Death Valley – Badwater


What? : Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. The salt flats here cover nearly 200 square miles, you can hike into the salt flats, enjoy this unique landscape, and salt formations.


Where? : From highway 190 near Furnace Creek (Furnace Creek Inn) drive 16.5 miles south on Badwater road until you will see the large parking lot on your left.

Google Map Link


When? : The recommended time to visit here is late fall, winter and early spring, summer is just too hot.

Few blogs links that provides additional information.
This will help you plan your road trip to this area and your Death Valley visit:

I don’t recommend any hiking in the lower elevations of Death Valley during the hot summer months. It can be 90f degree at early spring… just think of 120-130f…


Due note 2: The salt flats visit is probably the most popular thing to do within the park. Near the parking lot there are many people but as you hike into the salt flat there are less and less.


Due note 3: There is minimal to no cell reception in this area of the Death Valley.


Due note 4: There is no shade anywhere, use Sunscreen even in winter months.


Due note 5: A toilet is available in the Badwater parking lot.


Due note 6: If you are hiking this trail during April/May or Sept/Oct, the mid-day highs temperatures can be 90-105’F, so start the hike before 10am.


Due note 7: When visiting or hiking at the Death Valley use several layers as clothing. You can start your day with cold temperatures during early morning sunrise to a very hot midday (even at fall, winter, and spring). At the afternoon it can warm but at sunset temperature plumage and it can be near freezing.


Due note 8: plan to be here between 1-2 hours. It takes a minimum of 30 minutes hiking (1 mile) from the parking lot to see the picturesque, hexagon shapes. Plan your time accordingly.


Due note 9: Badwater is a crowded place, but the area is so huge, as you will hike into the salt flats you will see less and less people.


Due note 10: If you travel after it rains, the salt flats will be wet, and you will be able to see a reflection on the salt. After rain, even if the salt is dry, it will be less white, more like brown salt. Try to find dry area that are whiter.


Due note 11: Pets are not allowed on any trail in Death Valley National Park, even if carried. Do not leave your animal in your vehicle. You may walk your pet on dirt roads.


My thoughts: I visit here several times at winter months and was always deeply impressed by the vast endless salt flats stretch all the way to the other side of the large valley and from the high Panamint Mountain Range cover with winter snow to the west. I enjoy hiking far into the salt flats and escape the crowd that is mainly stay closer to the parking lot. At some point it looks like you are the only one there where the desert mid-day hot haze, also during winter month, bluer the flat view.


The visit:


Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 282 ft (86 m) below sea level. The salt flats here stretching almost 8 miles long and 5 miles wide covering nearly 200 square miles.

This large area of salt flats is a result of an old sea that dryad out tens of thousands of years ago into this low basin that do not have any outlet. Over the years the lake water evaporated and left behind all the dissolved salts, this process of dissolving rock salts, taking them with the rain to the lower flats and water evaporation continue today.

The salt sediments composed mostly of sodium chloride (table salt), along with calcite, gypsum, and borax.

Salt flats are harsh environment for most plants and animals to survive. The delicate salt crystals are easily crushed, and the relatively thin upper crust of salt can be broken through to the mud layer below.


Hexagon shapes:

As you hike farther away into the salt flats you will start to see, after around 1-mile hiking, unique hexagon shapes that are formed in the salt. Those shapes are created by a cycle of winter water dissolving salt and once drying the salt push to the sides and create this hexagon shape where salt is being pushed up from forces from both sides.


When you arrive at the Badwater parking lot, you will see the salt flats in front of you. Walk down to the wooden deck below and see the small water pool that gave this place it name: Bad Water.

Soon after this small saltwater pond, that is the lowest place in the USA, you will see the white trail leading into the vast flat. The white flat trail is a result of all the people walking on it so try to stay on the main trail is you hike into the flats.

When you start you walk you will not see the crisp white hexagon shapes, you need to follow the trail straight into the flat and you will start to see them after a mile or so.


After hiking deep into the salt flats and enjoying the landscape it is the time to walk back to the parking lot.


To the west of the flats, you can see the Panamint Mountain Range to the west; at 11,049 ft you will see Telescope Peak, this peak is over two miles above you and in the winter months it is covered with snow.