The Best Death Valley Hikes - AdventureTripr

The Best Death Valley Hikes

Sam Taliancich · August 20, 2021

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Death Valley Hikes
Death Valley Hikes

If you’re looking for something new and challenging, look no further than Death Valley National Park. This national park offers amazing views, rich history, and a unique trail system! Death Valley hikes are usually cross-country or through canyons, although there are few constructed trails. You can see mountains popping with color, natural mosaics, desert oases, and more. Here is our list of the best hikes in Death Valley.

Where Is Death Valley?

Death Valley is located in the Southeastern region of California, just a few hours to the Northeast of Los Angeles. The park covers 5,270 square miles, making it the largest national park in the lower 48 states. Although it's big, there is no need to worry about access because Death Valley contains miles of roads, making even the most remote areas accessible for everyone.

When to Visit Death Valley

The weather in Death Valley can be unforgiving, so it’s important to plan your trip accordingly. For most people, the Summer months are too hot to do any hiking and in the Winter there just isn’t as much to do, which is why it’s the least busy season. In general, the time of year with the best weather is Spring or Fall, and they both come with their own set of benefits. For example, Spring offers beautiful wildflowers and Fall has spectacular sunsets. Whichever time you choose you’re sure to have a great time on one of these Death Valley hikes!

The Best Death Valley Hikes

Darwin Falls Trail

Distance: 2 mi

Elevation Gain: 232 feet

Difficulty: Easy

If you’re looking for an easy hike with an amazing reward, look no further than Darwin Falls Trail. This trail takes you two miles into a thriving forest where you will follow a small stream until you reach the main attraction: Darwin Falls, an 80-foot waterfall in the middle of a desert. If you’re looking for something new, this real-life desert oasis is perfect for you!

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Death Valley Sand Dunes
Death Valley Sand Dunes

Distance: 2 mi

Elevation Gain: 185 feet

Difficulty: Easy

The Death Valley sand dunes will make you feel like you’re on a different planet. This sandy adventure is one of the coolest attractions in Death Valley and is a perfect day hike for the family! The dunes are also a favorite for thrill-seekers, who love to visit this popular sandboarding spot. So, whether you’re into sights or thrills you’re sure to enjoy your time spent at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

Badwater Salt Flat Hike

Badwater Basin Salt Flat
Badwater Basin Salt Flats

Distance: 2 mi

Elevation Gain: 185 feet

Difficulty: Easy

If you’re searching for the coolest landscape in the park, look no further than the salt flats at the Badwater Basin. This huge salt flat is over 200 square miles in area and is home to the lowest point in the United States! The pool and boardwalk are easily accessible from the parking lot off Badwater Road, but the best views of the salt polygons require an easy round trip hike out onto the salt flats.

Salt Creek Interpretive Trail

Death Valley Hikes
Death Valley Hikes

Distance: 1 mi

Elevation Gain: 185 feet

Difficulty: Easy

This fun trail is packed with sights, sounds, and things to do that are sure to satisfy the whole family. Parents will enjoy the rich history Death Valley has to offer and the kids will love searching for Pupfish in Salt Creek! The trail is mostly flat and has signs along the way explaining various points of interest.

Telescope Peak Trail

Telescope Peak
Telescope Peak

Distance: 14 mi

Elevation Gain: 3,000 feet

Difficulty: Difficult

The hike to Telescope Peak is a classic! You’ll find yourself on a difficult trek that takes you 3,000 feet up a mountain to the highest point in the park, where you will be rewarded with 360-panoramic views. If you’re looking to capture all the beauty of Death Valley in one hike, be sure to add the hike to Telescope Peak to your itinerary.

Mosaic Canyon Trail

Smooth Walls in Mosaic Canyon
Smooth Walls in Mosaic Canyon

Distance: 4 mi

Elevation Gain: 1,200 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Mosaic Canyon is one of the coolest Death Valley hikes. This famous canyon is known for two things: smooth canyon walls and mosaics created by nature. Your hike starts out flat and easy but ends with a short scramble. If you’re uncomfortable with a scramble, you can turn around early (you’ll still see plenty of smooth walls and mosaics).

Natural Bridge Trail

Distance: 1 mi

Elevation Gain: 85 feet

Difficulty: Easy

The Natural Bridge Trail is another easy hike with amazing geological formations. The natural bridge was formed by water erosion over the course of thousands of years. Since then, it has become a favorite for families with children, who love to explore and play around the bridge.

Artist’s Palette Hike

Artist's Valley Death Valley
Artist's Palette Death Valley

Distance: 0.5 mi

Elevation Gain: 115 feet

Difficulty: Easy

The hike to Artist’s Palette is another Death Valley hike classic! It takes you on a short trek to a beautiful mountain known for its colorful mineral deposits. If you’re a photographer looking for your next cool shot, we recommend doing this hike at sunset or sunrise when the colors are most vibrant.

Dante’s View

Dante's View Death Valley
Dante's View Death Valley

Distance: 1 mi

Elevation Gain: 220 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Like Telescope Peak, Dante’s View also offers excellent views of the park. From this viewpoint, you get sweeping views of the basin and the salt flats. It is also an excellent spot to watch the stars, as all of Death Valley is an International Dark Sky Park.

Red Cathedral

Distance: 3 mi

Elevation Gain: 570 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

This popular day hike takes you on a short trek through Golden Canyon and ends at the base of the Red Cathedral formations. This is a must-do Death Valley hike for many people, so we recommend getting there early to beat the crowds. The views from the top are spectacular and if you’re in the mood for more hiking, you can continue on the trail to Telescope Peak.

Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater Death Valley
Ubehebe Crater Death Valley

Distance: 3 mi

Elevation Gain: 570 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Ubehebe Crater is a 600-foot deep volcanic crater. It was created hundreds of years ago by a powerful volcanic steam eruption and is the largest of a number of volcanic craters in the park. It's easily viewed from the parking lot on the rim, but if you want to see a little more, head down into the crater to discover lots of interesting erosion!

Tips for Hiking in Death Valleys

Death Valley is a land of highs and lows, which means being prepared for the extremes is key. Next time you find yourself on a Death Valley hike, keep these tips in mind:

  • Check the weather. Canyons can flood during heavy rains and the weather changes quickly in Death Valley.

  • Pack plenty of water. It is easy to get dehydrated in Death Valley. Be sure to pack enough water for your hike!

  • Download maps before you arrive. There is no cell service in most of the park. Having maps downloaded and available offline is crucial for safe hiking.

  • Use sun protection. There is very little cover in Death Valley so you will want to protect yourself from the sun before you set out on your journey. We recommend packing sun protection with a high SPF.

With that, we wrap up our list of the best Death Valley hikes. If you want to experience Death Valley first hand, be sure to check out our 3-Day Death Valley Getaway!

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