Telescope Peak, Mahagony Flats Trailhead, Death Valley National Park, California
Telescope Peak - 12.5 miles
Mahagony Flats Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||12.5 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||8,133' - 11,049' (11,049' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+2,916' net elevation gain (+3,254' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
At 11,049' Telescope Peak is the highest point in Death Valley National Park. Views from the summit reveal Death Valley's complex geology and topography including numerous mountain ranges, canyons, bajadas, alluvial fans, dry lake beds, salt flats, and sand dunes.
The vertical change from valley floor (-282') to Telescope Peak is exceeded in North America only by variances from the summits of Mount Rainier (14,410'), Mount Fairweather (15,325') and Mount McKinley (20,320').
The Telescope Peak Trail is strenuous and fully exposed - carry layers and sun protection, no matter the season.
Keep in mind that temperatures on the summit may be 30-40 degrees cooler than the valley floor. The trail is usually snow-free from May to mid-November, but winter hiking may require ropes, ice axes and crampons to reach the summit. Always consult a Park Ranger for travel conditions.
There is no water available at the trailhead or along the main trail; as with all activities in Death Valley, you must carry your own water:
The trail heads south and rises quickly aver Mahogany Flat in a pinyon-juniper woodland. Look for Mountain Mahogany, Limber Pine and Bristlecone Pine as you move along.
Mountain Mahogany thrives on dry slopes over 8,000'. Resilient Limber Pine prefer inhospitable hillsides above 9,000'. Bristlecone Pine - the Panamint's ecological highlight - are the earth's oldest living organisms. Some of these trees may exceed 3000 years old.
The upland forest thins out by .95 miles (8,880') with expanding views over Death Valley, Badwater, the Black Mountains and Amargosa Range.
The trail eases considerably on a ridge (2.15 miles : 9,630') under Bennett Peak (9,980'), where it threads a sage field and Bristlecone Pine stand.
The trail gradually wraps around the base of Bennett Peak to the west side of a lengthy, spine-like saddle that connects it with Telescope Peak.
This high, open saddle looks west over Panamint Valley toward the Inyo Range and Sierra Nevadas. The Panamint Sand Dunes can be seen in a distant corner of Panamint Valley.
Down the saddle's steep western slope are Tuber Canyon, Jail Canyon, and Tuber, Jail, Birch and Eagle Springs. These springs were vital to the Shoshone Indians who summered in the Panamint.
The trail soon alternates to the east side of the saddle for clear views down the north, middle and south forks of Hanaupah Canyon. South of Telescope Peak are Woodpecker, Sourdough and Water Canyons.
The saddle drops gradually to 9,490' (3.75 miles), then begins an arduous climb up Telescope Peak's conical north flank. Snow is common here from early winter through late spring; exercise caution on these steep and uneven slopes, as there is little room for error.
A series of irregular switchbacks (5.2 miles : 10,280') rise sharply through ancient Bristlecone stands to a false summit (6.05 miles : 10,950'), where the trail eases one last time up to the summit (6.25 miles : 11,049').
Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View Interactive Google Map
- N36 13.799 W117 04.091 — 0.0 miles: Trailhead - Mahagony Flats Campground
- Bristlecone Pine Trees - the earth's oldest living organisms - are found throughout the trail's higher elevations. Some trees are thought to be 2,000 to 4,000 years old.
- On a clear day you can see Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States (14,494').
- Telescope Peak is located within the Panamint Mountain Range.
- A 4 Wheel Drive car is needed to drive the last 1-1.5 miles of upper Wildrose Canyon Road to the trailhead.
- If your car is unable to reach the TH, park at the Charcoal Kilns parking area and follow the road on foot. This last mile or so is also likely to be un-passable during the winter, making parking at the kilns your best bet.
Directions to Trailhead
The Telescope Peak Trailhead trailhead is located at south end of the Mahogany Flat Campground parking area.
The trailhead starts at the Mahogany Flat campground, 2 miles further on from the Charcoal Kilns along a rough dirt road. 4 Wheel-drive is HIGHLY recommended and often necessary. Be sure to call the park to check road conditions.
As mentioned above, a 4 Wheel Drive car is needed to drive the last 1-1.5 miles of upper Wildrose Canyon Road to the trailhead. If your car is unable to reach the TH, park at the Charcoal Kilns parking area and follow the road on foot. This last mile or so is also likely to be un-passable during the winter, making parking at the kilns your best bet.
Death Valley National Park
P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328