon, and powerful evidence of the great floods that sometimes rush out following rains over the Amargosa Mountains many miles away. Upstream the canyon soon narrows and becomes several hundred feet deep. The rock walls are stark, eroded and crumbling, colored variously black, brown and grey, with tints of red and green - often near vertical, but the canyon is not yet particularly narrow despite occasional sections only around 15 feet wide. The rock strata may be horizontal, vertical or any orientation in between and have an appearance of great age, telling of extensive geological changes.
The character of the ravine remains similar for 3 miles. There are some features of interest such as narrowish side canyons and tight curves in the streamway with channels of smooth rock. The main canyon becomes deeper - up to 2,000 feet in places - with stepped cliffs and plateaus of increasing height towering above. At the 3 mile point, progress is interrupted by a 20 foot dryfall but this is quite easy to overcome, by scrambling up a slope on the south side. Thereafter the canyon becomes quite different, forming unusual narrows with sharp bends through smooth, dark, marble-like rock.
Sometimes the channel runs between strata while in other places it cuts through, resulting in contrasting colors and textures. The streamway opens out after about a quarter of a mile and becomes similar to the lower stretches, but with more frequent narrow passageways. Fall Canyon extends for at least another 6 miles and could be explored more fully on an overnight backpacking trip; camping is allowed beyond the 2 mile point.
The vegetation changes gradually up the canyon and wildlife becomes more apparent, as the climate becomes slightly more moist; large ferocacti and yucca grow after a few miles, and bighorn sheep inhabit lands above the dryfall. Walking conditions are generally easy although the surface is mostly composed of small, shifting pebbles, and the walk can become tiring after a while. When I visited, on a sunny, windless day in December the temperature was about 70°F and the silence on the whole trip was absolute. There was no sign of life, and the canyon presented an epitome of remoteness. This is certainly not a hike for summer - the canyon offers no shade or water and the trip is sufficiently strenuous to become too difficult in the prevailing temperatures of well over 100°F.