Telescope Peak is a very popular hike with extremely impressive views on an established and maintained trail to the highest point in Death Valley which is best done in the Spring or Fall. Difficulties encountered on the hike include acclimating to the high elevation of 11,000+ feet, dealing with ice and snow (by the use of crampons and ice axes) during the Winter months, and dealing with extreme heat of 95F+ (by bringing an abundance of water) during the Summer months. Route maps and GPS coordinates are not provided because there is only one main parking area and the hiking trail is well known and obvious.
Telescope Peak was a hike that I didn't get to until over ten years after first visiting Death Valley. As the year 2008 rolled around, Telescope Peak finally made it to the top of my To-Do list and thus I decided to do it that Summer. It's hard to believe that after over thirty lifetime visits to the park, I had not yet conquered the highest peak, but my priorities had clearly been elsewhere. My sister Tiffany and I really prepared ourselves well for this hike, as we spent 2 nights at Mahogany Flat campground prior to the hike and we also hiked Wildrose Peak the day before to help acclimate to the high elevation. The morning of the hike, we were up before 7:00am and began our long journey a short time later. The first 2 1/2 miles on the trail were continuously steep while it wrapped around the southeastern side of Rogers Peak. For this first portion of the hike, there is an alternate route which also starts near Mahogany Flat that follows a service road up to Rogers Peak, but I can't imagine why anyone would choose to hike on a dusty road with limited views instead of on the official trail with outstanding views looking into central Death Valley. Being at lower elevations between 8,100 feet and 9,600 feet through this portion, it was important for us to start early since we were hiking in the middle of Summer. It was helpful that there were lots of shady spots along the trail created as we passed by mountain mahogany, juniper, and pinyon pine trees. Views through this first portion of the hike included the North Fork and Middle Fork of Hanaupah Canyon. Also, the wildflowers were in full bloom, especially Eaton's Firecracker, Indian Paintbrush, and Purple Sage, which were everywhere. At around 9,680 feet in elevation, we reached the beginning of Arcane Meadows, which is a flat area of grasses and wildflowers where mule deer were grazing. Rogers Peak was off to our right and Bennett Peak was off to our left as we circled around and hiked to the south. Through Arcane Meadows, we passed right by the heads of both Tuber Canyon and Jail Canyon. Years later, I would get a chance to hike into those canyons and explore both of them fully. In the second half of the walk through Arcane Meadows, there was an incredible view of the top portion of Telescope Peak which is unmatched anywhere else. The final portion of the hike features the legendary switchbacks of Telescope, which become agonizing due to the fact that you are now above 10,000 feet in elevation. There are also more trees, including limber pine and bristlecone pine trees. As far as flowers, the highlight for me personally was seeing the two Panamint Mountain Mariposa lilies along the way. The ultimate highlight of the hike was finally reaching the 11,049 foot summit for the first time in my Death Valley hiking career. When all was said and done, we had hiked about 13 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of about 3,000 feet. It should be noted that Telescope Peak also attracts its share of extreme adventurers. During the Winter months, some people like to reach the summit by using crampons and ice axes and simply following the ridge up (since the trail is no longer visible underneath the ice and snow). A few people have even attempted to do a little bit of skiing down parts of Telescope Peak. At other times of year, a few of the most fit and die-hard hikers like to attempt to summit Telescope Peak with over 11,000 feet of elevation gain by starting at Shorty's Well or other spots along Badwater Basin. Not all hikers are successful, though, and I have heard of some hikers needing to be rescued when they attempted this in weather which was too hot. Most hikers pretty much stick to the main trail, like we did. Our hike took place on July 19, 2008.
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