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Badwater Salt Flat Trail (-282 ft)
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park
Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Badwater Salt Flat Trail

Overview

This short, easy walk goes out onto the Badwater Salt Flats, where, at -282 ft, you can stand at the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. The walk is entirely smooth and level (except for walking down from the parking lot). Merely walking for 10 minutes out onto the salt gets you past where most people stop and where there are some amazing pressure ridges and cracks in the salt, and some stunning views of the mountains around the valley. The summit of Telescope Peak, just across the valley, stands more than 11,300 ft above you, and the Black Mountains (behind the trailhead) rise some 6,000 ft directly out of the salt.

Link to map.

Badwater Salt Flat Trail

At Badwater, a 15-ft-wide use-trail has been trampled flat and smooth by countless feet over the years. Off the "beaten path," the surface is brown and irregular. Please note the difference between the trail and the natural surface, and stay on the trail to keep the other areas pristine. Also, a rare species of snail lives in the salt pond by the parking area, so please stay on the boardwalk so as not to trample these tiny creatures (life here must be hard enough already).

badwater
The trail is unmarked, but easy to follow (view W)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this hike is pretty safe when the weather is cool. If the weather is hot, this place can be unbelievably hot. Also, the fact that the trail is almost entirely smooth and level creates a tripping hazard because you forget to watch where you are walking. People have been digging little holes along the trail, perhaps to collect salt, creating little potholes to trip in. Be sure to clean the salt off your feet before getting back in your car to prevent corrosion on the inside of your floorboards.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and please try to Leave No Trace of your passage. This walk is so short that you don't need to bring the 10 Essentials.

badwater
Badwater wetlands (view N)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Death Valley National Park, about 3 hours northwest of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Death Valley. From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center (Table 1, Site 712), drive south on Highway 190 for about 1.25 miles to the Badwater (Highway 178) turnoff (Site 741). Turn south (right) towards Badwater, and drive for about 17 miles to a large paved parking area with restrooms and signs (Site 714). Park here; this is the trailhead.

Badwater Salt Flat Trail

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 1), walk west off the boardwalk and out onto the salt and into the Death Valley Wilderness Area. Initially, the use-trail is about 15-ft wide and bright white, and it looks and sounds like snow under your feet. Just off the path, the surface is irregular from salt heaving (like frost heaving) and brown from dirt mixed with the salt. Farther out, the salt is entirely white.

About 5-6 minutes out, the trail forks (Wpt. 2), but the two forks just go out on the salt without any particular destination; they don't even make a loop. From the looks of it, it appears that most people mill around this point, then go back.

badwater
Salt flats (view E towards trailhead)

If you continue out on either of the forks, you will quickly get out to where there are interesting and untrammeled irregularities in the salt surface. Then, out past the end of the trail, you will get into areas with lots of pressure ridges where thick plates of salt are pushed up and the cracks look fresh (Wpt. 3).

Enjoy the scenery and the salt, then wander back to the trailhead, which can be seen from out on the salt.

Badwater Salt Flat Trail Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Badwater Salt Flat Trail Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Badwater Salt Flat Trail Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Badwater Salt Flat Trail Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Salt ridges at the end of the trail (view E)
Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Salt ridges at the end of the trail (view N)
Badwater Salt Flat Trail Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Badwater Salt Flat Trail Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Badwater Salt Flat Trail Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Badwater Salt Flat Trail
Badwater boardwalk and salt pond (view SW)
badwater
Badwater trailhead sign from the old days (view W)

Table 1. Highway Coordinates (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
0712 Furnace Creek Visitor Center 36.46159 116.86574 512030 4034954 -186 Yes
0714 Badwater parking area 36.22981 116.76638 520995 4009262 -280 Yes
0741 Hwy 190 at Badwater Rd 36.44841 116.85192 513271 4033494 4 Yes-2

Table 2. Hiking Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27, UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
01 Badwater trailhead 520995 4009262 -280 Yes
02 Trail forks 520447 4009352 -259 GPS
03 Pressure ridges 520195 4009408 -288 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 130211

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