So do you love clean, solid, crack-laced granite offering dozens of moderate and difficult trad routes with abundant opportunities for protection?
Well, you won't find any of that here.
Do you love steep, unbelievably loose terrain that leaves you wondering why the hell you're on it and explains why just about no one else goes there?
Oh, there's plenty of that here.
The Kit Fox Hills are about ten miles east of Stovepipe Wells and Mesquite Flat in Death Valley National Park. Because the roads to Scotty's Castle and to Beatty pass within a mile of them in places, they are easy to access. Still, and even though they are named on maps, the Kit Fox Hills seem to get almost no attention. That is all the better for those who like to get away from the trails and the people on them and do a little wandering and exploring.
Why the ridges and peaks here are named after a kit fox, I do not know. Perhaps someone once saw a kit fox here, or maybe someone thought they resembled one somehow. Kit foxes do inhabit the nearby flats, so that likely has something to do with the name. What I do know is that the area does not seem that hospitable to any kind of life. It is mostly dirt and rock, with very little vegetation. I saw no mammals or signs of any. No birds or insects. Even the lizards, normally all over the place in Death Valley, seem to know better than to be here.
Brown, hot, and dry, the Kit Fox Hills are far removed from any semblance of Eden, but they are lovely in the light and shadows of late afternoon, they have their own character and secrets, and they offer great views of the surrounding mountains and desert, including the expanse of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Especially impressive are views of the Grapevine Mountains, including standouts such as Thimble Peak and Corkscrew Peak.
Owners of the Trails Illustrated map for Death Valley will notice a route through the Kit Fox Hills. That route does not attain the highpoint and is a point-to-point cross-country hike about 5 miles in length and of moderate difficult. Information about the route can be found here.
Getting There and Route Information
Nine miles east of Stovepipe Wells or 19 miles west of the junction with the road to Badwater Basin at Furnace Creek, turn north onto Scotty's Castle Road and shortly thereafter bear left to stay on that road. For about the next three miles, the Kit Fox Hills will be to your right. Park along the shoulder where the distance between the road and the highest of the hills seems shortest. The GPS coordinates for where I parked were N36 39.730, W117 03.862.
Reaching the Highpoint
Hike to the hills and find a canyon just left of the complex housing the highpoint; to the left of the canyon is a prominent ridge with a peak that from the road may look like the highpoint. Photos on this page should help you locate the correct peaks and the canyon.
Start hiking up the easy wash in the floor of the canyon.
Okay, this is now, as we are often guilty of when dealing with children, a case of "Do as I say and not as I [did]."
Well, go ahead and do what I did if you like steep scrambling narrow ridges composed of rock so loose that it is like gravel (I am not exaggerating at all; this stuff does not shift or break when you touch it-- it collapses). Sometimes, it is too narrow to walk on and would be even if it were solid, so I found myself straddling these sections and hoping that the sliding on either side would balance out. What would normally be Class 3 felt more like an exposed Class 4 as a result. See below for an example of the conditions.
Yes, it was kind of fun, but it was also kind of crazy and sometimes scary.
Spotting a ridge that I believed would work for reaching the highpoint (it did), I climbed it, finding it horribly rotten, until I reached easier, wider ground near the summit. Then it was easy walking to the highpoint, where I found a small cairn but no register.
What you should do instead unless you actually like the kind of nastiness I described above:
Hike up the canyon mentioned. At the first fork, bear left. At the second, bear right until you come out to desert flats. Hike up (right) on fairly gentle ridges to eventually attain the highpoint. You might have to do a little Class 3 scrambling to get onto the ridge, but nothing worse than that, and nothing nearly as loose and exposed as the ascent route I followed.
Disclaimer-- Although there was a cairn at the summit and the summit appeared to be the highpoint, there was another summit about a mile distant, approachable via terrain that did not look difficult, that appeared to be close to the same height. Studying maps and my GPS coordinates, I now wonder if that other summit is indeed the highpoint. The highpoint I reached, according to my GPS device, was 772', but the map suggests the elevation is closer to 820'. That other summit is what I think the map marks as Point 883T. Please click on the map photo below for additional details.
Anyway, hit both if you're unsure, or do what pleases you and just enjoy the scenery.
One-way distance to the highpoint is going to be around 1.5-2.5 miles, with a parking-to-summit elevation gain of about 800', not counting ups and downs you may encounter along your exact course.
Red TapePlease stop at the first ranger station, visitor center, or pay station to remit the $20 entrance fee.
Don’t go in summer unless you go at dawn or at night. Daytime temperatures in summer frequently exceed 120 F.
Carry at least twice as much water as you think you’ll need. Don't let the short distance from the road fool you; deaths have resulted from "quick hikes" by the unprepared at the nearby sand dunes.
Camping and LodgingThere is a fee campground at Stovepipe Wells and another one at Furnace Creek, 28 miles east of Stovepipe Wells. Running water, showers, and flush toilets are available at each.
Camping in DVNP during the summer can be miserable. There are air-conditioned lodge rooms at Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. Do yourself a favor and stay at one of those places. Visit Xanterra or escapetodeathvalley.com for more information.