Dry Mountain is the most challenging peak hike in Death Valley and has incredible views from the summit of Eureka Valley, Saline Valley, and Racetrack Valley. Difficulties encountered on the hike include route finding to attain the correct ridges and a challenging elevation drop and extra climb in order to reach the summit. Topographical maps of the route which I used to reach the summit can be found by clicking on the buttons above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 36.886219, -117.505400. GPS coordinates to attain the first ridge are 36.879746, -117.554568. GPS coordinates to attain the final ridge leading to the summit are 36.908732, -117.585534.
Dry Mountain is a hike that many people find to be intimidating based on its fearsome reputation. To reach the Dry Mountain summit from Racetrack Road is extremely difficult and is known to be the hardest day hike to a peak in Death Valley. In addition, many hikers are familiar with the Sierra Club's Desert Peaks Section (DPS), which lists 99 of the best and most scenic desert peaks. Of the 99 listed, Dry Mountain is considered to be 1 of the 3 most difficult for hikers to accomplish. There are several different routes to reach the summit of Dry Mountain. Our route is considered to be the most commonly used. We started about 9.6 miles south of Ubehebe Crater on Racetrack Road, where we parked at around the 4,600 foot elevation level at 8am in the morning. We decided to take the safest route for hikers, which involved hiking southwest towards the very southern end of the ridgeline. Once we arrived there, we followed the canyon around to the back of the ridge until we found a safe place to begin our ascent. Progress was slow, as the ridge was steep. But there were great views along the way of the Virginia Dry Lakes, The Racetrack, Tin Mountain, and P8432 (the eastern peak). Dry Mountain itself was not visible until we had climbed all the way up to a saddle at 2pm, a good 6 hours into our hike. Once we reached the saddle, we had to drop down into a valley of pinyon pines as we made our way to the base of Dry Mountain. From the saddle, the climb up Dry Mountain (8,674 feet) looked absolutely terrifying. But as we got closer to the base, we could see there was a clear path to the summit, which was steep but not dangerous.
Four of us started this hike -- myself, Daria, Patrick, and a fellow hiker. We had heard that the Dry Mountain hike has a failure rate of 50%, meaning that 1 out of every 2 hikers who attempts it does not reach the summit. And this proved to be true with our group, as the fellow hiker and I made it, but Daria and Patrick did not. Personally, I reached the summit at about 4:45pm, which was nearly 9 hours after starting the hike. But I'm not sure if was better to reach the summit or not to reach the summit. I say this because I spent nearly every minute of the day pushing hard and hiking in the heat, and had very little time to spend on the summit and enjoy the great accomplishment of getting there. Meanwhile, Patrick got to relax under a shade tree for about 2 1/2 hours and enjoy an extremely rare and grand view of Dry Mountain and the surrounding pinyon pines valley from the base. Once we were all back together, we finally got down off the ridgeline just after 9pm, when we all took out our flashlights. By the time we reached our vehicles, it was 11pm. It was 15 hours of some of the hardest, most difficult hiking I have ever experienced. Especially in the early summer heat, as we did the hike on June 14, 2010. For the hike, I packed for myself almost 2 1/2 gallons (308 ounces) of liquids, and it was just enough. I don't think I'll ever forget coming down from Dry Mountain into the pinyon pines valley and then having to hike back up the 700 feet just to reach the next saddle. The sun was blazing and I was simply trying to hike from shade tree to shade tree, all the while feeling totally exhausted and physically drained. The hike resulted in my first ever blood blister and also effectively ended plans for a hike the next day. During the hike, all I can remember is that I kept thinking that it was me vs. Dry Mountain and I had to come out victorious. I did (barely) and will respect Dry Mountain and all those who can reach the summit or at least have the courage to make an attempt. The included maps also show the Alternate Headwall Route which is shorter but much harder. The standard route is 16 miles round-trip with a cumulative elevation gain of 5,600 feet (4,800 feet hiking there and 800 feet coming back). Our hike took place on June 14, 2010.
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