5 Epic Hikes in Death Valley National Park

5 Epic Hikes in Death Valley National Park

January 07, 2022

(Words and Photos by KJ and Sarah)

As a travel couple exploring different National Parks for the past year, we could not wait to visit Death Valley National Park. We've heard so many great things and seen many epic pictures that we knew we had to go. However, it is such a large park that we didn't know where to start. Thankfully after lots of research and outlining a driving route, we embarked on a road trip through Death Valley National Park. There are so many things to see; however, here are 5 epic hikes that you can't miss!

 

5. Badwater Basin

 

thru hiking zero waste

 

  • Difficulty level: easy
  • Distance: 1.9 miles out and back
  • Estimated hiking time: 46 minutes
  • Elevation gain: 6 feet

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America and the United States at 282 feet below sea level. You can walk out as far as you want on the salt flats and enjoy a beautiful sunset. We saw a lot of families hiking far, but you can also opt to turn around if needed.

 

4. Artists Palette

 

landscape of artists palette, a hike in death valley

 

  • Difficulty level: easy
  • Distance: 0.3 miles out and back 
  • Estimated hiking time: 15 minutes
  • Elevation gain: 110 feet

You start at Artists Drive, a one-way drive coming from the south to the north that is nine miles total. Stop halfway to find Artists Palette, which has rainbow-colored mountains because of the various metals oxidizing the clay. It was the perfect stop for sunset because it wasn't too crowded, and the golden hour made the colors pop.

 

3. Zabriskie Point 

 

zero waste thru hike mountain landscape

 

  • Difficulty level: easy
  • Distance: 0.4 miles out and back 
  • Estimated hiking time: 15 minutes 
  • Elevation gain: 50 feet 

This is the absolute best sunrise spot in the whole park! It is a short hike on a paved path to a beautiful viewpoint of colorful badlands that light up when the sun rises. There are also many hiking trails departing from this location. We decided to take the Badlands Loop to be up close and personal with the badlands and enjoy sunrise without the crowd. 

 

2. Golden Canyon

 

golden canyon hike in death valley

 

  • Difficulty level: moderate
  • Distance: 3 miles out and back 
  • Estimated hiking time: 1.5 hours
  • Elevation gain: 575 feet

We felt so small walking through Golden Canyon. It was impressive to see all of the rocks and be up close to Red Cathedral. It honestly felt like we were in a maze at some points because of the golden hills and narrow winding canyons. There are also many ways to explore this area, so definitely look at a trail map to decide which route is best for you. 

 

1. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

 

zero waste thru hike desert

 

  • Difficulty level: moderate
  • Distance: ~2.8 miles
  • Estimated hiking time: ~1.5 hours
  • Elevation gain: ~200 feet

This was our favorite spot in Death Valley National Park! Please note that there is no official trail, and you can spend all day playing in the dunes. We went to the sand dunes at 3:00 am to take some astrophotography, and we were not disappointed. Our excitement continued when the sun rose over the dunes and created intense contrasting shadows that made us feel like we were in a computer screen.

Since Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the lower 48, there are many other spots to explore! However, these were our favorites, and when we can spend more time here, we will definitely come back!

 

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