If you happen to visit Death Valley in the spring, fall, or summer, you’ll probably want to get out of the valley as quickly as possible to escape the heat. The problem is that one of the few ways to escape the valley is to drive up toward Telescope Peak, and if you don’t want to hike the 6.6 miles (one way) all the way to the peak, what to do?
One thought is to hike only to Rogers Peak (5.2 miles round trip) and / or Bennett Peak (7.0 miles round trip) (together, 7.6 miles round trip). You get a lot of the same views as Telescope Peak without that mountain’s insane switchbacks that are enough to daunt even experienced hikers!
I hiked the first part of the Telescope Peak Trail back in 2001, escaping 100+ temperatures of the valley in May. We were in search of Bennett Peak, which the park service recommends in their hiking literature. Having since hiked Bennett Peak with the aid of a GPS, I can’t figure out why it’s so prominently recommended (not because of the view, but because of its non-ease of access), but I’ll also save you all the trouble of not finding Bennett Peak by telling you the easiest way to get to the top (which is not the way you might think).
The trail begins in the small parking area next to the campground (free; I highly recommend it; in late June, there were no more than three groups in the campground on any given night). You won’t miss the trailhead, as it’s fairly well-marked with a sign pointing toward Telescope Peak, 7 miles. Now, I didn’t hike 14 miles even with side trips to Rogers Peak and walking over Bennett Peak, so take that number with a grain of salt.
The trail begins by winding upward through the trees. It was very odd to me to be walking through a pine forest and discover a flowering cactus. That’s not something you see every day!
Fairly quickly the trail breaks out of the forest on the eastern slopes of Rogers Peak. Views begin to open up of Badwater and Death Valley in general. There were lupines in bloom in late June after a heavy snow year.
Keep walking upward along the trail (you can’t get too lost; there is only one trail) as it turns west to ascend toward Arcane Meadows (the saddle between Rogers Peak and Bennett Peak). It was in this section in 2001 that one of our group members, then in a baby backpack, lost her favorite shoe. Another hiker so kindly picked it up and set it on a rock where we could find it on our way back down. I’ve never forgotten that hiker’s kindness, and this time, the group member walked up in her own shoes under her own locomotion!
Reach the saddle (Arcane Meadows; there’s no sign indicating this) at mile 2.3 and enjoy the view of Death Valley (to the east, behind you) and China Lake and the High Sierras (to the west and across the pass). This is about as far as we got in 2001, elevation and cloudy skies taking its toll on us all.
To climb Rogers Peak, turn right to ascend the slopes of the mountain 0.3 miles toward the radio towers. Take one of the social trails or choose your own path. I only ask that you stay on rocks rather than the fragile alpine vegetation.
Reach Rogers Peak at mile 2.6. Enjoy the view of the High Sierras and the northern part of Death Valley, then retrace your steps to your vehicle, unless you want to climb Bennett Peak.
To climb Bennett Peak, from the saddle / meadow, continue on the Telescope Peak Trail as it turns left to follow the western flank of Bennett Peak. Continue on the trail all the way around Bennett Peak until you come to its south side, not quite to the saddle and about 2.2 miles from the trailhead, or 3.1 if you’ve done Rogers Peak. Turn left, off-trail, to ascend the scree up 0.4 miles to the top of the peak.
The fun part about the scree is that some of the rocks are quite interesting to look at. There are bent lines and splintered veins, and I’m not sure what to call it all (my high school science teacher wasn’t much into geology, and besides, that was a long time ago). At any rate, it’s worth seeing!
The views atop Bennett Peak are really quite good; very different than Rogers IMHO. There are pretty all-encompassing views of Death Valley, and great views down into China Lake, and views across China Lake to the High Sierras (which, after a 200% snow year, were still very snowy in late June / July!) I expect that if you knew what you were doing, and it was a clearer day, you could pick out Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental US.
Retrace your steps to return to your vehicle, or continue along the trail to climb Telescope Peak!
Why do I take you all the way around the mountain and up its far side when you could just strike up the mountain from Arcane Meadows?
Well, the reason is actually simple: it’s a whole lot easier to hike further. I did Bennet Peak after coming down from Telescope Peak (two of us went over the top, while the others took the trail). It was easy to go up the southern flanks of the mountain, but coming down the north flank was mostly wading through waist-high scrub, and even as the two of us chatted while we hiked, my mind was racing Rattlesnakes! Rattlesnakes! At least on the southern side you can see where you’re putting your feet!
So yes, it’s absolutely possible to hike up the northern side of Bennett Peak. All my maps show me coming down that way. But I don’t personally recommend it, and if you do, keep a wary eye out for desert critters hiding from the sun under bushes, or sunning themselves on rocks, etc.
Round Trip Trail Length: Rogers Peak: 5.2 miles round trip; Bennett Peak: 7.0 miles round trip; together, 7.6 miles round trip
Net Elevation Change: Rogers: 2,208ft.; Bennett: 2,296ft. (7,668ft. at the trailhead to 9,876ft. on Rogers Peak and 9,964ft. on Bennett Peak)
Facilities: Campground with primitive restroom and picnic tables at the trailhead.
Fees: $25 per vehicle to enter Death Valley National Park, valid 7 days. Death Valley Annual Pass and National Parks & Federal Recreational Lands Passes are also accepted.
Trail Notes: Don’t try this trail when thundershowers are in the forecast; the trail is very exposed and you’ll be the tallest thing around. Elevation can be an issue for some people, as this is much higher than the surrounding area / where a lot of people travel from. I found the views from Rogers vs. Bennett Peak to be fairly different, even though Bennett Peak is less than 100ft. taller than Rogers Peak. I think the difference may be due to the great views of the valley / Badwater from Bennett Peak, while Rogers offers views north into some very interesting country. Both offer views to the west and the High Sierras. The views toward the Sierras / China Lake are better in the morning, while the views into Death Valley are better in the afternoon.
Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this?
GPS Coordinates for the trails to Rogers Peak & Bennett Peak
Trailhead: 36.2296806°N, -117.0683833°W (36°13’46.85″N, -117° 4’6.18″W / 36°13.78083’N, -117°04.10300’W) (7,668ft.) (0.0; ended 13.7)
Rogers / Bennet Pass: 36.2140528°N, -117.0890639°W (36°12’50.59″N, -117° 5’20.63″W / 36°12.84317’N, -117°05.34383’W) (9,611ft.) (Arrived 2.3; Returned after Rogers 2.9; Returned after Telescope & Bennett 11.5)
Rogers Peak: 36.2170167°N, -117.0870389°W (36°13’1.26″N, -117° 5’13.34″W / 36°13.02100’N, -117°05.22233’W) (9,876ft.) (2.6)
Leave Trail for Bennet: 36.2020278°N, -117.0924806°W (36°12’7.30″N, -117° 5’32.93″W / 36°12.12167’N, -117°05.54883’W) (9,571ft.) (3.1)
Bennet Peak: 36.2065694°N, -117.0928139°W (36°12’23.65″N, -117° 5’34.13″W / 36°12.39417’N, -117°05.56883’W) (9,964ft.) (3.5)
Regain Trail after Bennet: 36.2125417°N, -117.0910972°W (36°12’45.15″N, -117° 5’27.95″W / 36°12.75250’N, -117°05.46583’W) (9,603ft.) (4.0)
The gpx file for Telescope Peak (with side treks to Rogers Peak and across Bennett Peak) can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource when hiking this trail.
Download GPX File size: 258.9 KB Downloaded 3 times
(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website. Thanks!)
Getting to Rogers and Bennett Peak
From Furnace Creek, drive north on CA-190W, the main north-south road through Death Valley (toward Beatty, though you’re not actually going to Beatty). After 33 miles, turn left onto Emigrant Canyon Road (follow sign for Wildrose). Continue about 30 miles to the trailhead.
From Panamint Springs, head northeast on CA-190E for 21.4 miles. Turn right onto Emigrant Canyon Road; continue about 30 miles to the trailhead.
Note: Emigrant Canyon Road is dirt and quite rough. You should be able to access the Charcoal Kilns; beyond this, high clearance may be required, although I think almost all the cars I’ve seen at the trailhead were low-clearance.
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Mon Jan 22
Sunny. High 64F. Winds light and variable.
Tue Jan 23
A mainly sunny sky. High 69F. Winds light and variable.
Wed Jan 24
Mostly sunny skies. High 72F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.
Thu Jan 25
Sunshine. High 71F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph.
Fri Jan 26
Sunny along with a few clouds. High 66F. Winds light and variable.