Hiking Inn to Inn
Many people drive to Dante’s View (5,475 ft.), and some take a short hike, walking south from the parking area to viewpoints along the ridge. Our trail heads north and climbs for a half mile to Dante’s Peak (5,704 ft.). A handful of adventurers continue another half mile to a viewpoint. After that, you can expect to have the trail pretty much to yourselves. We hiked out 3.5 miles and saw only two other hikers.
The ridge trail is not formally named or maintained, but it is easy to follow and a joy to hike. It roller coasters along the ridge. To the west, the view drops steeply to Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level. Then the Panamint Range soars abruptly to Telescope Peak (11,043 ft.), the tallest mountain in Death Valley National Park. To the southwest stands Mt. Whitney at 14,505 feet. The distance between the lowest spot in North America and the highest peak in the lower 48 states is a mere ninety miles. To the east, the Black Mountains descend to the broad Greenwater Valley. Greenwater Range borders the valley, and in the distance stands the tall desert peaks of Nevada.
It was early March. Wildflowers ran riot at the low elevations, and the high mountains were snowcapped, glistening in the mid-day sun. The thermometer hit 90 degrees in valleys below, but on the ridge trail it was in the low 70s, and a gentle breeze refreshed us. Even in the summer, this trail will give you a blessed relief from the scorching lowlands of Death Valley.
It is more than a mile down to Badwater Basin, greater than the depth of the Grand Canyon. Death Valley is the driest place in North America, averaging only 2 inches of annual rainfall. The meager runoff flows from the mountains into the basin and evaporates, leaving a salt flat. More recent flows form amazing patterns of new clean crystals, white sediment against the older, grayer basin floor. The remnants of evaporated rivers leave bright white snaking patterns leading to dried pools.
The trail is mostly sand and gravel with a few rocky outcroppings. It rises and falls along the ridgeline with a couple of long descents. At 2.7 miles, it changes to rocky terrain and starts to climb. Our pace slowed, and we kept our eyes peeled, watching for cairns that mark the trail as it winds through the boulders. At this point, there were very few boot prints on the trail.
Reaching the foot of Mt. Perry at 3.5 miles, our time was running out, and we reluctantly turned back. The return journey was even more beautiful as the shadows lengthened in the late afternoon. There are so many great trails in Death Valley National Park. Add this on to your list. It is truly spectacular.
Drive Highway 190 southeast from Furnace Creek for 11 miles to the turnoff to Dante’s View. The Dante’s View road winds through the desert for eight miles and then climbs another six to the Dante’s View parking area. The ridge trail starts at the north end.