National Park Service Visitor Information.

Hot-Weather Hiking

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 200 F.

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.

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