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Escape from Death Valley


Russ Chung

Take a trek back in time

By Russ Chung

In the fall of 1849, a group of pioneers left Salt Lake City for the gold fields of California. They knew that the Donner Party met disaster in the Sierra Nevada Mountains three years earlier, so instead of risking an early snowfall, they intended to detour to the south of the Sierras and find the Old Spanish Trail. On Christmas Eve of 1849 the travelers arrived in what is now known as Death Valley. They were running short of supplies and the towering Panamint Mountains blocked their way. They struggled to find a way through the mountains, set up camp in the valley and dispatched two young men on foot to get supplies. After three weeks, the men returned with supplies and led the pioneers to safety.

Cal4Wheel will follow in the wagon tracks and footsteps of these hardy 49ers in the Escape from Death Valley Run. This three-day, two-night overlanding style run will depart from Panamint Valley Days Headquarters, explore Death Valley, and end in Trona, CA.

This run is limited to 12 vehicles due to Death Valley National Park permit restrictions and requires pre-registration. Contact Russ Chung to be added to the waiting list.


  • Wednesday, November 6
    The group will meet at Panamint Valley Days Headquarters. After a drivers’ meeting, we will travel via highway to the Keane Wonder Mine in Death Valley and explore the beauty of Titus Canyon. We will set up camp at a Park Service Campground in Furnace Creek.
  • Thursday, November 7
    We follow the route of the Arcane-Bennett party of 49ers along the west side of Death Valley, to Warm Spring Canyon, Butte Canyon, and enter the Panamint Valley through Goler Wash. We will camp at a primitive campsite at the south end of Panamint Valley.
  • Friday, November 8
    We will follow the Fish Canyon Escape Trail to Trona, where we will end the Escape from Death Valley Run.
Day 1 Titus Canyon

Day 1 - Titus Canyon

Day 2 - Butte Valley

Day 2 - Butte Valley

Day 3 - Fish Canyon Trail Marker

Day 3 - Fish Canyon Trail Marker

Day 3 - View of Panamint Valley

Day 3 - Panamint Valley