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Ubehebe Crater Loop Trail
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park
Ubehebe Crater Loop
Ubehebe crater loop trail
Ubehebe Crater (view southeast from the trailhead).

Overview

This 1.5-mile loop trail runs around the perimeter of Ubehebe Crater, a geologically interesting area in the Death Valley Wilderness Area. The crater was 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.

Ubehebe crater loop trail
East side of Ubehebe Crater (view northeast).

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. Some parts of the trail might not be good for small children unless you watch them carefully. Going the first half-mile to Little Hebe Crater is pretty safe, but stay back from the edge.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and 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.

Ubehebe crater loop trail
West side of Ubehebe Crater (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.

Ubehebe crater loop trail
Red cliffs on the east side of the crater (view north).

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 2, Waypoint 05), you can walk the loop in either direction, but I walked it by starting to the south (right) and up the hill. Going this way, hike up along the rim of the crater. There are great views of the crater and the desert valley beyond from high on this side. Despite the loose volcanic soils, the walking is fairly easy.

The trail runs out about 0.5 miles to a little hilltop (Wpt. 06), then descends slightly to a trail junction (Wpt. 07) with a short spur trail (about 1.5 minutes) leads to the edge of Little Hebe Crater (Wpt. 08), a smaller crater perched on the back of "big Ubehebe." For details on the hike up to this point, see the Little Hebe Trail.

Ubehebe crater loop trail
Northeast rim of Ubehebe Crater (view north).

From the Little Hebe trail junction (Wpt. 07), the trail continues up and around the main crater, shortly arriving at the highest point on the trail (Wpt. 09), which ironically has a great view of Little Hebe and a poor view of the main crater.

From there, continue circling westward (Wpt. 10) and then northward around the crater. Some parts of the trail run inside the rim of the crater, which gives great views of the bottom, but also carries the risk of giving you a quick ride to the bottom.

From the far side, there are some great views to the north and east out across the region, and there are great views back into the crater. In the crater, you can 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. You can see these from the near side too, but somehow the view from the far side seems better.

Ubehebe crater loop trail

Continue around the crater until you return to the trailhead.

In addition to hiking around the crater, there are several trails down into Ubehebe 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 much of the 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. 11). Take a look at this route before you go down so you will know an easier way to get back out.

Ubehebe Crater Ubehebe Crater

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 2,785 GPS
09 Highest point on the trail 1540 460062 4095281 2,865 GPS
10 High point on NE edge 1556 460114 4096167 2,603 GPS
11 Trail out of the crater 1605 459663 4096170 2,535 GPS

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

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