Death Valley National Park Highpoint Trip Report

Telescope Peak

Date: June 4, 2005
Author: Dave Covill


Over the weekend of June 3rd - 6th, my son Chris & I drove to Las Vegas NV, to celebrate his 21st birthday a few months earlier. That's a story for another time....

Our plan was to hike Telescope Peak, HP of Death Valley NP, and to also research the outlying Devils Hole Unit HP, and visit as many sub-sea level hills as possible. We were very successful, visiting Devils Hole Friday evening the 3rd, coming all the way from Denver that morning.

We climbed Telescope Peak Saturday morning, and visited numerous small hills in Badwater Basin Saturday afternoon and evening.

I will not go into too much detail here, except to point out a few things.


From Stovepipe Wells, drive 8.9 miles SW on CA 190, to the junction with the Emigrant Canyon Road. Also reach this turnoff from the West side by Panamint Springs by driving 12 miles E on CA 190.

Turn south and follow this good paved road as it curves and winds for 20.8 miles to Wildrose CG. It crosses over Emigrant Pass at the mid-point at 5,318', and drops down into the Nemo Canyon, where it winds tightly for a mile, then climbs out and ascends up the Wildrose Canyon drainage. Once you reach Wildrose CG, you can choose to camp there, at a modest and warmer elevation, or drive up to Thorndike or Mahogany Flat CGs, considerably higher and cooler. Choose according to your gear, the weather, and the season.

Zero the odometer at Wildrose CG. At mile 4.9 the pavement ends, but the gravel road is good until the final mile, past Thorndike CG. At mile 7.0 reach the Charcoal Kilns, a fascinating collection of about a dozen structures resembling beehives, all in a row along the N side of the road. Each has only a small door on the road side, and they are made of cement and rocks, and stand about 15' high. At mile 7.8 reach Thorndike CG, and from here the road deteriorates a bit, although a 2WD car could make it if the road was dry for a few days. At mile 8.6 reach the end of the road at Mahogany Flats CG. There is space for perhaps a dozen campsites, and another dozen day use vehicles to park.

Follow the Class 1 trail 7 miles to the summit from the parking area. It winds around 9,900' Rogers Peak on it's east slopes, and then around 9,900' Bennett Peak on it's west slopes, never losing much elevation in the process, perhaps 100' around Bennett, and less than half that around Rogers. By the way, an excellent view and photo of the trail to Telescope can be had by ascending Rogers from the trail along the S side of it, perhaps a 350' endeavor. If you choose to do this on the return, you can walk down the switchbacks on Roger's N side to the TH.

At the saddle between Bennett and Telescope, stay right at a junction and keep on top of the ridge crest, instead of down to the east. Continue along the crest to near the summit, where the trail makes several gentle switchbacks up the final 400' to the summit area. There was some snow along this upper portion of the route in early June 2005, and we either skirted it to the west, or walked across it in spots. It softened in the afternoon on the return, although we did not posthole much.

The actual summit is hidden by two slightly lower falsies, and is only maybe 40' higher, and a hundred yards further south. There are some windbreaks. Views E into Badwater Basin are breathtaking. Views W to the high Sierras are nice, albeit obscured by haze a bit. You can see White Mtn, a CA 14er, far to the NW, and Charleston, almost a 12er, due E beyond Badwater.

There are Limber Pines and Bristlecone Pines all the way to the top, and interesting deciduous Mahogany near the TH.

It took us about 3.75 hours up, and 2.75 down, with some stops beyond that time. There were more than 25 other hikers on the trail.