Hiking

There are few constructed trails here, but in a place this desolate you usually don't need them. Most hiking routes in the park are cross-country, up canyons, or along ridges.

Hiking seasons
The best time to hike in Death Valley is from November through March. Summer temperatures can be dangerous in the park's lower elevations. Even during spring and autumn the heat can be unbearable for most people. Save the low elevation hikes for the cooler winter days. The high peaks are a pleasant escape from the heat in summer, but are usually covered with snow in the winter and spring. If you must climb them during winter season, be sure to be properly equipped with adequate winter clothing, an ice axe and crampons.

Water
Due to the dry climate of Death Valley, you must drink more water here than in other places, even in the cooler winter months. Always carry adequate water (at least 2 liters for a short winter dayhike, 1 gallon or more for longer warm season hikes and overnighters). Springs are rare and should not be considered reliable. Boil or treat water from these sources before using.

 
Mining ruins  of an adobe wall and a wagon wheel underneath a starlit sky
Harmony is also a great place to see the night sky.

NPS - Kurt Moses

Harmony Borax Works

Length: 0.4 mi (0.6km) ADA accessible paved loop
Time: 30 minutes round trip
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 50 ft (0.8km)
Location: 1 mile (1.6km) west of Furnace Creek on CA-190
Parking: Paved area with large spaces for RV's and buses
Closest Restroom: No restrooms. Furnace Creek Visitor Center 1 mile (1.6km) east.
Route: The paved loop takes you back in time as you learn the stories of Death Valley borax and the 20-Mule Teams. Interpretive panels along the way explain details of the borax processing, the story of the Mule Skinner, life in Harmony, and more.
 
A creek runs through barren, golden colored hills.
Salt Creek

NPS - Kurt Moses

Salt Creek

Length: 0.5 mi (0.8km) ADA accessible wooden boardwalk loop
Time: 30 minutes round trip
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: Flat
Location: Salt Creek Road located 13 miles (20km) west of Furnace Creek on CA-190. The unpaved Salt Creek Road is typically passable to sedans.
Parking: The open gravel parking area is large enough for RV's and buses.
Closest Restroom: Vault toilets are located in the parking lot.
Route: The boardwalk is open year round, however the water flows down to the boardwalk only from November through May. The best time to visit is during the Spring (February - April) when the Salt Creek Pupfish are in spawn. Interpretive signs along the way explain pupfish behavior, their adaptations, and how they relate to other pupfish around the Mojave Desert.
 
A natural bridge spans a desert canyon.
Natural Bridge.  Water is the force behind much of the beauty that we see in Death Valley today.

NPS - Kurt Moses

Natural Bridge

Length: 1 mi (3.2km) out and back round trip
Time: 45 minutes round trip
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Gain: 86 ft (26m)
Location: The unpaved Natural Bridge Road is 13.5 miles (22km) south of CA-190 on Badwater Road and is typically passable to sedans.
Parking: Open parking area large enough for buses and RV's.
Closest Restroom: Vault toilet located in parking lot.
Route: The route from the information sign up the canyon to the bridge formation is easy to follow but very rocky. The canyon continues a short distance beyond the bridge where it abruptly ends at a dry waterfall.
 
A man and woman walk out onto the white salt flats toward towering mountains in the distance.
Badwater Basin -the lowest place in North America.

NPS - Kurt Moses

Badwater Salt Flat

Length: 1 mile (1.6km) out and back trip to edge of salt flat. 5 miles (8km) each way to the other side.
Time: Average hiking speed is 2 mph (3.2 km/h), make your own adventure!
Dificulty: Easy to difficult depending on length. It is flat. Do not attempt when it's hot!
Elevation Gain: Flat
Location: Badwater Road 30 minutes (17 miles/27km) south of Furnace Creek.
Parking: Paved parking lot with large spaces for RV's and buses.
Closest Restroom: Vault toilet located in parking lot.
Route: The lowest point in North America is a beatiful salt flat covering over 200 square miles (322km) of the valley. ADA accessible ramp leads down to boardwalk.
 
A ridgeline in the sand dunes with mountains in the background
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Photo: Scott Stulberg

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Length: 2 miles (3.2km) round trip out and back
Time: 1.5 hours round trip
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Gain: 185 ft (65m)
Location: Located in Stovepipe Wells Village 30 minutes (24mi/39km) west of Furnace Creek.
Parking: Paved lot with pull through spaces for buses and large RV's.
Closest Restroom: Vault toilets located in parking lot.
Route: The summit of the high dune is 1 mile (1.6km) each way. No formal trail. Of the seven sets of dunes in Death Valley, these are the most famous and accessible.
 
A warning sign "Use caution near edge" with a graphic of someone falling is posted near the edge of a volcanic crater where hikers may travel a loop.
Ubehebe Crater Loop.  Use caution near the edge!

NPS - Dan Kish

Ubehebe Crater Loop

Length: 1.5 mile (2.4km) loop
Time: 1 hour round trip
Difficulty: Moderate. Exposed edges! Not good for those with a fear of heights.
Elevation Gain: 500 ft (152m)
Location: 8 miles (13km) west of Scotty's Castle
Parking: The paved lot directly overlooks the crater and is large enough for buses and large RV's.
Closest Restroom: No restrooms. Nearest restrooms are located at the unstaffed Grapevine Ranger Station 5 miles (8km) east of the crater.
Route: The hike is commonly done in a counter-clockwise direction where hikers begin with the uphill section first. Within 0.5 mi (0.8km) Little Hebe Crater comes into view and is a common destination for those looking for a shorter trip.
 
A desert waterfall cascades down into a sunlit pool surrounded by lush vegetation.
Darwin Falls is a rare and special place in the Mojave Desert.  Please protect it.  No swimming!

Photo: Christine Salomon

Darwin Falls

Length: 2 miles (3.2km) out and back round trip
Time: 1.5 - 2 hours round trip
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 450 ft (137m)
Location: The unpaved Darwin Falls Road is located 1.2 miles (2km) west of Panamint Springs on CA-190. To the trailhead (first 2.5 mi/4km), Darwin Falls Road from CA-190 is typically passable to a sedan, however it is much more comfortable in a high clearance vehicle. Travelling from the town of Darwin to the trailhead is recommended for 4x4 high clearance vehicles only. Steep grades and unmarked intersections. Traveling to Darwin from the falls is not recommended.
Parking: Small gravel parking area. Not recommended for large RV's.
Closest Restrooms: No restrooms. The nearest facilities are located at the privately owned Panamint Springs Resort.
Route: Unmarked. From the bulletin board head past the gate and into the wash up the canyon. The unmarked route is fairly flat but rocky as it transitions from a desert wash into a high walled canyon. Inside the canyon thick vegetation, stream crossings, and large slick rocks require that hikers use caution as they work their way deeper into the oasis. Please protect this fragile resource. No swimming!
 
A hiker walks between golden colored badlands heading toward a towering outcropping known as Manly Beacon
Golden Canyon

NPS - Kurt Moses

Golden Canyon, Gower Gulch, and Badlands Loop

Length: 3 to 8 miles (5 to 13km) routes
Time: 1.5 to 4.5 hours round trip depending on route
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Elevation Gain: 535 ft to 834ft (163m to 254m)
Two Locations:
  • Golden Canyon trailhead located 2 miles south of CA-190 on Badwater Road.
  • Zabriskie Point on CA-190 located 3.5 miles east of Badwater Road.
Parking: Paved lots at both locations. Large spaces for RV's and buses.
Closest Restroom: Located in both parking lots
Route: A maze of canyons and badlands create hiking opportunities galore. Go to the Golden Canyon page for route details, map, and GPS data.
 
A colorful canyon with greens, blues, and yellows beneath a cloudy blue sky.
Desolation Canyon

NPS - Dan Kish

Desolation Canyon

Length: 3.6 mile (5.8km) out and back round trip
Time: 2.5 hours round trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Elevation Gain: 600 ft (183m)
Location: The short unpaved Desolation Canyon Road is located 3.7 miles (6km) south of CA-190 on Badwater Road. Typically passable to sedans.
Parking: Open gravel parking area large enough for buses and RV's.
Closest Restroom: No restroom at site. Golden Canyon parking lot 1.7 miles (2.7km) north has a vault toilet in the parking lot.
Route: Unmarked route with rock scrambling required. Go to the Desolation Canyon page for details.
 
A canyon wall at a tight turn with polished marble walls.
Polished marble walls of Mosaic Canyon

NPS - Dan Kish

Mosaic Canyon

Length: 4 miles (6.4km) out and back round trip
Time: 2.5 - 3 hours round trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Elevation Gain: 1,200 ft (366m)
Location: The 2.3 mile (3.7km) unpaved Mosaic Canyon Road is located in Stovepipe Wells Village just across from Stovepipe Wells Campground. The road is typically passable in a sedan.
Parking: A large gravel parking area. Buses and large RV's not recommended.
Closest Restroom: Stovepipe Wells Village at the General Store and Restaurant.
Route: Many hikers choose to hike to the first set of beatiful canyon narrows less than 0.5 miles (0.8km) into the canyon. Check out the Mosaic Canyon page for a map, GPS data, and details about how to make this classic hike a longer adventure.
 
A two-tiered waterfall cascades over polished rock down a narrow canyon as a hiker rests on the ground to the left of the falls with her back against the canyon wall.
Seasonal Waterfall at Willow Canyon

NPS - Dan Kish

Willow Canyon

Length: 4.2 miles (6.8km) out and back, round trip
Time: 2.5 hours, round trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Elevation Gain: 776 ft (237m)
Location: An unmarked gravel access road is located on Badwater Road 31.5 miles south of CA-190 between mile markers 31 & 32. The access road is less than 0.5 miles (0.8km) long and is typically passable to a sedan. Same as Sidewinder Canyon.
Parking: Open gravel area large enough for buses and RV's.
Closest Restroom: No restrooms nearby. Follow principle 3 of Leave No Trace (LNT).
Route: This route isn't very physically demanding, but finding the canyon and seasonal waterfall is a reward that only cross country navigators get to enjoy. No road and no hiking route signage. From the parking area avoid the small foothills and canyons to the east. Instead make your way north/northeast wrapping around the foothills and head toward the deep canyon in the mountains. Most of this route is across the rocky alluvial fan and exposed to the sun. The last 0.25 miles (0.4km) into the narrow canyon is over polished bedrock before ending at the waterfall.
Map: Take this printable map and brief description to help you on your trip.
 
A man and woman hiker head toward a dark slot canyon opening in a canyon wall.
Sidewinder Canyon - mouth of slot #2

NPS - Dan Kish

Sidewinder Canyon

Length: 5 miles (8.4km) out and back round trip
Time: 6 hours round trip
Difficulty: Extremely Difficult
Elevation Gain: 1,580 ft (482m)
Location: An unmarked gravel access road is located on Badwater Road 31.5 miles south of CA-190 between mile markers 31 & 32. The access road is less than 0.5 miles (0.8km) long and is typically passable to a sedan.
Parking: Open gravel area large enough for buses and RV's. Same location as Willow Canyon.
Closest Restroom: No restrooms nearby. Follow principle 3 of Leave No Trace (LNT).
Route: See Sidewinder Canyon page for route information.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

Phone:

(760) 786-3200

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