Backpacking Trip Report: Badwater to Telescope Peak

Area: Death Valley National Park

State: California

Mileage: 20

Days: 2

Type: In and Out

Death Valley is amazing. On my first trip to the park I was simply blown away by the scenery. The geologic history is simply stunning. Our plan was to hike from Badwater, the lowest point in North America, to Telescope Peak, the highest point in the park; a change of 11,331 feet of elevation in 15 miles.

The first 6-7 miles was an easy hike up a canyon wash. It wasn’t much of a climb but was definitely a steady uphill. After a little further up the canyon our trail began to disappear and we started looking for places to scramble up the rest of the mountain. Our first choice was to head up a steep scree field to a ridge that looked to be a good line up the mountain. The first part of the climb to the ridge went smoothly but we quickly ended up climbing with all fours. It became so steep and loose that we were crawling on our knees!

During a short stop we made to reconsider our safety and route, I noticed what looked like a trail another half a mile up the canyon. After talking with my girlfriend, we decided to head back down to the wash and try this new trail. Standing in our way was the thickest brush I have ever seen in my life. The plants were growing on top of each other and we were literally walking through the tops of small trees.

The next morning we found what looked like an old trail heading up the mountain. We followed it for a quarter mile until it just stopped at a cliff. I’m not sure if it was a old road to a mine or what but it brought an end to our trip. We decided that we did not have enough time to find another way up. Instead we hiked back to our car and drove to the actual trailhead to Telescope Peak. It was worth the views and we read in the peak register that another couple had tried the same thing and was successful on the third try.

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