Death Valley is known for many things, including its heat. But what excites me most about Death Valley, California is that it offers some wonderful and adventurous hikes.
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Located in San Francisco, California, Death Valley is the driest, hottest, and lowest point in all of North America. It also holds another record – it is the largest National Park in the United States, not counting those in Alaska. It has an area of 5,270 square miles, making it even larger than Yellowstone National Park. From easy to difficult let our travel guide help you choose the perfect trip to pick.
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If you are planning to visit this National Park, you can choose between a day hike visit and booking an apartment or a hostel room so you can spend more time in this breathtaking place. While you are in Death Valley you don’t want to miss the excellent hikes and spectacular views that are waiting to be explored.
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Hikes and routes through the Death Valley
One of the best ways to enjoy the stunning views and discover this unique natural environment is on foot. You can go on an amazing adventure following one of the hiking trails that lead to your main sites of interest in Death Valley.
Apart from the hiking trails, it is also possible to explore the sites while enjoying horseback riding, cycling, or driving a vehicle. You can also enjoy bird watching or even set up camp in the area you want to immerse in the beautiful views around. These options make the perfect conditions for you to enjoy short and long hiking routes.
Before you set out on your journey you need to make sure you are fully prepared. And not just for the adventure you decided to take on, but for the unforeseeable challenges too. Make sure you brought enough food, lots of water, and a first aid kit.
Get yourself familiar with possible problems you might encounter. Research the most common hiking injuries and make sure you are well-equipped to avoid them. Know what kind of wild animals you could encounter, which driving routes to take, and so on.
Also, make sure you are dressed properly and have all the tools you might need. But don’t fall into the trap of carrying too much with you, because you will also need to be able to walk for a long time carrying all that baggage.
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Badwater Salt Flat (easy)
Badwater Basin Salt Flats Trail is a fantastic option for an outdoor adventure in Death Valley. It is almost 7 and a half miles long and the terrain is uneven. The saltwater of the Badwater Salt Flat is not really a hiking trail, but it is still one of the most popular sites in Death Valley National Park.
The hot air often builds up in this valley meaning that the highest temperatures in Death Valley are often measured right there. The former salt lake in the Badwater Basin offers wonderful structures of the Badwater lake. The further you hike into the Badwater Basin, the more beautiful the angular surfaces of salt crystals will be.
Salt Creek Interpretative Trail (easy)
This quarter-mile takes you along Salt Creek Road and is an accessible wooden boardwalk. Visitors will be welcomed with a delightful trail to the park. Pupfishes in the creek are always a hit among young kids visiting.
Fun Fact: The Death Valley pupfishes are a small species of freshwater fish native to the Owens River drainage basin in California. They are endemic to two locations within the valley: the Amargosa Range, which lies north of the town of Beatty, and the Panamint Mountains, west of Furnace Creek. These tiny creatures have been classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature because of their limited range and relatively low numbers.
Natural Bridge (easy)
If you are looking for a shorter trip, this is an easy 2-mile out-and-back adventure. The start of the Natural Bridge Trail in Death Valley is on Badwater Road, which also leads you to the Badwater Salt Flats. The short hike to the Natural Bridge is one of the most popular and is well worth seeing.
This is more of a long walk than a serious hike, but on particularly hot days, it can also be quite exhausting so make sure to bring plenty of water
Ubehebe Crater Loop (moderate)
This moderate 1.8-mile long loop is located in the very north of Death Valley and can be completely circumnavigated in an hour. It is one of the shorter hikes in Death Valley that has been a great attraction for people visiting Death Valley.
From the parking lot of Ubehebe Crater, you can enjoy views of the crater that was created by volcanic activities. It’s fascinating to me how this large volcanic crater is now a peaceful place.
The hike begins on an uphill through deep volcanic sand along the edge of the crater. At the highest point, you can enjoy a great panoramic view of the landscape and the Little Hebe Crater, which is located directly behind the Ubehebe Crater.
At the end of the hike, you can also descend near the parking lot via a narrow path into the Ubehebe Crater, which is definitely worth it. However, you should not underestimate the strenuous hike ascending afterwards when the sun is high.
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Darwin Falls (moderate)
This wonderful hike is just under 2 miles long. You will wander through a green maze-like canyon all the way to a unique oasis with a rushing stream and a picturesque waterfall. With any little luck, you can also see wild donkeys, various lizards, and snakes in the canyon.
On your way through this green gorge, you will pass through small fields and cross some small streams before you reach the small waterfall at the end of the gorge. Those who are experienced enough can climb further up the mountain from the waterfalls to reach Upper Darwin Falls.
Golden Canyon (moderate)
The starting point into the Golden Canyon of Death Valley is again on Badwater Road, but this time just 2 miles from the junction on Road 190. The Golden Canyon is one of the most captivating hikes in Death Valley. It gets its name from its rock, which shines gold and brown in the sun, and the bizarre rock formations, which sometimes seem like a stormy ocean.
You can get a particularly good overview of the terrain from Zabriskie Point. The trail will lead you uphill through a colourful canyon to the junction of the Red Cathedral, an imposing rock formation that glows bright red in the sunlight.
You will reach the endpoint at the Red Cathedral in less than 1.5 miles. Experienced hikers will need a little more than an hour. This route is a great way to spend a day hiking in Death Valley but make sure you go prepared with everything you would need for a warm day.
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Mosaic Canyon (moderate)
A little west of the small town of Stovepipe Wells on Road # 190, a small unmarked gravel access road leads south into the mountains. The short gravel road is usually also accessible for motorhomes and leads to the parking lot at the trailhead of the Mosaic Canyon.
From the parking lot, you hike directly into the canyon. It gets its name from the unusual formations of marble, rock, and natural cement that makes up its walls. Do be a courteous hiker and not vandal or take some of the smaller rocks. These unique rock faces have been sanded smooth in many places over the centuries by flash floods and rain.
At the turning point, you will come across a dry waterfall that hikers cannot overcome. This unique and wonderful terrain makes for a wonderful hiking experience in Death Valley.
Little Bridge Canyon (difficult)
The Little Bridge Cayon hiking trail is one of the more challenging hikes in Death Valley. It can be quite strenuous on a hot day even for avid hikers. There are not many shady spots on the unmarked trail. In addition to the Natural Bridge (a rock arch at the end of the trail), there are also some beautiful passages to discover on the wide trail.
Experiencing some of these is well worth your time. From experience, I have found that taking this route offers narrow canyon passages and returning to the wide trail is the best way to experience this hike.
You can expect a remarkable maze of bizarre narrow places and rubble piles. But make sure to pay attention as you can easily become disoriented here and may get lost.
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What you must see in the Death Valley
Although there are many interesting sites in Death Valley, one of the most striking is the Badwater Basin. It is the lowest point in North America. Today it is located 282 ft below sea level, but the sinking process continues to this day.
Telescope Peak is, unlike Badwater Basin, the highest point in Death Valley National Park. Its height is a little over 2 miles, measuring from the basin. There is often snow on top of it.
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The best point from which you can enjoy the breathtaking panorama of Death Valley is Dante’s View. This is a viewpoint terrace that has a height of a little over a mile above sea level. A scenic drive through a 16-mile, twisty but paved road leads you here. It is located 15.5 miles south of Furnace Creek in Death Valley National Park where you can also visit the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.
Where to Stay in Death Valley, California
Top Pick: The Inn at Death Valley
This five-star accommodation is located in the Death Valley National Park. The Inn at Death Valley is the perfect luxury base to explore the surrounding hikes. The property offers an outdoor pool, comfortable and luxurious rooms, and a 24-hour front desk. Guests can enjoy an onsite restaurant and wellness facilities which include a sauna and fitness center.
How to Get to Death Valley National Park
The closest airport to Death Valley National Park is the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. The second closest airport is Los Angeles International Airport. The best way to travel to Death Valley National Park is by car. Find great rental options at Rentalcars.com.
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If you are looking for an adventure in Death Valley, California, you should definitely try out one of these epic hikes. There is a trail for every type of hiker.
Written by Mark Anderson. Mark is a tech geek, blogger, and writer in his free time. He likes any kind of outdoor activities like camping, fishing, skiing, hiking, and surfing. He is also a contributor to the site vogatech.