Walking / Hiking, Death Valley National Park
This is a wonderful short hike through a grotto to an unexpected waterfall.
Equipment: Bring plenty of water. I've done this hike in the summer. When we started from the car the temperature was 100 degrees! Once in the grotto the temperature dropped to 91. Interesting the sudden change but still hot.
The hike to Natural Bridge is a little over a half mile round trip. The trail head has some nice interpretive signs showing how the Natural Bridge was formed as well as the multitude of dry pour offs on both sides of the canyon.
The trail is easy and wide, narrowing at the arch and then opening up through the arch. A nice little side trip. But there is more to explore beyond the arch.
Continuing up the canyon past the arch the canyon will narrow again to a 10 foot fall than can be climbed fairy easily. You can follow the canyon for some time. I turned back after the third fall that was too high to down climb when it was time to come back.
I definitely recommend going past the arch and exploring up canyon. Be sure to bring plenty of water if this is your goal.
Equipment: Plenty of water
Death Valley offers many great hiking opportunities. Two nice trails we tried are Mosaic Canyon and Golden Canyon. These were picturesque walks. Be sure to bring along water when you hike here. You may also want to time your hike with consideration of the lower temperatures of the day.
Equipment: I'd recommend hiking boots on the Mosaic Canyon trail. You can make it without them. But getting over some slick marble spots will be difficult.
The Trail head for the Badlands Loop hike is at Zabriskie Point. At the parking area is a very good sign with trail map and short description of several trails. I decided to do the Badlands Loop which is about 2.5 miles long. The trail is marked on the right with green plastic wilderness posts. It descends into the Badlands and down into a wash.
Once at the wash there is a wood sign directing the way to Golden Canyon. Turn right here and follow the trail to Golden Canyon over beautiful rolling hills. Again descends into another wash. Turn left at another sign that takes you to Gower Gulch.
It is a short distance to Gower Gulch where you turn left and follow back out to the trail head. An enjoyable hike. I did this hike at about 9am. Plenty of people at Zabriskie Point but I saw no one on the trail.
Equipment: The trail is exposed to the sun with no shade. Wear a good hat that will block the sun and plenty of water.
If you have a smart phone, take a photo of the trail head map for reference.
Most people do little more than briefly admire the scenery, which is best at sunrise, but it is possible to climb some of the adjacent hills to get a better overall view, or wander down amongst the variegated dunes.
Just before Zabriskie Point, an unpaved 5 mile, one-way loop (the 20 Mule Team Road) leads into 20 Mule Canyon, where there are more colourful rocks, badlands and desolate mud hills, formed by evaporation of an ancient lake.
For a great outdoor Death Valley workout, try running up and down the sand dunes. There appear to be hundreds of them clustered along Hwy 190 near Stovepipe Wells. Many of the dunes are pretty high so it takes some leg power to run to the top. You won't need the gym after this one.
Scrambling is a combination of hiking and rock climbing. It involves trails that are not technical climbing routes, but which require a bit of agility to cross. It can be a bit dangerous in areas with exposure of on steep rock walls where its easy to lose your footing, especially if you're wearing sneakers or sandals.
Some of the canyons in Death Valley have moderately challenging sections where scrambling is required. It can be fun, so long as you're careful.
A foot-path leads through the mounds, down a ravine and into Gower Gulch after 2 miles, while another branch veers right into Golden Canyon.
The road is named after the teams of mules that once pulled wagons loaded with borax from mines on the valley floor.
The interesting landscape provides many hiking possibilities: desert, sand dunes, badlands, marshland, lava land, etc. It's the devil's playground!!
Telescope Peak and Wildrose Peak are 2 of the most challenging hikes in Death Valley National Park. Both peaks have a well maintained trail leading to the summit.