||Because of the great distances
involved, an automobile or other vehicle is a necessity
for access to most of Death Valley's varied and
unusual sites. Yet the best way to become intimately
acquainted with this beautiful land is to visit
at least a small corner of it on foot. Hiking in
Death Valley National Park in hot weather is possible,
and can yield exciting discoveries. However, the
site chosen for hiking can be critical.
Some Basic Recommendations
There are several hazards; the most dangerous are heat
and accompanying dehydration. Avoid the salt flats in
hot weather. Visitors are advised not to walk away from
their vehicles onto the salt flats (or anywhere below
sea level) when temperatures are above 100 F (38 C).
There is no shade to protect hikers from blazing reflected
sunlight, and summer ground temperatures can exceed
Distances are deceiving in the dry desert air; the
mountains that look only a few hundred yards away are
really almost 10 miles (16 k) from the Badwater Road.
Also, the terrain across the salt flats is seldom as
firm as it appears. You may find yourself slogging through
briny ankle deep mud. Safer and more pleasant walks
are to be found in the neighboring mountains.
Always carry water with you as you hike.
Water sources within the park are not reliable and
often not safe to drink. Plan on carrying a minimum
of 1 gallon (4 liters) of water per person per day;
2 gallons (8 liters) per person per day are better.
Be sure to drink the water you bring. It will do you
no good in your canteen. Drink before you get thirsty.
By the time you feel thirsty, tired and nauseous, you
are suffering from dehydration.
If you feel dizzy, nauseous, develop a severe headache
or shortness of breath, drink water immediately and
rest in the shade. Heat and dehydration can kill. The
high country circling the valley floor offers many cooler
and safer choices for summer hiking. Walking up side
canyons can be fun, but be aware of potential dangers:
Flash floods are a possibility anytime. Storms can come
up suddenly, and even if it is not raining where you
are hiking, torrential rain on higher ground can fill
washes and canyons quickly. Be aware of weather conditions,
and if it begins to rain, get out of a wash or streambed
and onto higher ground.
Also be aware of flash flood channels when you park
for a day hike. Your car may not be where you left it
when you return! A few animals here in Death Valley
can be dangerous. Rattlesnakes can lurk under a rock
or log, in a hole or on a ledge above your head). Many
coyotes near campgrounds and roadside turnouts have
become dependent on human "handouts." They
can be bold and aggressive, and should be considered
dangerous. Never feed wild animals. Many trails are
not well marked or well maintained. Be sure you know
where you are, and are sure of the route back to your
car. Distances and directions can be deceiving. To help
you plan your time in Death Valley, topographic maps
and a list of suggested day hikes are available from
the information desk at the Visitor Center, or you can
ask a ranger for current information and suggestions.
Voluntarv backcountry registration is also available
at the Visitor Center for your protection you
can list your departure time, location, and expected
time of your return. Enjoy your hike!
Plan Ahead and Let Others Know
Complete a backcountry registration form and got more
information from the Visitor Center or an park ranger
before hiking overnight.