The hike you are about to read about which starts at Dante's View and ends at Badwater is not recommended for the general public due to its extreme difficulty.  We are posting a detailed description of our route in order to share the incredible experience we had with our family and friends.  Please do not follow in our footsteps and attempt this hike on your own.  There are a lot of things that can go wrong and dangerous situations which can present themselves to the unprepared hiker who is not familiar with Death Valley and attempts this route.  Some of these include getting stranded on cliffs, falling off cliffs, slipping on steep slopes and getting injured, becoming lost or stuck somewhere on the route, and not having enough daylight or water to make it out safely.  Several members of our group remarked upon completing the route that this was the best hike they had ever been on in Death Valley, but at the same time it was the hardest and most difficult.
This hike contains sections of climbing, exposed bypasses and/or high dry falls and may require safety ropes and equipment in order to complete the entire hike.  Those without the proper training, experience, and safety gear should avoid attempting this hike and not drop off of the main ridge which runs between Dante's View and Mount Perry.
In preparation for my Fall 2010 trip to Death Valley, I spent some time researching Bad Canyon.  I was interested in hiking into the middle part of the canyon, so I began studying climbers reports in the hopes of seeing pictures of some of the obstacles (such as dry falls) which could come up during the hike.  I found the pictures I was looking for, but at the same time I found something which was even more interesting.  By checking out multiple reports, I discovered that canyoneers were using two different routes to get into middle Bad Canyon.  The first route was the standard route which was well known.  Climbers would start at Dante's View and hike up to Dante's Peak.  From there they would follow the Dante's ridgeline to the north until they could find a way to safely drop into Bad Canyon.  Finally, they would head down Bad Canyon and use ropes to rappel down the huge dry falls found there and end up at Badwater Road.  The second route was an alternative way to reach middle Bad Canyon.  It probably began being used at times in the winter when Dante's View Road was closed due to ice.  This alternative route started at Badwater Road and went up the Bad-Hades Ridge, which starts at the mouth of Hades Canyon and continues up to the Hades Fault.  From the Hades Fault, the climbers would then drop down into either middle Bad Canyon or the head of Hades Canyon.  As I studied these reports, the thought dawned on me that if the two Bad Canyon access routes were combined, it would be possible to hike all the way from Dante's View down to Badwater without doing any climbing.  I realized that accomplishing such a hike would make history, as a hike from Dante's View to Badwater without using any ropes had never before been documented.  Thus, I put a team of experienced Death Valley hikers together and carefully worked out the complete route and details.

Because the Dante's View to Badwater hiking route was something which I thought up and was pioneering, it would only be fair for me to lay down some ground rules about the hike.  Our hike would need to be done in one day, so we would either need to be dropped off at Dante's View or we would need to use two vehicles as shuttles.  Also, we would need to clearly define the route's beginning and ending.  For the beginning, it was clear that we would have to start at the Dante's View sign and viewpoint.  There could be no argument about that.  For the ending, there was some debate as to where exactly we would have to reach.  Some might say that just reaching Badwater Road would be enough, as that is part of the Badwater Basin.  Others would say that Badwater Road is not Badwater itself.  Then there might be some who say that reaching the Badwater parking lot and railing would be enough, while others would say that too is not truly Badwater.  Finally, purists could say that to reach Badwater, someone would have to walk along the boardwalk and reach the Badwater sign and have their picture taken next to it.  After much thought and debate, my final decision on this matter is that to truly accomplish the full hike from Dante's View to Badwater, it is necessary to hike from the Dante's View sign to the Badwater sign and get a picture next to both signs.  Keep in mind that I am laying down these ground rules just for fun and this entire talk of "making history" is not meant to be taken very seriously.  And it is worthwhile to walk the final portion from the Badwater Road to Badwater (which I have named "The Victory Lap") because it gives you the chance to cool down and presents an awesome photo opportunity at the Badwater sign.  On our first hike (Nov. 26, 2010), some reached Badwater Road and some reached the Badwater parking lot.  Meanwhile, on our second hike (Dec. 25, 2010), everyone hiked to the farthest possible end point and reached the Badwater sign.  Therefore, I officially certify and give credit to the second group for accomplishing the 1st Documented Hike from Dante's View to Badwater.  For this report, I am combining the photos of both hikes into one and this complete trip report will serve as official documentation of the hike as being accomplished.  Congratulations to all who were involved in making history in Death Valley!  Because the route turned out to be so spectacular and we have an abundance of photos, this report has been broken up into two parts.  The first will cover the hike from Dante's View to the Hades Fault, while the second will cover the hike from the Hades Fault to Badwater.  To read the second part, click on the red arrow button at the bottom.  And now here is the first part.
To start with, let me introduce the two groups who will be hiking from Dante's View to Badwater.  In our first group from Nov. 26, 2010, we have Patrick (an accomplished Yosemite climber and Death Valley hiker), Dave (the well known Death Valley hiker who rediscovered the Chuckwalla Canyon Crater in modern times), and Steve.  In our second group from Dec. 25, 2010, we have Joe Silva (a long time friend and Death Valley hiker), Curtis (another long time friend on his first trip to Death Valley), Greg (a well respected long distance Death Valley hiker), Dave, and Steve.  For both hikes, we started out at Dante's View at exactly 8:10am.  After getting our pictures by the Dante's View sign and taking some nice shots of the early morning sunrise over Death Valley, we headed uphill and followed the trail which leads to Dante's Peak.  From there, the easy to follow trail winds its way downhill along the Dante's ridgeline.  This is the trail which ultimately leads to Mount Perry.  At this point, we had to deal with the challenging task of finding a good place to drop from the ridge into Bad Canyon.  On our first hike, we struggled a bit with this and ended up taking a longer route which had some very steep slopes to work our way down into the canyon.  But on our second hike, armed with the knowledge of what we had done before, we were able to find a better drop into Bad Canyon and eliminate virtually all of the uncomfortable steepness.  We ended up just below the head of Bad Canyon.  Walking down Bad Canyon proved to be very easy and enjoyable.  We were impressed with the nice views of the high walls around us and being able to see what the canyon was like.  Soon, the Hades Fault appeared off in the distance and the canyon began heading directly towards it.  We looked up at the Hades Fault and were slightly intimidated at the steep hike we would have to make to reach the top of it and continue on our route.  On our first trip, when we reached the base of the Hades Fault, two of us took a 3 1/2 hour side trip into Bad Canyon.  That proved to be an unwise decision because of not having enough daylight to finish the entire main route while it was still light out.  On our second trip, we dropped our packs and just went down to spend a few minutes checking out the beginning of middle Bad Canyon, with its dry falls and steep gorge area.  All in the group were left breathless at seeing the polished 25 foot dry fall which has a scary bypass ledge next to it.  Soon we got back to our main route, and it was fairly easy to work our way up to the Hades Fault from the wash of Bad Canyon.  It only took about 20-30 minutes to do that portion.  Once at the Hades Fault, we looked around a bit and explored the interesting geology and scenery that was to be found there.  Looking over the opposite side of the Hades Fault than what we had climbed up, we could see a clear view down from the head of Hades Canyon.  We also realized that we were now halfway from Dante's View to Badwater.  Below you will find a Google Earth map which shows the full route we took as we hiked from Dante's View to Badwater.  The story of our historic journey continues with part two.  (Note: A majority of the pictures shown below were taken during our second trip, as the shade and lighting were far superior and the pictures turned out a lot better.)
Starting out at Dante's View on Nov. 26, 2010.  Left to right, that's Patrick, Dave, and Steve:
Starting out at Dante's View on Dec. 25, 2010.  Left to right, that's Greg, Dave, Curtis, Joe Silva, and Steve.  Yep, Dave and Steve are wearing the same jackets for both hikes:
Taking a moment to look at the majestic view from Dante's View of the Badwater Basin and snow-capped Panamint Range:
Looking across at Telescope Peak.  An interesting fact is that Telescope Peak is 20.5 air miles from Dante's View:
Panoramic view of Death Valley from Dante's View at the start of the hike (click to enlarge):
Dante's View panoramic of Badwater Basin
Panoramic view of the Bad-Hades Ridge (middle of picture) from Dante's View (click to enlarge):
Dante's View panoramic of Bad-Hades Ridge
Heading across the parking lot and up the trail which leads to Dante's Peak:
Joe stopping to look at the view during the early part of the trail:
In the middle of the picture you can clearly see the Bad-Hades Ridge and its terminus to the left at the mouth of Hades Canyon.  Hades Canyon is to the left of the ridge, while Bad Canyon is to the right of the ridge:
Looking across at Telescope Peak once we reached Dante's Peak:
Panoramic view looking down central Death Valley from the high point at Dante's Peak (click to enlarge):
Dante's Peak panoramic of Badwater Basin and Bad-Hades Ridge
Looking across the terrain at upper Bad Canyon and Mount Perry far in the distance:
The is the Dante's Ridge, which we would continue to follow for a while longer:
Joe getting a picture next to a benchmark at Dante's Peak (Dante BM), the high point during our hike at 5,704 feet:
A couple of our hikers heading down the ridgeline.  Curtis (front) is excited about the hike:
As you can see in the bottom center of the picture, there is a clear trail along the ridgeline which we are continuing to follow:
View off into Greenwater Valley from along the ridgeline:
Zooming in on beautiful Mount Perry.  The trail continues to work its way towards the Mount Perry summit:
Curtis and Joe easily handling the beginning portion of the hike:
It was time to say goodbye to the trail and drop off the Dante's Ridge into a side canyon below:
Joe and Curtis heading down the side canyon, which had excellent terrain to walk down:
Taking this side canyon was one of the minor improvements we made over our first hike.  The terrain was a lot more hiker friendly:
Heading towards the rocky outcroppings seen near the top of the picture:
We headed up towards this cave and wondered if we would be able to walk through from one side to the other:
Sure enough there was an opening and we sat down to take our first break on the other side:
Looking through the cave and at the texture of the rock:
Steve getting a picture at the cave with his new Dante's View to Badwater T-shirt (more on that in part 2 of our report):
Full view of the cave where we took our break:
At the top of the picture you can see our hiking group continuing on towards our next destination, which would be Bad Canyon:
Curtis and Joe dropping down the hillside on the other side of the cave in the next two pictures:
Off in the distance we could see some more caves and openings in the rock:
Finally we arrived at the actual head of Bad Canyon:
Looking down to where the wash dead-ends at the head of Bad Canyon:
Joe, Curtis, and Steve getting a picture at the head of Bad Canyon:
This was the drop into Bad Canyon, another improvement over our first hike.  On the first hike, we entered Bad Canyon further down and the drop was much steeper and a lot more challenging:
Looking up at some the of the rocks which stood out on the hillside:
Curtis reaching the wash of Bad Canyon as he holds his Death Valley hiking stick:
View further up Bad Canyon as the wash begins disappearing:
And this is the view further down canyon where we would be headed:
The very first view of the Hades Fault from Bad Canyon as we looked off in the distance:
Greg and Dave heading directly towards the Hades Fault:
Curtis and Joe taking a breather in the canyon.  This was another one of the easier portions of the hike:
Dave and Greg checking out one of the massive boulders which has tumbled into the wash of Bad Canyon:
Another huge colorful boulder which has fallen into Bad Canyon:
Picture of Steve with the Hades Fault in the background taken during the first hike:
Joe, Steve, and Curtis with the Hades Fault in the background taken during our second hike:
Looking back up Bad Canyon at the cool looking rocks up on the hillside in the next two pictures:
The next four pictures show various views of the Hades Fault as we continued to hike closer to the base of it:
Interesting looking formations in a small drainage off to the side:
To the left is the Hades Fault and to the right is Bad Canyon as it takes a sharp turn and drops into a steep narrow gorge:
We dropped our packs below the Hades Fault and went down to look into middle Bad Canyon:
Taking a look over the 25 foot dry fall which stops most hikers from entering middle Bad Canyon:
Greg checking out the infamous bypass ledge which is the only way a hiker can get past this obstacle and see more of Bad Canyon.  We definitely don't recommend crossing this ledge:
Looking up at Curtis standing above one of the smaller dry falls after we were done looking over the 25 foot dry fall and headed back up canyon:
Steve with middle Bad Canyon and the narrow gorge behind him:
We were now back at the base of the Hades Fault, looking up at the steep climb ahead of us:
Starting the hike up and looking down on the rest of the group:
Working our way around some small obstacles on the way up:
A nice view of Bad Canyon cutting to the left as seen here:
Brilliant red colors stood out on the hike up the Hades Fault:
Curtis taking a break as we were now about halfway up the Hades Fault:
The fault separates two completely different sides and rock types:
Stunning panoramic view from the Hades Fault of middle Bad Cyn to the left and upper Bad Cyn to the right (click to enlarge):
Hades Fault climb view of Middle & Upper Bad Canyon
Check out the texture and colors of these rocks we passed by:
Two more views of upper Bad Canyon from near the top of the Hades Fault:
Looking at the Hades Fault rock slide which is one its identifying features:
The high point of the Hades Fault is just up ahead:
These rock walls and outcroppings were on the right side (west):
And this rock wall with the rockslide was on the left side (east):
At the summit of the Hades Fault looking over the other side:
The view down into Hades Canyon.  This point is considered the head of the canyon:
Two pictures showing the rockslide area and rocks which make it up:
Final view of upper Bad Canyon from the top of the Hades Fault:
Picture of Steve at the Hades Fault on Nov. 26, 2010:
And Steve at the same spot one month later on December 25, 2010.  To continue following our epic hike from Dante's View to Badwater, click on the red arrow button below for Part 2:
Continue to Part 2
Click here or on the red arrow button to continue reading Part 2 of Dante's View to Badwater