Friday, December 27, 2019

Hikes in Death Valley National Park

During my recent visit to Death Valley National Park, it was a breathtaking experience to absorb the variety of trails and landscapes it offers in just a few miles apart from each other. Starting from sand dunes to canyons to basins to trails, and adding to it the changing ambience at different times of the day and at different altitudes - it's a must for nature lovers.
Some intensive research and study went into planning the trip and reading through the guides to make sure we can make the most of the trip. Here's a detailed hiking guide for Death Valley. Some statistics may vary across the different websites of National Park Service and social sites like AllTrails based on route taken. The details here are focussed on NPS data.

Current Weather - A beautiful day can suddenly surprise us in this unpredictable landscape, hence a good study of the weather forecast is an essential ingredient for planning. The last thing we want is to get stuck in snow, closed roads, hailstorms or rains in the middle of the memorable moments of our life. Here's the current weather right now.

Trailheads - The starting points of the trails are shown below, click on the expand bar on the left top below to see the names of each.



Easy Hikes - The hikes are termed easy when the distances are very few miles and accompanied by almost negligible elevation gain and thus suitable for everyone.

A) HARMONY BORAX WORKS - This is located near a historic mining site where the mule wagons started their famous journey. This is around 0.4 mile round trip and has an elevation gain of less than 50 feet.

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B) SALT CREEK INTERPRETIVE TRAIL - The Salt Creek Interpretive Trail is one of the short yet most well-known trails of Death Valley and home to some rare fishes. This is also around 0.5 mile round trip and has nearly zero elevation shift.

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C) BADWATER SALT FLAT - The Badwater Salt Flat at Death Valley is one of the largest in the world and the lowest point in North America. At many places the salt forms a thin crust over mud so tricky to stray away from known paths. The salt flat forms amazing patterns with accumulated salt crystals and constantly changing temperatures. This is around 1 mile round trip and has nearly zero elevation shift.

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D) NATURAL BRIDGE CANYON - The Natural Bridge Canyon is a trip into exquisite views inside a canyon and gifts us a marvellous naturally formed picturesque bridge. This is around 1 mile round trip and has 180 feet elevation gain.

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E) MESQUITE FLAT SAND DUNES - With a plethora of  views at different times of the day casting immersive shadows, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes truly are a gem in this vast valley. This is around 2 miles round trip and has around 185 feet elevation gain.

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Moderate Hikes - The hikes are termed moderate when the distance and landscape elevation gain combined often requires us to stay in moderately good shape or otherwise might need rests and breaks to catch our breath a few times. Hence choosing the hike category is always a wise decision before we embark.

F) UBEHEBE CRATER RIM - This is a hike around the rim of a deep volcano. Going a little further around the loop we can see the Uberhebe Crater in all it's glory. This is around 1.5 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 500 feet.

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G) DARWIN FALLS - The Darwin Falls is drinking water! It's a desert waterfall and the path maybe slightly rocky but it's a nice trip and back. A SUV or similar vehicle is prefered on this route. This is also around 2 miles round trip and has 450 feet elevation gain.

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H) BADLANDS LOOP / GOLDEN CANYON / ZABRISKIE POINT - The trailheads start at Golden Canyon and Zabriskie Point. These are hikes through pretty colorful canyons carved across colorful rocks. The recommended route is starting at either of these points and looping back through Gower Gulch. This is around 2.7-5 miles round trip and has 535 feet elevation gain.

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I) DESOLATION CANYON - A beautiful trip through the colorful rocks of the canyons provide cherishable moments to capture. This is 3.6 miles round trip and has 600 feet elevation gain.

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J) SIDEWINDER CANYON - With a twisted formation of rocks and passages, an exciting hike awaits everyone in this canyon. This is around 5 miles round trip and has a 1,580 feet elevation gain.

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K) FALL CANYON - If the rock formations weren't enough, look for the steepness in this canyon and if you're lucky, a glimpse of bighorn sheep might prop up out of nowhere. This is around 6 miles round trip and has 2,460 feet elevation gain.

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L) DANTES RIDGE - A miraculous view as far as the eye can go, Dante's View point is one of the main attractions in Death Valley National Park. The best art is there is unobstructed view of the entire landscape. This is 8 miles round trip and has a 1,200 feet elevation gain.

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M) PANAMINT DUNES - The exquisite dunes are best watched during sunrise or sunset when the shadows mark their shapes prominently. This is 7 miles round trip and has near 1,028 feet elevation gain.

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Difficult Hikes - The hikes are termed difficult when the distances and elevation gains combined requires us to stay in excellent shape or else is advisable to avoid the risk. Choosing a difficult hike is recommended only with full preparation of atleast 3 litres of water per person, and after knowledge of the current road and weather conditions.

N) MOSAIC CANYON - Colorful polished rocks mark the specialty of this canyon over narrow passages and bends. This is 4 miles round trip and has an elevation gain of 1,200 feet.

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O) WILDROSE PEAK - A hike through the woodlands offers amazing views every now and then. The rocks and gravel are similar to the other hikes. Due to the elevation gain snow can be expected at times. This is about 8.4 miles round trip and has 2,200 feet elevation gain.

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P) TELESCOPE PEAK - If the road is not closed due to winter conditions, highly recommended is to answer the call of the highest peak in Death Valley. All the prerequisites of attempting a difficult trail applies strictly here. This is around 14 miles round trip and has 3,000 feet elevation gain.

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