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Trip Destination: Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley is one of the premiere destinations in the Mojave Desert. Located in southern California near the border with Nevada, it is the hottest, driest, and lowest National Park. A land of extremes, only a few miles separate Badwater Basin at 282-feet below sea level from the top of Telescope Peak, some 11,043-feet above sea level. Four main valleys and six mountain ranges make for hundreds of square miles of explorable land. If your goal is to get lost in a land unlike any other, look no further than Death Valley and the surrounding area.

Note: Death Valley is a very remote area, with extreme weather. Plan accordingly. Know where you can get fuel and water, and carry extra. If you are travelling alone, be extremely cautious - if you get stuck out here, it could be many days before someone else comes along to help.

Death Valley is one of the better parks as far as providing visitor information. These resources are espeically useful when planning a trip to this region:

For more background information and some of my recommendations, check out the Death Valley Index. And of course, more than 100 nights of trip reports can be found below.

I've Missed Death Valley (Mar 2024)

It's been more than a year since I last visited Death Valley. Hit hard by Hurricane Hillary, nearly the entire road system of the Park was closed, and it's taken a long time for it to re-open. In fact, even today, many of my favorite trails - the ones that shuttle intrepid explorers to the far reaches of remote valleys - are still closed. I've tried to satisfy my desert appetite with places a little further south in the Mojave, and even the lower lying Colorado deserts, but there's something special about Death Valley for me. I can't take it any…

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Left Behind, Again (Feb 2023)

Almost exactly a month ago, we headed south to Death Valley. Our goal - to explore a handful of places we've left behind over our years of exploration: There are several places that I've wanted to check out in Death Valley for quite some time, but that haven't fit into the route or schedule for previous trips. Hoping to knock off a bunch of those places that I've "left behind," I set about planning a route that would take us along West Side Road and the eastern escarpment of the Panamint Mountains. From there, we'd repeatedly climb into the canyons,…

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Left Behind (Jan 2023)

There are several places that I've wanted to check out in Death Valley for quite some time, but that haven't fit into the route or schedule for previous trips. Hoping to knock off a bunch of those places that I've "left behind," I set about planning a route that would take us along West Side Road and the eastern escarpment of the Panamint Mountains. From there, we'd repeatedly climb into the canyons, exploring the mines, narrow passages, and vistas that each had to share. It would - I thought - be a lot like our trip along the Nadeau Trail,…

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Inyo East (Dec 2022)

Preserved as a 205,000-acre wilderness adjacent to Death Valley National Park, the Inyo Mountains rank among the most formidable and majestic mountains in the California desert. Forming the western backdrop of Saline Valley, they rise in just a few miles from an elevation of a little over 1,000 feet at the valley floor to above 11,000 feet. Very few places in the desert are this steep over such distances. From Saline Valley, this abrupt wall appears to be impassable - and it is nearly that. The few roads that make ingress into this sheer wilderness of stone are short but…

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Panamint City via Surprise Canyon (Nov 2022)

Let me share something that may not be obvious given my love for hiking: I, personally, hate hiking with a pack on my shoulders. It's uncomfortable - both while hiking and after - and so rarely do I embark on any journey carrying more than a day pack that rests on my hips. For more than a year I've been trying to get to Panamint City. Despite requiring a 7.2-mile (one way) hike with more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain, trekking to-and-from this ghost town high on the western slopes of the Panamint Mountains isn't the issue. Rather, the…

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Highway Hikes [on CA-190] (Nov 2022)

Generally, when I visit Death Valley, my goal is to explore the more remote regions of the park. Long lost dirt roads, canyons that entail as much climbing as hiking, and days without seeing another soul (with the exception of @mrs.turbodb) - these are the places we spend our time. As such, exploration of Death Valley proper - largely along CA-190 - has been light. Sure, most of the major tourist attractions have been seen, but surely in a place this inhospitable, even CA-190 holds special places that are only infrequently visited. Remote despite their proximity to pavement. With a…

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Almost Stranded (Mar 2022)

For the last four months, my sole destination has been Death Valley. This would be my sixth trip to the National Park, and with temperatures warming up elsewhere, likely the last visit of the season. I couldn't wait. Ever since December, when I'd ventured up Pleasant Canyon and South Park on the Back for More trip with my buddies Mike @Digiratus, Zane @Speedytech7, and Monte @Blackdawg, I'd been trying to get back. I'd planned an entire trip around that loop in early January, but snow levels turned out to be low at the time, and we were forced to change…

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Hiking Saline Valley (Jan 2022)

More and more I've found that I enjoy hiking more than driving in Death Valley. Getting out into a canyon, walking across the desert, hiking up a sand dune - these are the times when I really find joy in the beauty of this grand place. And so, for the fifth time in two months, I'm headed back. The plan this time is to hike for three days, to three very special places - places that not many people visit, and that I'll do my best to keep a little more obscured than normal. if you find them, I encourage…

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Lipstick on the Pig (Jan 2022)

Exploring Death Valley during the winter months is usually a good choice. Given the wintery-cold temps and snow elsewhere, the relatively cooler - but still pleasantly warm at 60-75°F - days in the desert a welcome break from the dreary days in the Pacific Northwest. It was with this in mind that I decided to plan a trip to the southwestern Panamint Mountains to explore the area I'd discovered along the Pleasant Canyon-to-Lower Park loop on my previous trip just a month before. We'd rushed that section a bit - completing it in about four hours, and I hoped that…


Back for More (Dec 2021)

I'm one lucky dude. Having just gotten back from two trips to Death Valley - (Lowest Peak in the Park) (Highest Peak in the Park) - over a three week period, I'm now headed back for my third trip in a month! But, frequency isn't the only reason I'm excited. Every year, a few buddies get together for an annual outing - usually in early fall - to explore and hang out. For me, it all started when I tagged along on my first major trip - The De-Tour - and I've been hooked ever since. This year, truck problems and…

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Highest Peak in the Park - aka Pushing into the Panamints (Nov 2021)

The 20-hour drive home - that concluded our Lowest Peak in the Park - aka Into the Owlsheads trip - gave me a lot of time to think. The trip had been brilliant, with some predictable highlights, and some unexpected surprises. And I have to admit that joking around as we climbed Owl Peak - that it was the lowest in the park, perfect for the serial underachiever - had been a lot of fun. But it also got me thinking. In the nearly four years that I've been visiting Death Valley, Owl Peak is the only summit I've ever…

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Lowest Peak in the Park - aka Into the Owlsheads (Nov 2021)

I have no better way to describe this trip than Michel Digonnet has so expertly done in Hiking Death Valley. One read of this, and I was sold - it was time to visit the Owlshead Mountains. At the south end of Death Valley, between the imposing Panamints and the mysterious Avawatz Mountains, the land gathers up into a colorful aggregate of low ranges collectively known as the Owlshead Mountains. Believed to be the eroded and partly collapsed remnant of a once much taller range, they consist of a roughly circular arrangement of hills surrounding two dry lakes. The name…

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Death Valley Loose Ends (Nov 2020)

I don't know whether it's an "oh, duh!" moment, or "can you believe it?" situation, but less than two weeks after returning from our Death Valley trip along the Nadeau Trail, we were headed back for more! I was jazzed, and - a little surprisingly to me - so was @mrs.turbodb! This time, the land area we'd cover would be larger than the last, with our plan to see several places that we've meant to visit over the last few years but that we've never gotten to - largely because there's only so much you can see on a given…

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Retracing Panamint Valley's Nadeau Trail (Nov 2020)

The Nadeau Trail follows the west side of Panamint Valley, roughly in a north-south direction between the Argus Range and the valley's paved roads. Measuring a scant 27 miles long - and for the most part completely straight - the casual observer may wonder if allotting three days to travel this road is two-and-a-half days longer than necessary... I can assure you that it is not. Colorful side canyons, historic mine sites, glorious overlooks, and mysterious geological formations easily filled our days to the brim. And the icing on the cake? A hunt for, and ultimately discovery of, petroglyphs -…

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Nevada Backcountry Discovery Route (Jul 2020)

Nevada's BDR is known to be a bit different than some of the others. Most interesting is the temperature differential between the northern and southern ends of the route - even as the north is still covered in snow, temps in the south reach over 100°F. For that reason, a lot of travelers split the trip into two - doing the southern route in winter or early spring and the northern bit come summer. But not us; we're not that smart. Well no, that's not it exactly - it's just that the time we had to do the trip happened…


Death Valley Connections (Jan 2020)

Death Valley is always full of wonderful surprises. Experienced where they are never expected, they make for memorable trips and are one of the reasons I keep going back. This time, I was going solo; sort of. Sure, there were a couple spots - Hidden Dunes being the most prominent - that I planned to keep to myself, but I also hoped that this would be a trip of new beginnings and old friendships. See, I planned to meet - for the first time - a fellow adventurer that I'd been trying to cross paths with for the last two…

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In Search of Overlooks, Death Valley (Nov 2019)

Death Valley is not nearby, and yet - it continues to call time after time, urging us to make the 20 hour journey south to explore its wonders. It's hard to say no. That's how - on a Wednesday morning - we found ourselves packed up in the truck and heading towards southern California, excited for the three-and-a-half days we'd have to explore. With too much planned for the time we had allotted (as always), we had an amazing time (again, as always), even as we confined ourselves to a small corner of the park - Eureka and Saline Valleys.…

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Hiking Death Valley (Feb 2019)

The plan for this trip to Death Valley was to do something completely different than normal - spend the vast majority of our time out of the trucks, hiking some of the beautiful canyons that the desert has to offer. Looking back now, a little over a year since the trip took place, it was just the first of such trips - and it opened up an entirely new perspective for me when visiting the park. The best stuff is found only on foot. Sit back and enjoy as we explore Kaleidoscope Canyon, Room Canyon, the Smoke Tree Slot Canyons,…

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Back to Death Valley (Apr 2018)

If our first trip to Death Valley taught us anything, it was that our adventures there were far from complete. The three days of exploration had just scratched the surface of the vast wilderness before us. So, when I found out that @mrs.turbodb was headed out of town for a week, I was quick to make plans for a return trip. Going solo, my route did include a few of our favorite spots (Butte Valley and Goler Wash), but focused on several new areas as well - most outside of Death Valley proper (West Side Road, Charcoal Kilns, Saline Valley + Warm Springs, Steel…

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Our First Trip to Death Valley (Jan 2018)

Death Valley always seemed so far away. Nearly 20 hours by truck, that's what kept us from visiting to this point. That, and the fact that I always thought there wasn't much there. Boy, was I wrong. Looking back now (in 2020), this trip really kicked off a new love of an awesome place for both @mrs.turbodb and me. Our first journey took us to some amazing places - Titus Canyon, Obehebe Crater, The Racetrack, Goler Wash and Butte Valley (not to mention the tourist destinations we hit as well) - but little did we know that there was so…

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