Death Valley Buttes is a shorter hike leading up to the three southernmost peaks in the Grapevine Mountains which have outstanding views of Mesquite Flat, Tucki Mountain, and central Death Valley. Difficulties encountered on the hike include route finding to access the easiest paths to the three peaks and at least one fairly challenging spot to cross which contains exposure prior to reaching the highest peak. A Google Earth map of the hiking routes (turned to the northwest for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for Lower DV Butte are 36° 42.427'N, 117° 1.620'W. GPS coordinates for Upper DV Butte (Red Top BM) are 36° 42.689'N, 117° 0.274'W.
The Death Valley Buttes are a portion of the Grapevine Mountains which are separated from the rest of the range at the far southern end. Hiking to the summit of Middle Butte and Upper Butte is a fairly popular hiking destination due to the fact that a main road passes directly by the base of the buttes, the hike is fairly short (about 2 hours RT on average), and because the buttes are quite visible from many places within central Death Valley. Death Valley Buttes was not a hike that I had originally researched and prepared for prior to leaving for my Spring 2009 trip. Yet, one afternoon I had finished hiking to another destination and had some extra time left over. As it was early in the trip and I still had a lot of energy, I went ahead and did the hike to Death Valley Buttes. And I'm sure glad that I did. It was an outstanding short hike with great views for nearly the entire time. The hike took me 2 hours and 10 minutes RT (round-trip), after I had parked just west of Hell's Gate. Somewhere previously I had read that it was best to park at Hell's Gate to begin the hike, but I felt it was better to park close to the base of the buttes. That way I was able to hike through the wash which was right next to the buttes and not have to do a lot of rough walking over uneven terrain. I first hiked up to Middle Butte by climbing up a ridgeline and picking up an use trail. From there, I dropped down to the saddle. After that, I hiked and climbed my way up to Upper Butte (officially known as Red Top BM). It's important to note that the route to the upper butte gets quite rocky and involves some climbing and crossing over somewhat risky areas with exposure. I was extremely careful while doing this but I'm not sure that I would want to take others with me on this portion of the hike. Death Valley Buttes purists will point out that you have not truly accomplished the hike until you reach the summit of all three buttes (there is an even lower butte which most people don't know about northwest of the highest butte). I have included a satellite imagery map which shows the location of all three buttes. I tend to agree with the purists, but originally didn't have the time to do the lowest butte as the sun was setting once I reached the summit. Two years after posting this report, I finally returned to the area to hike to Lower Butte. Thus, this report contains a combination of photos from two different hikes. Our hikes took place on March 7, 2009 and March 3, 2011.
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 stop prior to crossing the exposed sections in between Middle Butte and Upper Butte.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT