“Run to the historic Ashford Mine high in the Black Mountains of Death Valley National Park.”
— Bruce Hope
This is a U.S. national park and all park regulations apply. Practice Leave No Trace (LNT) backcountry skills and ethics.
Features: Views — Wildflowers
Running the Ashford Canyon Trail provides views of a narrows, falls (optional), extensive beds of polished conglomerate, Archaen metamosphic basement rocks (the oldest rocks in Death Valley), and a well-preserved mining camp high in the more open upper canyon. This is not an easy trip up from the parking area, which may explain why the old mine camp buildings are in as good a shape as they are.
The dirt access road starts at the Ashford Mill Ruins site on paved Badwater Road. The parking area is 2.6 miles up this dirt road, which has some sandy spots.There are no amenities or water of any kind at the trailhead.
The drivable road ends at a parking area at the lip of the canyon. From here, the old road continues on as a foot traffic-only grade into the wash coming out of Ashford Canyon. This old mining road has now become the trail to the mine site. You cross the sandy wash (if you want, you can make a side trip from here up the wash to the falls) and pick-up the old road as it climbs the canyon wall to the north to get around the falls. Once past the falls, the old road drops back into the wash.
Once back in it, follow the wash (the road becomes badly eroded or washed-away in most places) up to where, at 1.7 miles from the trailhead, the old road can be seen climbing left (north) out of the wash. Take this eroded but easy to follow road for just 0.3 miles to the well preserved old mine buidlings.
The camp was first built in 1915, when the mine was at its most active, and continued in sporadic use up until the 1950s (which is why there are some Eisenhower-era refrigerators in the cook house). Three buildings remain intact: two sleeping cabins and a larger cook house/office building. Aside from the three buildings, there are the remains of a tramway used to bring ore down to the road from outlying diggings, a collapsed headframe, two deep shafts, an old powder magazine, and some 4,000 feet of tunnels. If you chose to explore any these, exercise extreme caution! It's best to just stay out of any mine shafts. The Ashford Mill (now just ruins) was built to process ore from this mine.
From the mine site, you have a huge view out over the southern end of Death Valley. Depending on how wet the winter was when you visit Ashford Canyon, there may be wildflowers on display along the wash and on the slopes at the mouth of the canyon.