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10 Hikes in Death Valley with Unique Scenery 

10 Hikes in Death Valley with Unique Scenery 

Death Valley is one of California’s most famous national parks due to its mesmerizing geological features, stunning landscapes, and unique (think other-worldly) hiking trails. This vast protected area is undoubtedly best explored on foot, and luckily there are plenty of hiking trails in Death Valley no matter your fitness level. 

So if you’re looking for the best things to do in Death Valley where you can explore ‘the land of the extremes,’ these incredible hikes in Death Valley are a must. 

Best Hikes in Death Valley

The best trails in Death Valley range from less than a mile-long gentle boardwalk strolls to challenging canyon climbs and day treks in the dunes. 

But first: Don’t miss out on these additional Death Valley guides! And more California travel guides too!

Zabriskie Point

  • Length: 0.6 miles (1 km)
  • Duration: 15 – 30 mins
  • Level: Easy

Zabriskie Point is one of the shortest and most accessible hikes in Death Valley and one of the most scenic. Zabriskie Point is a fascinating geological site full of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago. It also gives expansive views over the park and is one of the most popular spots for watching sunset or sunrise. 

What’s even better is that the hiking trail is just 0.6 miles (1 km) long, so you don’t have to set aside much time to see this iconic attraction. The paved trail to the viewpoint is very accessible, but expect crowds and arrive early to get one of the best spots if you’re coming for sunset. 

Badwater Basin

  • Length: 1 mile (1.6 km)
  • Duration: 30 mins
  • Level: Easy

For more beginner-level hiking in Death Valley National Park, take the 1 mile (1.6 km) trail down to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the whole of North America. These salt flats descend to 282 feet (85 meters), and a 1 mile (1.6 km) boardwalk will take you to their edge. You can then step out onto the salt crystals, which usually have just a thin layer of water over them. 

You can go out as far as you like, choosing the length and duration of your walk. If you plan to extend the hike significantly, avoid the middle of the day as you will not find shade anywhere here, and it can get scorching!

Natural Bridge

  • Length: 2 miles (3.2 km)
  • Duration: 45 mins
  • Level: Easy

Natural Bridge is one of the best trails in Death Valley for those interested in learning more about the area’s geological history. As the name suggests, Natural Bridge is a unique 50-foot (15 meters) tall bridge, naturally formed from erosion in the canyon walls.

To reach the bridge, you’ll need to follow a gravel path from the trailhead with a slight incline until you enter the canyon. Here the trail becomes more narrow before opening up again under the bridge. The bridge creates a nice shaded area where you can take shelter from the burning sun. You’ll notice that the trail continues, so if you want to extend your hike, you can follow it until you reach a nearby dry waterfall.

Ubehebe Crater

  • Length: 2 miles (3 km)
  • Duration: 30 – 60 mins
  • Level: Moderate

This 2100-year-old volcanic crater is undoubtedly one of the best places to go hiking in Death Valley National Park if you’re looking for an out-of-this-world experience. Walking around the rim takes less than an hour, and you’ll feel like you are treading on another planet as you admire the unique debris that still covers the ground today.

One point of this hike involves a steep climb, and depending on which direction you go, it will either be at the beginning or at the end. There are also some short side trails here, allowing you to explore the area further. As there is no shade, do this one early in the morning before the sun gets too hot and take plenty of water. 

Darwin Falls

  • Length: 2 miles (3.2 km)
  • Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours
  • Level: Easy

Darwin Falls is an all-year-round gushing waterfall, so naturally, the trail is one of the most unexpected hikes in Death Valley. It’s relatively short and gentle, taking no longer than 90 minutes to complete, so you can easily fit in between some of the other hikes for a change of scenery.

What’s more, you can do this one during the middle of the day when other parts of the park are too hot. You’ll find some shade on the route, and you can also cool off in the refreshing waters. 

Mosaic Canyon

  • Length: 3.3 miles (5.3 km)
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours
  • Level: Moderate 

Death Valley has many incredible canyons to explore, including the stunning Mosaic Canyon. These gullies are ideal for those looking for more challenging and adventurous walks. Mosaic Canyon’s name comes from its smooth marbleized walls that enclose the path, full of multiple colors and layers. You’ll also notice the marble rocks are cool to the touch, which keeps the temperature here lower than in other areas of the park.

This trail is not only aesthetically intriguing. It’s also super fun as it features many winds and curves as well as boulders and other obstacles that you’ll have to scramble over. Because of this, it never gets boring, and you’ll find yourself always anticipating the next challenge that lies around the corner. 

Desolation Canyon

  • Length: 3.6 miles (5.8 km)
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours
  • Level: Moderate

Desolation Canyon sits between Zabriskie Point and Artists Drive, two of the park’s most popular attractions. So you may be pleasantly surprised that this gully is not often visited by tourists. As a result, if you want to escape the crowds, Desolation Canyon makes for one of the most peaceful hiking trails in Death Valley. 

It’s easy to find the trailhead; however, following the route is not straightforward. In fact, the trail is a desert wash, and there are many small side canyons, too. Even so, it’s still hard to get lost here as it’s pretty much a steady incline to the viewpoint, and coming back is a more gentle downhill stroll. There are a few points where you might have to scramble a bit, but in general, it’s not a challenging trek. However, you’ll be out for 2 to 3 hours so take plenty of water and snacks. 

Golden Canyon

  • Length: 4 miles (6.4 km)
  • Duration: 2 to 2.5 hours
  • Level: Moderate 

From one canyon to another, Golden Canyon sits next to Desolation and features a trail similar in length and intensity. However, this route is much easier to follow, and there are even information signs dotted around explaining the area’s geology. 

The hike begins by taking you through the golden-colored sandstone walls with gradual elevations until you arrive at Red Cathedral, where you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the desert. There is a bit of rock scrambling towards the end, but the trail is not too difficult for those with moderate fitness levels.

Ibex Dunes

  • Length: 5.7 miles (9.2 km)
  • Duration: 4 to 5 hours
  • Level: Moderate 

Ibex Dunes is one of the best day hikes in Death Valley, taking 4 to 5 hours to complete. Therefore, if you’re only doing a Death Valley day trip, you’ll probably give this one a miss. However, if you’re here for longer, these tranquil sand dunes in the southern tip of the park are well worth a visit. 

The area oozes solitude, but that’s most likely because the dunes are challenging to reach and require a 4WD. However, the bumpy drive is totally worth it as the ambiance is so peaceful, and the vistas are mind-blowing. Once you see the vastness of the dunes, you’ll understand why this hike requires a whole day. However, as it’s an out and back route, you don’t need to complete it all if you don’t want to.

Grotto Canyon

  • Length: 2.1-mile (3.4 km)
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours
  • Level: Difficult

For avid climbers and adrenaline seekers, Grotto Canyon makes one of the most challenging hikes in Death Valley. This trek is certainly not for those looking for a gentle stroll, featuring narrow ravines to navigate through and lots of massive obstacles to climb over, such as an 8-foot (2.4 meter) chimney.  

Likewise, it’s not a trail for you if you’re looking for the best vistas, as you’ll rarely see beyond the canyon walls and will be too busy watching your step. However, if you’re in Death Valley on an extended trip and are looking for an adventure that is a bit different, check out Grotto Canyon.

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