Sea Level to Summit
- Epic backpacking adventure
- Two guides on every trip
- Desert springs and oases
- Mining history and ruins
- Summit Telescope Peak
- Phenomenal 360 degree views
- Amazing desert solitude
This sea level-to-summit experience is one of America’s most extraordinary hikes. Starting at the continent’s lowest point — Death Valley’s Badwater Basin at over 250 feet below sea level — we will ascend straight into the heart of the towering Panamint Range and up its crowning 11,049-foot Telescope Peak. Climbing well-over two vertical miles during our four-day trek, Badwater Basin to Telescope Peak is the outdoor adventure of a lifetime.
Our four-day odyssey will take us through every type of Death Valley landscape: blistering salt flats, wind-torn desert, oases-filled canyons, lush slot narrows, ancient alpine forests, sloped mountain meadows, and the stunning vista of Telescope Peak. This is the quintessential Death Valley hike, and one that will immerse you into the wilderness and history of the fabled American West. Our trek will test your physical abilities and adventurous drive.
- October 21-24, 2020
- Shuttle to Death Valley: 4 hours
- Hiking Mileage: 8 miles
- Elevation Gain: 3500 feet
Our four-day summit bid will begin with a sunrise drive out of Las Vegas and into the Mojave Desert’s vast basin-and-range landscape. After a quick breakfast on the road, we will catch glimpses of our objective—Telescope Peak—peering over two mountain ranges ahead. Upon entering Death Valley National Park, we will be treated to morning views of the Badlands: jagged hills dazzlingly colored by volcanic metals. Once out of the Badlands, we’ll have uninterrupted views of Death Valley and the Panamint Range towering above.
After a quick stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to collect our permit, we’ll drive to our trailhead via West Side Road, a route that once carried the famed ‘20-Mule Team’ out of Death Valley with its cargos of borax. At Shorty’s Well, 250 feet below-sea-level, we’ll don our packs and leave the shuttle behind as we hike toward Telescope Peak looming to the west. Our first day’s route will follow along an old mining road, hand-dug by a kindly, 65-year-old miner, Alexander ‘Shorty’ Borden. Today’s hike will immerse us in a rugged and slanted desert landscape for the first several miles as we steadily gain elevation. We will pass wind-sculpted rock, creosote, and black brush while being treated to ever-growing views of the vast salt-flats and mountains behind us.
Soon after Shorty’s Road takes us into Hanaupah Canyon, we’ll find some shade for a relaxing lunch. Our last two miles up Hanaupah Canyon’s south fork will end near the lush oasis of Hanaupah Spring. There, we’ll make camp and enjoy a fresh dinner and spring water under the western shadow of the Telescope Peak ridgeline.
- Hiking Mileage: 3-7 miles
- Elevation Gain: Varied
Our second day is a chance to explore the wondrous Hanaupah Canyon at an easy pace, while pre-hydrating our bodies for tomorrow’s ascent. After a leisurely breakfast, we will leave camp set-up and hike further up-creek to Shorty Borden’s home site. Along the way, we will walk along a dazzling riparian eco-system, filled with willow, watercress, and grapevine. Shorty’s Camp holds relics of Death Valley’s rich history, including a beautifully preserved mine.
We will finish out the morning exploring the beautiful, rarely-seen narrows of Hanaupah Canyon. A hidden grotto of waterfalls flowing over blue dolomite will be our likely lunch spot. We may see waterfowl, jackrabbits, or even chuckwalla lizards.
A number of options for the afternoon are at our choosing, including a mountain hike up one of Shorty’s longer mining paths, enjoying a book at camp, or exploring further up Hanaupah Canyon. We’ll have a tasty supper and get a full night’s sleep.
- Hiking Mileage: 8 miles
- Elevation Gain: 3800 feet
- Elevation Loss: 500 feet
At dawn, we will pack up camp, eat a hearty breakfast, and top off our water before hiking down to the canyon confluence. There, we will leave the trail and begin our ascent in earnest as we crest the massive east-west ridgeline and hike high above the deep forks of Hanaupah Canyon. Our views for the remainder of the trip be absolutely extraordinary. We’ll steadily enter a forest of juniper and piñon, and occasionally enjoy hiking on flat portions along the ridgeline.
By mid-afternoon, we’ll select a flat area for our forest camp and have clear sunset views of Death Valley and the many mountain ranges and basins between us and Las Vegas. We’ll have dinner in this twilight glow, surrounded by boundless beauty—and the growing silhouette of Telescope Peak.
- Hiking Mileage: 11 miles
- Elevation Gain: 4800 feet
- Elevation Loss: 3000 feet
- Shuttle to Las Vegas: 5 hours
We will wake at dark, pack up camp, eat breakfast, and, in true mountaineers’ fashion, be hiking before sunrise. We’ll crunch through slanted fields of pine cones and, as the elevation and slope increase, take a few breaks to catch our breath, drink water, and eat an endless bounty of fresh pine nuts.
The hardest portion of our hike will culminate at the lower slope of Telescope Peak as the forest opens to a 1.5-mile, seemingly near-vertical mountain meadow of grass and talus. Scattered, centuries-old limber pines will greet us as we hike toward the sky.
Finally, we’ll reach the Telescope Peak Trail and encounter millennia-old bristlecone pine trees. With victory in reach, we will drop our packs and hike to the summit of Telescope Peak at 11,049 feet above sea-level and take a moment to enjoy what truly is one of the great hiking feats in America. With spectacular vistas of Mount Charleston above Las Vegas, Death Valley to the east, Panamint Valley to the West, and the fabled Sierra Nevada Range and Mount Whitney, your eyes will feast on the views of a lifetime.
After signing the summit register, we’ll retrieve our packs for the last five miles of the trip. We’ll take one final look the Sierras from Arcane Meadows before finishing our trek. Cold drinks await us at our pick-up vehicle, which will wind us down the beautiful western slopes of the Panamints. As we cruise east out of Death Valley, we’ll stop at the beautiful Mesquite Sand Dunes for one last dinner as we reflect on an adventure we’ll never forget.
Please Note: We always do everything in our power to follow the set itinerary, however it can change occasionally based on temporary access restrictions, weather, lodging/campground availability, guest ability/injury, natural events like fires and flooding, and other potential causes.
- A professional, knowledgeable, certified trip leader (full-time Wildland Trekking guide)
- Roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Las Vegas to the trailhead and back
- Backcountry dinners in the field
- Bear cannisters when/where required
- Entrance fees and national park permits
- Emergency equipment including a company-issued first-aid kit and satellite phone
- You will receive a Lifetime Hiking Membership entitling you, your spouse and kids to a lifetime discount of 10% off any Wildland Trekking hiking trip after your first one!
- Backpack, tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, trekking poles, cooking gear (gear list below)
- Breakfasts, lunches and trail snacks
- Clothes, raingear, and footwear (Oboz hiking shoes and boots recommended) (clothing list below)
- Sunscreen, toiletries and personal items
- Trip leader gratuity (industry recommendation is 10+% of trip cost)
- Trekking poles
- Backpacking stove and fuel (if your breakfasts only need boiled water, guide can boil water for the group in the morning at camp eliminating need for personal stoves and fuel)
- Waterproof matches and/or lighter
- Water filter (guide can filter water for the group at camp but if you would prefer to bring your own)
- Camera, spare batteries
- Notebook or paperback book
- Fly fishing gear, if you want to fish (area-specific)
Please leave a shoe-box's worth of room in your pack for accommodating approximately 5 pounds of group gear that the guide will disperse to the group on the night of the trip orientation. Group gear will include food items for the group dinners as well as group dinner cookware, stoves, water filtration, etc.
Your guide will plan and prepare all of the dinners for the duration of the trip for the group. Our prepared backcountry dinners include a diversity of tasty meals packed full of critical carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We carry foods that travel well in the backcountry – rice, pastas, lentils, beans, couscous, packaged meats, etc.
We regularly accommodate vegan, vegetarian, kosher and non-gluten diets and will make adjustments for food allergies. These and other special dietary requests may require an additional fee.
- Multi-day backpack (recommended 4000-5000 cubic inches)
- Backpacking tent
- 30 degree sleeping bag (down or synthetic)
- Sleeping pad
- Trekking poles (optional)
- 3 1-liter water bottles or hydration system and a water bottle
- Headlamp or flashlight and extra batteries
- Bowl, plate, mug, fork, spoon, folding pocket knife and personal cookware needed for your breakfasts and lunches
- Folding pocket knife
- Waterproof matches and/or lighter
- Backpacking stove and fuel
- Camp pillow, lightweight, packable camp pillow.
- Contact lenses and glasses if you wear contact lenses please also bring a pair of glasses - your contacts are likely to become dirty and may be difficult to clean
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm
- Toiletries, and a small washcloth in stuff sack (bandana can serve as a washcloth)
- Camera, spare batteries (optional)
- Notebook or paperback book, (optional)
- Knee braces, if needed
- Prescription medicine, please inform your trip leader of any medications you are taking
- Vitamins, (optional)
- Fly fishing gear, if you want to fish
- Money, for tipping your trip leader (optional but appreciated, generally 10+% of your trip cost based upon the quality of your experience)
- Sturdy Hiking boots, mid weight, lug-soled, above the ankle, waterproof and ideally well broken in Important note: Buy your boots 1/2 size to 1 size larger than your street shoes to allow for feet swelling and thicker socks
- Lightweight tennis shoes or Crocs®, for camp
- Hiking socks, one pair for every two days of your trip, plus an extra pair to sleep in. Recommended brands include Bridgedale®, Smartwool®, or similar padded socks (wearing thin liner socks under your hiking socks is highly recommended). No cotton socks!!
- Sunhat or baseball cap and bandana
- Warm hat and gloves, sherpa style hat and light-to-mid weight fleece or wool gloves
- T-shirt or nylon travel shirt
- Warm top, mid-weight shirt, sweater or pullover, also wicking material such as merino wool, fleece or polypropylene
- Fleece jacket or insulated coat, warm, lightweight and packable fleece jacket or coat insulated with a synthetic material
- Nylon pants and shorts, or zip-offs
- Rainproof jacket and pant - Waterproof/breathable jacket and pant such as Gore-Tex® or coated nylon - with the pants look for side leg zippers or a style that will allow you to remove them without removing your boots
Ready to hike? In the Dates section of this trip page, the green dates are bookable online by simply clicking on the date, and blue dates must be booked through our customer service team for a variety of possible reasons. To email our customer service team, you can click here to get the ball rolling. Our adventure consultants will confirm availability, and if you're ready to register we'll email you a link to a registration profile. You'll have 72 hours to complete your profile (and that of any dependents) and pay the deposit ($500).
Feel free to call us for more info - we're here 7 days a week!
You'll meet your hiking guide and group in Las Vegas, Nevada for an orientation meeting at 5:00 PM the evening before the trip begins. Your guide will be in contact approximately 2 weeks before your trip and will specify the exact location of the orientation meeting at that point. The next morning we'll pick you up at your hotel for transport to the trailhead.
Check out our Travel Resources page for information on flights, shuttles, lodging and more.
Your guide will inform you of the first day's pick-up time at the orientation meeting. Generally, you can expect it to be between 5 and 8 am, although the exact time will depend on current weather and road conditions. We will drop you off at your hotel on the final day no later than 7 PM.
Your safety is our top priority. Our hiking tours are led by professional hiking guides, all of whom are wilderness-certified first responders or EMT's, each with years of guiding and wilderness experience. We've developed comprehensive risk management protocols that our guides adhere to in case of an emergency, and most tours carry a satellite phone. If you have any further questions about safety, please contact us at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) for more information.
Your tour will be led by a trained, experienced professional with a solid guiding background, years of personal wilderness and hiking experience, medical certifications, and a passion for leading people into breathtaking landscapes. Check out our Meet Our Team page for staff bios.
Guides are required to take 8 hours off each 24-hour period to sleep, recuperate, take personal/down time...etc. In addition, as part of the 8 hours off they must sleep/rest or be in their tents/rooms uninterrupted for a minimum of 5 hours each night. We ask guests to respect these requirements and to not interrupt guides' off time and sleep time unless there is a true emergency.
The standard group size on BACKPACKER trips is 8 guests and 1 guide. If you have more questions about group size, please give us a call at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453) and we'll answer all your questions.
Age restrictions are as follows:
- 14 and older to join this trip
Death Valley encompasses an area with extreme elevation and climate variations. It is home to the lowest point in the United States: Bad Water Basin at 282 feet below sea level. Its highest point, Telescope Peak, is 11,049 feet high, a 11,331 ft difference!! Most of our trips focus on the lower elevations, and feature comfortably moderate winter temperatures, and warm-hot Spring/Fall temperatures. To be fully prepared, please follow the recommended clothing list closely (this list comes as part of your trip packet when you register). Read below for average high and low temperatures in the lower sections of Death Valley:
|Average Temperatures (Fahrenheit)|