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Telescope Peak: Summiting Death Valley's 11,000 foot peak

Updated: Jun 19


Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park

It's hard to believe that Death Valley, which boasts the lowest place in North America, is also home to an 11,000 foot peak. Well, believe it! After exploring the park's canyons, dunes, and basins, test yourself by conquering this high peak.


 

Trail Info

Telescope Peak Trail Info in Death Valley National Park

Know before you go

  • The road to this trailhead is rough. A 4WD with clearance is recommended to reach the official trailhead. Note, I did drive up some of the road in my VW Jetta, but had to ditch the car on a pull out on the way up because it started getting dicey.

  • Altitude is a risk on this hike. Given that you will likely be coming from a low point (Badwater basin is actually 282 feet / 86 meters BELOW sea level), the altitude challenges are real. Stay hydrated, ascend slowly, and listen to your body to ensure you make it safely to the summit.

  • There are some nice campgrounds to help with the acclimation. I stayed at Wildrose Campground (4,100 feet / 1,250m) but Thorndike (7,400 feet / 2,250m) and Mahogany Flats (8,200 feet / 2,500m) are also great options to allow your body to get used to the elevation overnight. (Note, Mahogany Flats is right at the trailhead and will require that 4WD / high clearance vehicle).

Other trails nearby

  • Wildrose peak is another, shorter peak in the area (~9,000 feet) that is still challenging but less difficult than the trail to Telescope (trail to Wildrose is 8.4 miles / 13.5 km and 2,200 feet / 650 m elevation gain).


 


The Trail


Telescope Peak Trail in Death Valley National Park

My hike began a little before the trailhead where I ditched my car off the side of the road. A nice little warmup I suppose!


Telescope Peak Trail in Death Valley National Park

Now the official trail begins. The trail starts in the trees.


Telescope Peak Trail in Death Valley National Park

But soon enough, the vegetation disappears and you instantly learn why this trail is a must do. You can see so much of Death Valley below including the famous Badwater Basin.


Telescope Peak Trail in Death Valley National Park

Shortly after breaking out of the trees, the trail veers west and follows a nice graded section as you continue to ascend.


Telescope Peak Trail in Death Valley National Park

Around 2.5 miles the trail flattens out as you've reached Arcane Meadows. Apparently this is another camp spot for those who want something even more primitive and at higher elevation (~9,500 feet / 2,900 m).


This is also the only section of the trail where there is any sort of junction. You may see a path that veers right (north) but that is a path to Rogers Peak. Make sure you stay left and turn south to continue towards Telescope peak.


Telescope Peak Trail in Death Valley National Park

The section after the meadow is flatter and may give you a small amount of time to acclimate and catch your breath.


Telescope Peak Trail in Death Valley National Park

But eventually the grade steepens as you continue to ascend. This was the part of the trail where I really started to feel that elevation. I made use of my many breaks to soak in the incredible views.


Telescope Peak Trail in Death Valley National Park

Almost there! The very last section of the trail narrows a bit, however it's nothing too crazy and should be doable by most.


Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park

And it's worth any sort of fears or reservations, because this view on the summit is something else. On clear days, you can see Mount Whitney to the west (the highest peak in the U.S. lower 48!)


Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park

Nothing to do now but enjoy it.


Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park

And when you're ready, go back the way you came and take in this gorgeous landscape one more time.



 


SS Reflections

Every single day of my three-day adventure in Death Valley felt like unwrapping a surprise. From the kaleidoscopic canyons to the rippled sand dunes to the vast salty basin, Death Valley had a bit of everything. And when I closed out my trip summiting Telescope Peak, it was icing on the cake. My only hope is I can return in the future to experience this diverse landscape one more time.



Other helpful resources

  • NPS page with detailed pictures and a description of the hike

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DISCLAIMER: This website is for entertainment purposes only. The web designer and contributors are not liable for any injuries, accidents, or damages resulting from the use of information provided. Trail data, including trail statistics such as mileage and difficulty ratings, are provided as estimates based on the best available data at the time of publication and may not be 100% accurate. Conditions on trails can change; users should verify information with local authorities or  other reliable sources before embarking on any hiking or outdoor adventure. Hiking is a high-risk activity; individuals should know their limits, take precautions, and prioritize safety. By using this site, you acknowledge and accept these risks; the web designer and contributors are not legally responsible for any consequences.

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