Death Valley National Park

Day Hikes In And Around Death Valley National Park
By John Krist
  |  Gorp.com
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Hiking in Death Valley National Park, a sprawling and rugged park that's about the size of Connecticut, is unlike the experience that greets wanderers in most national parks. For one thing, there are only a few formally maintained and signed trails in Death Valley, and none will ever be mistaken for the rutted backcountry"freeways" that have evolved in high-use parks such as Yosemite under the relentless pounding of thousands of booted feet. Use in the desert parks is generally light, the trailheads are widely scattered, and there are seldom any directional signs to let you know whether you're on the right path.

This situation is not as great an obstacle to secure travel as it sounds. Many of the hikes follow the natural routes provided by deep canyons, and it is nearly impossible to get off track when your path is circumscribed by walls of stone that tower more than 100 feet above you.

Some of the trips described in this guide, however, require cross-country travel without benefit of signs, well-worn paths or guiding canyon walls. It is important before setting out on one of these hikes to familiarize yourself with the terrain by studying the appropriate topographic map or maps. Basic compass skills are advisable. And if you plan to tackle one of these hikes, it is doubly important that you leave word with a ranger or someone at home about your route and your expected return time.

Keep in mind, though, that hiking on seldom-used paths offers a solitude and a sense of adventure not found on tamer trails. Those qualities are the essence of desert travel, as much for today's visitors as for the explorers, traders and prospectors of a century ago, and they constitute ample reward for the extra effort.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 30 Mar 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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