Sea Level to Summit Trek in Death Valley National Park
- Summit the highest peak in Death Valley National Park - Telescope Peak. From the top down to Badwater Basin below (the lowest point in North America) the drop is a dizzying 11,331 feet - higher than the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
- Enjoy 360 panorama views from the top of California and Nevada. You will gaze for hundreds of miles in any direction!
- See every type of Death Valley landscape: blistering salt flats, wind-torn desert, canyons, slot narrows, sloped mountain meadows with desert wildflowers, blooming cacti, and ancient alpine forests.
- Challenge your endurance in a desert climate, on steep switchbacks, and while carrying a 30lb pack.
The first day of this challenge will begin with an evening orientation led by your hiking guides to prepare you for the journey ahead. After the orientation, you can delight in a welcome dinner and get to know your hiking companions. Tonight you can enjoy creature comforts in a hotel before your epic backcountry journey begins.
Today is an early start as you depart the hotel at around 5 am to begin the trek. The four-day summit bid will begin with a sunrise drive out of Las Vegas and into the Mojave Desert’s vast basin-and-range landscape. After a quick breakfast on the road, you will catch glimpses of your objective—Telescope Peak—peering over two mountain ranges ahead. Upon entering Death Valley National Park, you will be treated to morning views of the Badlands: jagged hills dazzlingly colored by volcanic metals. Once out of the Badlands, you’ll have uninterrupted views of Death Valley and the Panamint Range towering above. Take it all in, and celebrate what you are about to begin.
After a quick stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to collect your hiking permit, the trek will begin at Shorty’s Well, 250 feet below-sea-level. You’ll don your packs and leave the shuttle behind as you hike toward Telescope Peak looming to the west. The first day’s route will follow along an old mining road, hand-dug by a kindly, 65-year-old miner, Alexander ‘Shorty’ Borden. Today’s hike will immerse you in a rugged and slanted desert landscape for the first several miles as you steadily gain elevation. You will pass wind-sculpted rock, creosote, and black brush while being treated to ever-growing views of the vast salt-flats and mountains behind you.
Soon after Shorty’s Road takes us into Hanaupah Canyon, we’ll find some shade for a relaxing lunch. The last two miles up Hanaupah Canyon’s south fork will end near the lush oasis of Hanaupah Spring. There, we’ll make camp and enjoy a fresh dinner and spring water under the western shadow of the Telescope Peak ridgeline. The day’s elevation gain will be significant overall, but the gains during the hike will be steady/moderate, spread over about 8 miles, and not too strenuous.
Today’s hike is light, with the distance at the choice of the guides and hikers. You will leave camp set up today, and camp at the same spot that night.
Today will involve exploring Shorty’s Camp and the Hanaupah Canyon narrows. Guests have the option to explore further up the canyon’s south fork toward Telescope Peak, or along one of Shorty’s mining roads. It will be important to hydrate well and not exert too much in preparation of the trek ahead.
The highlights today will include experiencing an old mining camp, a wet riparian environment, delicate waterfalls, and the narrower sections of Hanaupah Canyon. Hope to see some cool wildlife - including waterfowl, deer, bighorn sheep, and lizards. Expect to hike a total of 3-6 miles, depending on the group’s energy.
Beginning at dawn, you will pack up camp, eat a hearty breakfast, and top off water before hiking down to the canyon confluence. There, you will leave the trail and begin our ascent in earnest as you crest the massive east-west ridgeline and hike high above the deep forks of Hanaupah Canyon. The views for the remainder of the trip will be absolutely extraordinary. You will steadily enter a forest of juniper and piñon, and occasionally enjoy hiking on flat portions along the ridgeline.
The hike will total around 8 miles. By mid-afternoon, the group will select a flat area for a forest camp and have clear sunset views of Death Valley and the many mountain ranges and basins between you and Las Vegas. You’ll have dinner in this twilight glow, surrounded by boundless beauty—and the growing silhouette of Telescope Peak.
Today is the culmination of all of your training, preparation, and hard work - the summit of Telescope Peak. Prepare wake at dark, pack up camp, eat breakfast, and, in true mountaineers’ fashion, be hiking before sunrise. You will crunch through slanted fields of pine cones and, as the elevation and slope increase, take a few breaks to catch our breath and drink water. The hardest portion of the hike will culminate at the lower slope of Telescope Peak as the forest opens to a 1.5-mile, seemingly near-vertical mountain meadow of grass and talus. Scattered, centuries-old limber pines will greet us as you hike toward the sky.
Finally, together you will reach the Telescope Peak Trail and encounter millennia-old bristlecone pine trees. With victory in reach, you will drop your packs and hike to the summit of Telescope Peak at 11,049 feet above sea-level and take a moment to enjoy what truly is one of the great hiking feats in America. With spectacular vistas of Mount Charleston above Las Vegas, Death Valley to the east, Panamint Valley to the West, and the fabled Sierra Nevada Range and Mount Whitney. After signing the summit register, you’ll retrieve your packs for the last five miles of the trip.
Cold drinks await the group at the pick-up vehicle, which will wind you down the beautiful western slopes of the Panamints. As we cruise east out of Death Valley, we’ll stop at the beautiful Mesquite Sand Dunes for one last dinner prepared by the Wildland guides for the group to celebrate and reflect on our adventure before heading back to our lodging in Las Vegas. We will return to Las Vegas well after night fall and spend your last night in a cozy hotel bed.
After breakfast, individuals will depart from Las Vegas Airport to return home and recuperate from and reflect on this incredible feat.