The Sulphur Mine Trailhead for Last Chance Mountain is accessed from Death Valley Road at the northern end of Death Valley. To find Death Valley Road you have 2 options. One is from the main road through Death Valley and the other is from the town of Big Pine on Hwy 395.
The best road is from Big Pine on Hwy 395. Turn east on Hwy 168 on the northern end of the town of Big Pine. At 2.2 miles turn right on Death Valley Road. This is a good mostly paved road without much traffic. Stay on Death Valley Road for 40.3 miles into Death Valley National Park. The road is not paved across Eureka Valley, but it is a great high speed wide gravel road. It is paved again as the road climbs up to the pass on the south side of Last Chance Mountain. When the pavement ends slow down and turn left about 200ft on the gravel road that enters the old sulphur mine.
If you are coming up from Death Valley, go north on Death Valley Road. Where the paved road turns to go up to Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley Road continues straight ahead on a gravel road. This road becomes one miserable wash board beating that punished me for about 20 miles. You can only drive about 15 mph because the road is so bad. This was really miserable in April of 2008. When you finally reach Crankshaft Junction, continue straight to access the sulfur mine trailhead. For the sulfur mine trailhead, the turn off for the gravel road that enters the old sulphur mine is 27.8 miles from the time you left the nice paved road in Death Valley.
Once at the old sulphur mine stay on the main road that skirts the mine on the west side. Zero your odometer here and at 0.4 mile stay left away from the mine. The gravel road here is not great. It isn’t that bad either, but high clearance may be nice to have. There aren’t any forks off this road, stay on it as it goes into a narrow canyon. At 2.4 miles pass an old gate, and at 2.8 miles you will be in a small valley with obvious mining debris all around. Pass the open shaft mine on the left with pearly white gates, notice a big tractor tire laying alongside the road on the left and then look immediately to you right. You should be able to see an old road bed at the bottom of the little valley. Head up this little road for another 0.4 mile to where the road is washed out. Elevation here is about 6,635 ft. This is the end of the road. I parked here and hiked from the end of the road. You could easily park in the mining area and hike from there also.
From the end of the road at the washout, elevation 6,635 ft, hike north up the road through the washout. The road actually continues up the valley in the bottom of the dry wash. You can see your first objective on the ridgeline ahead as you hike up this little valley. You want to gain the ridgeline at the low point (elevation 7,300 ft) that is straight ahead. You can also take a more aggressive line and head left straight up for point 7853 on the topo. The route goes directly over this obstacle anyway. In about 0.5 mile, elevation 6,950 ft, there is a “Y” in the wash. I went up the left fork, but came down the right fork. I recommend going up the right fork. It takes you easterly for a few hundred yards but then comes back to the direction you want to go.
The dry wash becomes narrower and somewhat brushy. Climb out of the wash to the right but climb parallel to it up to the little saddle at elevation 7,300 ft which is just west of point 7403 on the topo.
Now that you are on the ridge, it is a simple process of following the ridge up and down over about 6 intermediate highpoints until you reach the summit. There is a faint climber’s trail on top of the broad ridgeline that you will be able to follow in places. The trail bypasses some of the highpoints by traversing along the side slopes to the next saddle, but you really have to pay attention to see some of these paths. On the way back down you will be able to see the climber’s trail better. On the way up, use your best judgment and you can’t get lost if you just stay on top of the ridge.
After hiking up and down several of the highpoints along the ridge you will be glad to see the final highest point is almost white in color. All the intervening highpoint are more brown or gray. There is nothing technical about this route. The trees along the ridgelines are a nice change to the desert landscape. The views from the summit are well worth the hike. Beside the views into Death Valley there are great views of the White Mountains, Mt. Whitney and the Sierra’s, and the sand dunes in Eureka Valley.
The route has several knobs along the way that you have to hike up and down. My GPS indicated the route was 6.64 miles round trip, with 2,800 ft of elevation gain with the ups and downs, and it took me 4.5 hours.
The 10 essentials are always required. Bring lots of water from April through October. My cell phone worked from the summit. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat may be important. I like to bring a GPS with a few key waypoints entered.