To those who don’t know what Death Valley is, well, let’s just say the name can conjure serious fear. Death Valley National Park is the largest national park outside of Alaska, and occupies a section of California on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It’s known for serious, serious heat and very little rain and also features the lowest point on the North American continent.
If you’re planning to hike part or a significant chunk of Death Valley, it’s essential to know what you’re getting into. Check out a few key hiking tips to get you started.
The best time to hike Death Valley is from October through April. Hiking in the middle of hot summer is recommended only if you have a death wish, and even the spring and fall are hot as all get out. Hiking in winter is therefore ideal, especially if you want to walk the lower elevation trails. Hiking the salt flats and anywhere else below sea level should be avoided when it’s extremely hot.
Water, Water, Water
There’s no hiking anywhere without an adequate water supply; however, this is especially true of Death Valley. Bring more water than you normally would to hike this area. The National Park Service recommends two liters for short day hikes in winter, and one gallon or more for longer warm season hikes. More water is also recommended for overnight hikes.
Death Valley features a whole slew of snake species, but the rattlesnake is the only one you really need to worry about. These snakes give themselves away with the oh-so-chilling rattle sound; if you leave them and all other wildlife alone, you should be just fine.
In addition to the crazy heat and snakes, Death Valley features numerous abandoned mines — 10,000, to be exact. Only a very few have been sealed off from the public, and there’s the possibility of poisonous gas lurking within. There’s also the possibility of a mine collapsing on you should you dare to enter one. So again, unless you have a death wish, stay the heck out of the mines.
If you’re a hiking newbie, stick to the easy-to-moderate hikes. Have fun, and be safe!
Have you ever hiked Death Valley? Share your tips in the comments section!