5 Death Valley Hikes That Should be on Your Bucket List Now
Adventure awaits: Top hikes during your stay at The Oasis at Death Valley
The vast desert landscape of California’s Death Valley National Park holds some of the most breathtaking hikes and scenery that should be on every adventurer’s bucket list. From towering sand dunes to dramatic canyons carved by ancient rivers, Death Valley offers an outdoor playground unlike any other. Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking for a new challenge or someone seeking out their first hiking adventure, these five Death Valley hikes will leave you in awe and longing for more. So pack your bags and put on your hiking boots because we’re about to take a journey through some of the most exhilarating trails this national park has to offer.
Wake Up and Walk the Badlands
Start your day by experiencing a captivating sunrise at Zabriskie Point. As the sun begins to peek over the horizon, casting a warm glow over the rocky terrain, it’s easy to see why catching sunrise at this spot is a must-do for every traveler. The colors that emerge as the sun rises are nothing short of breathtaking; from violet to pink to gold, the stark beauty of the badlands is on full display. Once the sun has risen, it’s time to explore the labyrinth of water- and wind-carved sediments that make up the Badlands Loop. This 2.7-mile hike takes you through terrain that was once part of an ancient lakebed, providing a glimpse into the region’s fascinating geological history. As you hike the loop, take in the stunning vistas that unfold before you; while the slopes may be virtually devoid of vegetation, the soft morning light only serves to highlight the raw, dramatic beauty of this rugged landscape.
A Canyon With Polish
The hike into Mosaic Canyon is a unique and thrilling journey through an area of exposed marble and breccia. The mosaic-like embedded rock fragments in the breccia give the canyon its name, and the rocks themselves more substantial than the loose sediments of the badlands below Zabriskie Point. The hike begins at the end of an unpaved road near Stovepipe Wells. There’s no formal trail, but follow the footprints through the wash, and you’ll soon be surrounded by incredible natural formations. As you walk, you’ll notice that the route narrows down to an area of rock that’s been polished to a remarkable smoothness by flash floods. Along the way, you’ll need to climb or work your way around a few dryfalls until you reach one that’s impassable, signaling the end of the trail. This roughly four-mile round-trip hike is definitely worth the effort, offering unforgettable views and experiences along the way.
Valley Low, Mountain High
Death Valley National Park may be most famous for Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, but it also boasts high-country areas that rise above 11,000 feet. One such peak is Telescope Peak, standing tall at 11,049 feet with its magnificent snow-capped summit visible from afar. While winter may not be the best time to attempt the challenging 14-mile round trip to the summit, the experience is a bucket list-worthy adventure once the snow melts. Starting from Mahagony Flat Campground, approximately 2.5 hours from The Inn at Death Valley, the trail takes hikers through both forested areas and unshaded slopes, ascending 3,000 feet in total. The payoff is worth the effort, as hikers take in stunning views of Death Valley, spotting ancient bristlecone pines (among the world’s oldest living things) and gaining the bragging rights of summiting the park’s highest peak.
Atop the Volcano
Nestled in the northern part of the park, and about 75 minutes north of The Oasis at Death Valley, lies Ubehebe Crater, a geological wonder that will leave you in awe. The crater’s round shape and well-defined rim make it instantly recognizable as a volcano. With a massive, craggy maw that’s 600 feet deep, Ubehebe stands out from its field of 13 sibling craters. It’s hard to believe that this impressive structure was created over 2,000 years ago, when magma met groundwater and set off an epic steam eruption. Luckily, visitors can explore the 1-1/2 mile trail that traces the rim and offers stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape. Even if you’re not a geology enthusiast, Ubehebe Crater is a must-visit destination that showcases the power and beauty of natural forces.
A Desert Waterfall
While Death Valley may not be the first place you think of when imagining picturesque waterfalls, Darwin Falls in the Panamint Springs area is a hidden gem that shouldn’t be missed. The hike to the falls is a relaxing two-mile round-trip trek that involves several crossings of a narrow stream. Once you reach the falls, you’ll be greeted by a modest cascade flowing down a mossy rock face into a small grotto. What makes this waterfall even more special is that it flows year-round, thanks to the spring that feeds it. And while the hike may not be particularly challenging, it offers a rare opportunity to see a waterfall in the heart of the desert.
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