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Badwater Basin Crossing

Easy/Intermediate
 4.3 (32) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

An off trail adventure through upheaved salt plates below sea level.


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Map Key

6.5

Miles

10.4

KM

Point to Point

0' 0 m

High

-280' -85 m

Low

25' 8 m

Up

12' 4 m

Down

0%

Avg Grade (0°)

1%

Max Grade (0°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views

Family Friendly Do not bring kids on the entire crossing However, that being said, the initial portion of this route includes bizarre geologic formations unlike anything most kids have seen.

DO NOT ATTEMPT IN THE SUMMER HEAT. Hikers have died. This is great in the winter, but even then, bring plenty of water and expect it to take longer than anticipated.

Overview

This hike has been featured on the cover of magazines and is an amazing way to experience the wildness of Death Valley. Don't let the beginning fool you, this is not a fast and flat route. Jagged sheets of mineral encrusted earth form huge plates up to 15" high that you have to navigate and there are no trail markers. However, the feeling of isolation and openness when you are in the middle of the basin is spectacular.

Need to Know

Do not attempt in the summer heat. Know your own limitations and be prepared.

Drink plenty of water: Drink at least one gallon (4 liters) of water per day to replace loss from sweat, more if you are active. Fluid and electrolyte levels must be balanced, so have salty foods or "sports drinks" too.

Avoid hiking in the heat: Do not hike in the low elevations when temperatures are hot. The mountains are cooler in summer, but can have snow and ice in winter.

Travel prepared to survive: Stay on paved roads in summer. If your car breaks down, stay with it until help comes. Carry extra drinking water in your car in case of emergency.

Watch for signs of trouble: If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or a headache, get out of the sun immediately and drink water or sports drinks. Dampen clothing to lower body temperature. Be alert for symptoms in others.

Description

From the huge parking area at Badwater Basin head down the steps to the salt flat and enjoy the first 0.5 miles of track that has been flattened by the feet of countless tourists. As you continue on, the track disappears, and you'll need to pick a point on the horizon (11,000 ft Telescope Peak works well) and head west as you navigate the ever-changing landscape.

Depending on recent precipitation, there may be some soggy spots. As you near the West Side road there will be some shrubs and if you have stayed due west you should meet the road near a benchmark just south of Hanaupah Canyon Road. It is possible to arrange a shuttle and do this hike as a one-way adventure, but it also works great as an out-and-back.

History & Background

From the Death Valley National Park Service: The salt flats in Badwater Basin cover nearly 200 square miles, among the largest protected salt flats in the world.

Salt flats are too harsh for most plants and animals to survive, yet are quite fragile. Delicate crystals are easily crushed and the relatively thin upper crust of salt can break through to the mud layer below, leaving tire tracks and even footprints. For this reason, vehicles are prohibited off established roads in Death Valley.

Contacts

Shared By:

Andrew Walters

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 32 votes

#357

Overall
  4.3 from 32 votes
5 Star
56%
4 Star
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3 Star
16%
2 Star
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1 Star
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Recommended Route Rankings

#59

in California

#357

Overall
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3,193 Since Jul 17, 2015
Easy/Intermediate

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Photos

Badwater Basin
Mar 31, 2020 near Badwater, CA
Badwater at Sunset
Mar 31, 2020 near Badwater, CA
Badwater Basin. Death Valley National Park.
Oct 29, 2016 near Badwater, CA
Splitter December day navigating salty sand-castles.
Jul 17, 2015 near Badwater, CA
Milkyway Shinning At top of Mud Crack in Death Valley
Mar 31, 2020 near Badwater, CA
freezing hot
Mar 22, 2019 near Badwater, CA

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Dec 21, 2020
Anahi Garcia
Dec 20, 2020
Lucas Dailey
Nov 8, 2020
Angie C
Mar 10, 2020
Rachel Pierstorff
4mi
Feb 28, 2020
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Feb 20, 2020
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Feb 18, 2020
Sarah Haber
Feb 13, 2020
Bradly Deadfish