Arrive into Las Vegas, Nevada by 8:30am today. From the McCarran Airport, transfer on your own to rendezvous with your fellow travelers and guides at a nearby hotel. The group will meet at 10am and then transfer three hours to our secluded campsite by Funeral Mountain in Death Valley National Park. We'll enjoy dinner and talk about the upcoming week's itinerary. Dinner included.
Driving: 3 hours.
After breakfast, we hike across the foothills of the Funeral Mountains to the multi-colored badlands of Twenty Mule Team Canyon and Golden Canyon. We begin at 1,800' and descend to below sea level through a maze of canyons to a viewpoint overlooking the Death Valley saltpan. Our guides take the time to point out the landscape's fascinating geological features and enlighten us on the natural history of this unique ecosystem. All meals included.
Hiking: 10 miles. Terrain: cross-country through open desert and narrow canyons. Some rock scrambling. 1,900' elevation loss.
This morning our destination is a deep, narrow canyon carved into polished marble and colorful mosaics of dolomite. We hike through several sections of narrows before scrambling out of the canyon to a rim trail that takes us around an unclimbable 25' dry waterfall. The rim trail is the gateway to a deep, twisted gorge and another tall, dry fall and grotto. We follow the rim trail high above the canyon back to the trailhead, stopping to take in the expansive view across Mesquite Flat and Death Valley. Showers will be available this afternoon at Stovepipe Wells Village before we head back to our wilderness camp for the evening. All meals included.
Hiking: 5 miles. Terrain: primitive hiking trail and gravel wash bottom; some rock scrambling. Elev. gain/loss: 1,500'.
We'll drive to Dante's View at 5,500' and strike off cross-country along the spine of the Black Mountains, with amazing views on both sides. To the west, we'll look down a vertical mile to Badwater and the Death Valley saltpan, with the snow-covered summit of Telescope Peak (11,049') directly across the valley. To the east, we'll look out over range after range of mountains spilling across the California-Nevada border. (Note: if the weather is too chilly, an excellent alternate hike from the Devil's Cornfield to Salt Creek across the floor of Death Valley will be substituted.) All meals included.
Hiking: 5 miles. Terrain: cross-country, primitive hiking trail.1,000' elevation gain/loss.
A drive of 50 miles over a mostly paved road transports us to Red Pass, where we descend (by van) over 5,000' through the Grapevine Mountains to Death Valley proper. Along the way we stop to climb Thimble Peak (6,381'), scrambling up a rocky ridge for an incredible 360º view of the surrounding desert, then hike the Titus Canyon narrows – an impressive, deeply entrenched slot canyon. (Note: If the weather is too chilly for an ascent of Thimble Peak, an alternate lower elevation hike through the Fall Canyon narrows will be substituted.) We end the day with a barefoot hike out onto the golden Mesquite Flat sand dunes for a sunset picnic dinner. Showers will once again be available at Stovepipe Wells Village en route back to our camp this evening. All meals included.
Hiking to peak: 5 miles. Terrain: moderately steep, primitive hiking trail plus cross-country; rock scrambling required for optional summit climb. Elev. gain/loss: 1,800'. Hiking Titus Canyon: 2 miles. Terrain: dirt and gravel primitive road. Elev. loss: 500'.
We finish our exploration of Death Valley appropriately with visits to Badwater and the Devil's Golf Course. Badwater, at 280' below sea level, is just a few miles from the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere and quite possibly the hottest spot on earth during the summer months. Nearby, the short, jagged salt pinnacles clustered together to form the Devil's Golf Course shape a bizarre landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. In the afternoon, we say our goodbyes to this awe-inspiring national park and return to Las Vegas. For those flying home today, flights out of Las Vegas can be scheduled after 7pm. Breakfast and lunch included.
Driving: 4 hours.