Having hiked in Death Valley National Park in the winter of 2016, here are a list of what I consider a handful of the best trails:
Mosaic Canyon is a great introduction to Death Valley’s unique landscape, a moderate hike featuring smooth, polished marble walls that create a mosaic-like appearance. The trail meanders through narrow slots and sculpted rock formations, providing an opportunity to explore the canyon’s intricate textures and shapes. Hikers may encounter dry waterfalls, narrow passages, and the occasional pool.
Golden Canyon Trail – Zabriskie Point – Gower Gulch
My favourite hike in Death Valley, this 6.8 mile loop trail takes you through narrow canyons adorned with striking golden-colored walls, a stunning contrast against the deep blue sky. From the summit of Zabriskie Point, you get a panoramic view of Death Valley’s surreal badlands, and you can marvel at the undulating patterns and vibrant colors of the Furnace Creek Formation, especially during sunrise or sunset.
Telescope Peak Trail
For those seeking a more challenging trek, the Telescope Peak Trail offers a strenuous 7-mile round trip to the highest point in the Panamint Range. At the summit, hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views that extend across Death Valley and beyond.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Lose yourself in the ethereal beauty of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. While there isn’t a designated trail, exploring these shifting sands during the cooler parts of the day provides a surreal experience as the dunes stretch endlessly, creating a serene and almost extraterrestrial atmosphere.
Rising to an elevation of over 9,000 feet, the trail to Wildrose Peak begins at the Charcoal Kilns, a historic site, and winds its way through diverse landscapes. As hikers ascend, they are treated to panoramic views of Death Valley, the Panamint Range, and Telescope Peak. The trail, though strenuous, offers a chance to witness unique flora and fauna, including ancient bristlecone pines. Reaching the summit, hikers are rewarded with breathtaking vistas that make the effort worthwhile. Wildrose Peak stands as an ideal trek for those seeking a day-long adventure amid the rugged beauty of Death Valley’s higher elevations.
Tips for a Successful Hiking Trip
Hydration is Key: The desert climate of Death Valley demands careful attention to hydration. Carry an abundance of water, and be mindful of the signs of dehydration. It’s recommended to drink at least one gallon of water per day.
Check Weather Conditions: Temperatures in Death Valley can be extreme, especially during the summer. Check weather forecasts and plan your hikes during the cooler parts of the day. Be aware of the park’s seasonal closures due to high temperatures.
Proper Gear: Wear sturdy hiking boots, a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection, and light, breathable clothing. Sunscreen and sunglasses are essential for shielding yourself from the intense desert sun.
Leave No Trace: Respect the fragile desert ecosystem by adhering to Leave No Trace principles. Stay on designated trails to minimize your impact on the environment, and carry out all waste.
Hiking in Death Valley is a journey into a world of extremes and contrasts, where the harshness of the desert is beautifully juxtaposed with its captivating landscapes. By embracing the challenges and respecting the delicate ecosystem, adventurers can discover the unique allure of this national park, leaving with memories of an unforgettable desert odyssey.