Isham Canyon

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Just ONE of the tough obstacles on the trail.

Isham Canyon is a very difficult trail in the Trona / Slate Range area. This trail is a lot of fun for the 4x4 adventurer that is looking for a considerably challenging trail. This is not a trail that is recommended for long- or wide-wheel base vehicles unless you are willing to accept body damage and recovery actions. The trail is very, very tight and somewhat technical in places so it is best suited to short wheel-based and very high clearance vehicles. There are no by-passes and very few extra-credit lines due to the narrow nature of the canyon. This is a very remote and little traveled area. If you choose to try this trail alone, bring survival gear and be prepared for a very long hike back to civilization. For a video view of the trail, try this YouTube link:

In addition to being a very fun 4x4 trail, this canyon is of historical significance in the westward expansion of America. In 1850, the last of the surviving 49ers of the Jayhawker group used this canyon as the last passage from the Slate Range on their Escape Trail out of Death Valley. This is the group that gave 'Death' Valley it's name. The name of Isham Canyon comes from a party member, William Isham, who died soon after passing through the canyon near Valley Wells.

The climb out of the canyon brings you to a wonderful view of the Panamint Valley. Besides the challenge of the trail, the view at the top is worth the trip. After this point the trail is a tough, but mostly moderate drive to the intersection with the Escape Trail road (BLM P168). Going Right will take you back to the point that you started the trail. Going Left will lead you to the historical markers placed by the Trona Chapter of the Escape Trail Conference. The first is at the start of Fish Canyon. About a mile up the rough 4x4 wash trail are two more markers. Any further up the trail should be hiked from this point, but it leads to the gravesite of Father Fish, a Jayhawker party member who died along the trail.

The Isham Canyon and Fish Canyon Escape trails, as well as the entire Slate Range, have recently become endangered of being closed by the activities of the California Wilderness Coalition (CWC), and Senator Feinstein. Please do your part to keep these PUBLIC lands open to the motorized public.


To get there, go about 6 miles north of the town of Trona to the Valley Sand and Gravel sign and turn Right (East) onto the gravel road. About 2 miles further, look for a Left turn (north) into a narrow wash. The trail is only marked by a very short brown trail arrow placed by the BLM. Follow this wash north for a short way until it turns North East. Continue to the narrow canyon opening. You will know that you are in the right place when you reach a 2-foot ledge. If you haven't aired down yet, this is the place to do it. From there, 4WD Low is recommended to the top of the canyon.

Maps and GPS Coordinates[edit]

(Help a map guy out, and please post the GPS coords here....)

Isham Canyon Photo Gallery[edit]