10 Best Day Hikes in Death Valley National Park

Bristlecones and Badwater Flats from the Telescope Peak Trail in Death Valley National Park, California

Bristlecones and Badwater Flats from the Telescope Peak Trail

Death Valley is a land of extremes – incredibly dry desert, mountains, bristlecone forests, cacti, sand dunes, canyons, and old mines, not to mention rich history, hiking options galore, and the bragging rights of “the lowest place in the western hemisphere”.

Badwater Flats in Death Valley National Park, California

Badwater Flats

I first visited Death Valley at the tender age of 11.  It was May, and 102F in the shade.  To say the least, we felt like we were absolutely going to fry alive, though going into the mountains, we thought we were going to freeze to death, and Telescope Peak still required crampons and an ice ax.  May might not be the best time to visit, but November was much nicer in the valley, as was our April and December visits.  It was 119F in the valley, but quite pleasant on Telescope Peak – the highest point in the park – in June.  So you might have to visit at different times of year if you truly want to hike in both places.

119F at the Death Valley Visitor Center, California

119F at the Death Valley Visitor Center

We’ve hiked trails from almost one end of the valley to the other, so I put together a list of our favorites, in no particular order!




Best Day Hikes in Death Valley National Park

Hiking along the Zabriski Point Trail, Death Valley National Park, California

Hiking along the Zabriski Point Trail

Zabriskie Point / Golden Canyon Loop.  There’s no reason you couldn’t do this as a shuttle hike – I’ve done it myself – but I enjoy the beauty of Zabriskie Point near sunrise, and then the shade of Golden Canyon later in the day.  An added bonus to the hike is that you get to walk by places where Star Wars was filmed.  About 6 miles RT

Evening walk on Badwater Flats, Death Valley National Park, California

Evening walk on Badwater Flats

Badwater Flats.  There are two ways to enjoy Badwater Flats: to go to the Badwater Basin Trailhead and see the famous sign and then walk out on the flats, or to walk all the way across.  In June, I’ll take the former, but in any cooler season, the latter is an extremely fun way spend a day enjoying incredible scenery and the nearly-flat salt flats.  Trail length for Badwater Basin is 0.1+ miles, while it’s about 5 miles one way across the salt flats.

Devils Golf Course in Death Valley National Park, California

Devils Golf Course. Photo courtesy of Olivier Bruchez

Devils Golf Course.  Strange rock formations and salt crystals – it’s a rather odd combination.  But that’s part of what makes the area worth visiting.  The length is pretty much as long as you want to make it, since you’re scrambling around the rocks, but use care not to fall – those salt crystals are sharp!

The trail up Telescope Peak, Death Valley National Park, California

The trail up Telescope Peak

Telescope Peak.  If you’re hiking in Death Valley in the summer, the only pleasant way place to be is in the mountains.  So why not try for the highest peak in the park?  Views stretch over the Badwater flats, the infamous China Lake, and far into the Sierras – I hear, all the way to Mt. Whitney (the highest peak in the Continental US) on a clear day.  13.2 miles RT

Lupine below Rogers Peak in Death Valley National Park, California

Lupine below Rogers Peak

Rogers Peak and Bennett Peak.  Looking for some cool and quiet, but not up to a 13 mile hike?  Check out Rogers (much easier) and Bennett (not quite as easy, but more adventurous and without radio towers) Peaks along the Telescope Peak Trail for views nearly as epic as the higher peak. Rogers Peak is 5.2 miles RT, while Bennett Peak is 7.0 miles RT.

Tramway at Keene Wonder Mine, Death Valley National Park, California

Tramway at Keane Wonder

Keane Wonder.  For many years we enjoyed the hike up beside the old tramway, past old mines, and up to an old refinery site.  Then for another many years, the park service closed the area due to radiation in the tailings.  It’s open once again to the public, and open for hikers to enjoy the old mine workings!  3.75 miles RT

Old mine workings near the Eureka Gold Mine in Death Valley National Park, California

Old mine workings near the Eurika Gold Mine.  Photo courtesy of Jeff Parr

Eureka Mine.  It’s not really a long hike, but as long as it’s not closed for hibernating bats, you can safely walk right into the old gold mine, complete with rails for transporting out the ore.  How cool is that?

Mosaic Canyon in Death Valley National Park, California

Mosaic Canyon.  Photo courtesy of Paul Asman & Jill Lenoble

Mosaic Canyon.  You really need some adventurous kids along to truly enjoy this – the canyon offers ample opportunities for “knickerbocker-breaker” slides, the rock polished by the movement of water from previous flash floods.  The canyon also offers some nice slots and sculpted walls and is a photographer’s paradise. 4 miles RT

Views of Death Valley and Telescope Peak from Dante's View, California

Views of Death Valley and Telescope Peak from Dante’s View

Dante’s View.  Very likely named for Dante’s Inferno, but the view is much more uplifting than an author’s version of hell.  At any rate, it’s a short, easy path to terrific views over Death Valley and Telescope Peak. Up to 1 mile RT

Saratoga Springs in Death Valley National Park, California

Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs.  If you’ve made it this far, you must be pretty dedicated, which is what you’ll need to be to get to Saratoga Springs.  When we last visited, a puddle – which had nothing to do with the springs – extended across the dead-end road, nearly trapping us.  The springs themselves are reminiscent of an African Serengeti (keep an eye out for wildlife, though I don’t think Death Valley harbors any hippos or zebras), and the adventurous can follow an old mining road to several old mining areas with in-tact tramways and even a dynamite shack.  The road goes almost all the way to the springs, but hiking to the mining areas is at least 2 miles RT.

Any other favorite or “best” hikes in Death Valley National Park I’ve missed?  Comment below!

Be sure to drink plenty of water – especially if it’s hot!

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Looking for more day hikes in Death Valley?  Check out this guide with 20 hikes along the length and bredth of the valley.