The most breathtaking entrance into Death Valley is Titus Canyon, a picturesque & often narrow canyon carved into the Grapevine Mountains of southeastern California.  The road is one-way only (heading downhill, heading westward), so Titus Canyon can only be approached from the east.  Titus Canyon Road is accessible from Rt. 374, a little southwest of Beatty, Nevada.  The road goes up Titanothere Canyon on the eastern side of the Grapevine Range, and then starts descending through Titus Canyon on the western side.  The road even goes through a real-life ghost town called Leadfield (not much to see there, though).


Above: thick succession of carbonates of the Bonanza King Formation (Cambrian).


The Death Valley area has a very thick Neoproterozoic-Cambrian section.  The Death Valley region is a classic area for seeing Snowball Earth glacial units, cap carbonates, stromatolites, late Neoproterozoic shelly fossils, Ediacaran soft-bodied fossils, and the Precambrian-Cambrian transition.


Above: Cambrian sedimentary rocks on the northern side of Titus Canyon, Grapevine Mountains, California.





The three pics above are from a famous geology stop in Titus Canyon.  This is the most spectacular breccia outcrop I've ever seen.  It consists of huge angular blocks of gray limestone in a whitish calcite cement.  There are two hypotheses about its identity. It is either a fault breccia or a debris flow breccia. Middle  pic: Jung Jikhan (South Korea) for scale.  Lower pic: Rodolfo Gozalo (Spain) for scale.



Above: western terminus of Titus Canyon at western face of the Grapevine Range.  Looking ~NE.


Titus Canyon ends at Death Valley, where a large alluvial fan has formed.  The topographic transition between the Grapevine Mountains and Death Valley is abrupt, and represents the approximate location of a significant normal fault.  The Grapevine Range has been uplifted (it's a horst) & Death Valley has been downdropped (it's a graben), typical for Basin & Range tectonics.


Above: view of the northern end of Death Valley, as seen from the Titus Canyon alluvial fan.  Looking ~S.


Above: Two large alluvial fans deposited on the edge of Death Valley, at the base of the Cottonwood Mountains.  Looking ~W from Titus Canyon alluvial fan.


Home page