0 - 1
FATMAP difficulty grade
When visiting Death Valley National Park, a visit to Badwater Basin should definitely be at the top of the list! Views of the basin, with its swarms of people, are seen from other Death Valley hikes, so actually being there completes the picture. Badwater Basin is famous for being the lowest point in the entire United States and is also the lowest drivable elevation in the Western Hemisphere! Add in the notoriety for being the hottest location in the US, and this becomes a must-do ramble. Officially, the Badwater Salt Flats sits at 282 feet BELOW sea level; there is a sign on the adjacent cliff indicating sea level to make that point quite dramatically obvious.
This spot is enormously popular and very accessible, so expect to share the experience with throngs of people from all over the world.
Even if you prefer solitude, however, this is one of those National Park destinations that really can't be skipped. The most heavily trafficked stretch is the 1/2-mile boardwalk, with interpretive signs, that takes visitors from the parking area out onto the Salt Flat.
This boardwalk provides an ADA accessible jaunt for those using wheelchairs.
From the end of the boardwalk, another 1/2-mile of walking on the salty crust will take walkers to the edge of the Flat. It is possible to walk the entire 5-mile span of the 200 square mile Salt Flat, but careful consideration of conditions is required for a 10-mile out-and-back trek in such a harsh place.
Only attempt this in the cooler months.
Summer air temps are brutal, and the ground temperature can reach 180 degrees when the air is 100! As with all Death Valley adventures, it is imperative to be prepared for the extreme desert environment. Always carry water...
plenty of water! Sunscreen, a brimmed hat, and sunglasses are necessary for any outing, regardless of how long it is. The trailhead is located on Badwater Road, about 17 miles south of the CA190/178 intersection.