Evening at Badwater Basin

Walking out onto the Badwater Basin salt flats late on a June day in Death Valley National Park, California

Walking out onto the Badwater Basin salt flats late on a June day

We were crazy to go to Badwater Basin in the middle of June the week after record-breaking high temperatures in California.  We knew we were crazy.  But we also wanted to hike Telescope Peak, and since we had to travel east to west somehow, going to Badwater made as much sense as driving right by.

Quick Stats

Round Trip Length: 0.1+ miles Trail Type: Out & back Elevation Change: 11ft. Fees: $25/vehicle

 



 

Cute little

Cute little “Sea Level” sign on the cliff above Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin is known as the lowest place in the western hemisphere.  That’s pretty cool.  But cooler yet are the salt flats, pancakes covered in crystals, with ridges between each pancake of crystal formations.

Not many crystals, but cool mud formations near the boardwalk at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, California

Not many crystals, but cool mud formations near the boardwalk

Most of the crystal formations aren’t visible near the boardwalk out onto the salt flats; you’re better off hiking across the flats if you want to see these.  But there are still a few not too far from the boardwalk, and if you don’t want to hike far, or it’s just too crazy hot to want to hike at all, Badwater Basin makes a pretty good substitute.

The boardwalk out onto Badwater Basin from the parking area, Death Valley National Park, California

The boardwalks from the parking area

Several stairways and ramps lead down to the main boardwalk from the parking area.  I would expect that at times of high visitation – say, Spring Break – the parking area would be overcrowded.  It was crowded enough in the middle of June, and I’m not sure why anyone would be crazy enough to endure those temperatures (so sayeth someone without air conditioning in their vehicle!)

Water on the salt flats at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, California

Water on the salt flats

The boardwalk goes out onto the salt flats and almost immediately you can turn right to the famous Badwater Sign.  No one else was wanting it, so we got lots of pictures, no problem.

Badwater Basin sign in Death Valley National Park, California. Of course, the pictures aren't very good with the sun behind them. Badwater is best visited in the later morning.

Of course, the pictures aren’t very good with the sun behind them. Badwater is best visited in the later morning.

From there, the boardwalk goes out to the salt flats.  For a good quarter mile beyond the end of the boardwalk, the flats are packed solid from so many feet.  Stay on the trail in this section.  If you want to go beyond the end of the “trail” to see some more natural formations, good, but for now, protect what is left close to the parking area.

Walking out on the salt flats of Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, California

Walking out on the salt flats

We wandered out for a short distance, just far enough to say we had really done it, and took crazy photos of crazy people jumping in the evening sunlight (um, actually, those crazy people are us!)

Jumping on the Badwater Basin salt flats in Death Valley National Park, California

Jumping into the sunset on the Badwater Basin salt flats

We had told those who didn’t want to get out of the van to give us five minutes, and we spent probably closer to ten minutes.  But it was worth it.  How many other people can say they hiked Badwater Flats at 120°F?

Walking back to the boardwalk and the parking area at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, California

Walking back to the boardwalk and the parking area

Round Trip Trail Length: At least 0.1 mile just to walk the boardwalks, plus however far you decide to walk out on the salt flats

Net Elevation Change: About 11ft.

Facilities: Primitive restrooms; more facilities available at the visitor center up the road

Fees: $25/vehicle/week.  Death Valley Annual Passes and Federal Lands & Recreation Passes (annual, senior, access, volunteer, military, 4th grader) also accepted.

Trail Notes: Try this trail in November-April for the best results – it’s also the most beautiful because Telescope Peak has snow!

Proof that 30 minutes later it was 119F at the visitor center! Death Valley National Park, California

Proof that 30 minutes later it was 119F at the visitor center!

Trail ★

Road ★

Signs ★

Scenery ★

Would I go 100 miles out of my way for this? ★

Overall Rating: ★

Shadow fun at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, California

Shadow fun

Key GPS Coordinates for Badwater Basin

Parking: 36.2297611°N, -116.7673056°W (36°13’47.14″N, -116°46’2.30″W / 36°13.78567’N, -116°46.03833’W) (-281ft.)

Sign: 36.2299417°N, -116.7677167°W (36°13’47.79″N, -116°46’3.78″W / 36°13.79650’N, -116°46.06300’W) (-292ft.)

End of Boardwalk: 36.2299556°N, -116.7681139°W (36°13’47.84″N, -116°46’5.21″W / 36°13.79733’N, -116°46.08683’W) (-292ft.)

Evening on the salt flats of Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, California

Evening on the salt flats

Getting to Badwater Basin

From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, head south on CA-190E.  After 1.3 miles, turn right onto the Badwater Road, following signs for Badwater.  Drive 16.5 miles to the parking area for Badwater Basin, on right.

 

Badwater Basin is also on left about 30 miles north of Ashford Junction.


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Driving at sunset through Death Valley National Park, California. The hand on the steering wheel is a reflection in the window.

Driving at sunset through Death Valley National Park. The hand on the steering wheel is a reflection in the window.

This Week’s Featured Product!

If you’re looking for a guide on hiking in Death Valley, this one comes highly rated – and an updated version from years of hiking in the national park.

 

 

 

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