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Little Hebe Crater Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park
Little Hebe Crater Trail
little hebe crater
The trail to Little Hebe runs along the rim of "big" Ubehebe Crater (view south from trailhead)

Overview

This trail runs out the west side of "big" Ubehebe Crater for 0.5 miles to Little Hebe Crater, a smaller crater behind Ubehebe crater, both of which are in the Death Valley Wilderness Area. The area is geologically interesting. The craters were formed when this area was volcanically active. Magma was moving towards the surface, and it might have erupted and formed a volcano or a cinder cone, but it encountered groundwater along the way. The hot magma superheated the groundwater, converting it to steam, and blew one giant hole (0.5 miles across) and several smaller holes in the ground. Even if you don't hike the trail, just seeing this place and imagining what it would have been like to see the blast is worth driving over here from the main road. The hike is fairly easy and provides great views of the crater and surrounding area.

Link to map.
Little Hebe Crater Trail

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a fairly safe hike, but the sides of the crater are steep and loose, and a slip from the trail could make for a long slide into the crater. Stay back from the edge and watch your children.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and other than footprints in the sand, please try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this hike is fairly short, so just bring what you need of the 10 Essentials.

little hebe crater
Looking back along the trail from near the cutoff to Little Hebe (view north)

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Death Valley National Park, about 4 hours northwest of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Death Valley. From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center (Table 1, Site 712), drive north on Highway 190 for 17.4 miles to Scotty's Castle Road (Site 763). Turn right onto Scotty's Castle Road and drive north for about 33 miles to the Grapevine Entrance Station, which is a tollbooth in the middle of the road (with water and restrooms at the nearby ranger station). Continue north for 0.2 miles to Ubehebe Crater Road (Site 754). Turn left (west) onto Ubehebe Crater Road and drive northwest for 6.0 miles to the parking area at Ubehebe Overlook (Site 755). Stop here; this is the trailhead.

little hebe crater
Little Hebe Crater (view west from the high point on the Ubehebe Crater Loop Trail. The spur trail arrives at Little Hebe at the point marked with the arrow

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 05), the trail runs south (right) along the rim of the crater. There are great views of the crater and the desert valley beyond from along this side. Despite the loose volcanic soils, the walking is fairly easy.

The sparsely vegetated volcanic soils on the rim of the crater are dominated by creosote bush, desert trumpet, desert holly, and sandpaper bush. The soils are loose, so don't walk off trail or across the slopes, as doing so will leave tracks that will last for years. Along the edge of the rim, you can look into the crater and see rocks and sediments of various colors, including black and white banding, red cliffs, and what looks like white sediment from the bottom of the crater that was blasted up onto the side of the crater. There are many pocket gophers up here, and these little guys put white subsoil onto the black surface, giving the ground a speckled appearance in some areas.

little hebe crater
Little Hebe Crater (view south from the rim)

Walking along the rim, there are places where you can see thin layers of dark and light colored material, suggesting that there were many volcanic eruptions in this area that threw up clouds of ash and small rocks before Ubehebe blew.

The trail runs along the rim and eventually climbs over a little hill (Wpt. 06). At about 0.5 miles out (Wpt. 07), a short spur trail leads (about 1.5 minutes) to the edge of Little Hebe Crater (Wpt. 08). Little Hebe is fairly shallow, and it is an easy scramble down into the bottom.

When you are ready to leave Little Hebe Crater, retrace your steps to the main trail and follow your footprints back to the trailhead. Alternatively, continue hiking up and around the main crater for another mile on the Ubehebe Crater Loop Trail. There are better overviews of Little Hebe from that trail than there are from the Little Hebe Trail.

There are several trails down into the crater. These trails are steep and loose, and while the direct route down from the parking area might be a good way to get down, getting up that way looks pretty hard. One person, who was having trouble climbing back up that steep route, ended up crawling part way out. An alternative and less steep route out of the crater runs to the west (right on the way out) of the direct route (hits the rim at Wpt. 4). Take a look at this route before you go down so you will know an easier way to get back out.

Table 1. Highway Coordinates Based on GPS Data (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
0754 Scotty's Castle Rd at Ubehebe Rd 36.99863 117.36605 467429 4094580 2,292 Yes
0755 Ubehebe Crater Parking 37.01086 117.45395 459614 4095970 2,616 Yes
0763 Hwy 190 at Scotty's Castle Rd 36.63910 117.03531 496843 4054636 104 Yes-2

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

Wpt. Location Time Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
05 Ubehebe Crater trailhead 1517 459614 4095970 2,550 GPS
06 Little hilltop 1528 459693 4095463 2,682 GPS
07 Trail junction 1530 459828 4095358 2,756 GPS
08 Edge of Little Hebe Crater 1532 459871 4095287 2,782 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 110327

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