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Death Valley in November?

Ohio, Illinois
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Death Valley in November?

I'm interested in a 3-4 day backpacking trip in Death Valley NP in mid-November. Is this possible considering the time of the year/weather? Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Washington State
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for Yosemite National Park
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1. Re: Death Valley in November?

Hi Peter

It looks like you're casting your net fairly wide.

Maybe some research on or some direct questions on the Backpacker Magazine forum will help you to narrow down your search. Share your backpacking knowledge, experience, and ability on your new thread.

…backpacker.com/cgi-bin/forums/ikonboard.cgi…

Santa Ana, CA
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2. Re: Death Valley in November?

I go each year the second week of November, although for me it is long day hikes. I think it's perfect. High temperature each day is about 70 degrees. At the low elevation of the valley floor it does not get very cold at night. It will though at higher elevations. The sun goes down early each day especially without daylight savings time.

Uden, The...
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3. Re: Death Valley in November?

Great time of year:

www.backpacker.com/destinations/category/200

San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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4. Re: Death Valley in November?

Death Valley is gigantic, the size of Connecticut. It has a huge elevation range, from 282 feet below sea level to 11,049 feet above. In November, it's possible to find temperatures still in the 90s at lower elevations to freezing in the mountains. There can be days when people will be in the pools at the resorts while snow flies on Telescope Peak. So the answer to your question is, "It depends"

Who is going on the trip? Adults only, family, seasoned backpackers or just starting?

What kinds of experiences are you looking for? Special views, unusual natural phenomena, a challenge, or ???

Are you flying in and renting a vehicle? If so, that may limit the stuff you can bring. If you want to drive to backcountry trailheads, be aware that some rental companies do not allow their vehicles (including 4wd) to be driven off maintained roads, and make the renter liable for any damage or expenses from doing so. Farabee's is a Jeep rental company at Furnace Creek with vehicles equipped and intended for backcountry use, including heavy-duty tires.

Have you been to Death Valley before? If this is your first trip, it would be a good idea to spend at least a day exploring the front country and getting a good overview of the park's geology, topography, climate, flora and fauna, which will make a backcountry trip more rewarding. .

Ohio, Illinois
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5. Re: Death Valley in November?

Thanks for your response everyone.

Frisco - The trip would consist of 3-4 guys in their mid-20s. Not incredibly seasoned backpackers, but hardy guys who like to hike.

We are looking mostly for awesome natural views and adventuresome hikes. A couple of my buddies have never been out West past Illinois before so they just want to see part of the Western US.

We would be flying in and renting a vehicle. Are we able to get to the real cool trails w/o 4wd?

None of us has ever been to Death Valley before. We were looking into Death Valley, Zion, or Guadalupe Mountains NP for this trip. What about Death Valley do you think makes it worth visiting over the others?

Thanks again for your help!

Henderson, Nevada
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6. Re: Death Valley in November?

In Novemeber Zion would be cold... I don't know anything about Guadalupe Mountains, but they look interesting.

In general I don't think of Death Valley as a backpacking place, instead I think of it for dirt road exploring and day hikes... but that doesn't mean there are not good places to backpack.

Death Valley, with its range of elevations will allow you to find good places to back pack... Warm enough... but not too warm... (as I get older, I find too cold is not as fun anymore... I still do too cold but do it from the Jeep and carry more stuff than I would in a backpack)

As to why Death Valley... It is one of the geological wonder places on earth... the vistas are unreal... the canyons wonderful... The desert rewards people who explore it... and find those hidden little places...

You may also want to consider Joshua Tree National Park or Anza Borrago State Park (California). Both offer November backpacking...

Randy

San Francisco
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7. Re: Death Valley in November?

If you have never been west of Illinois, any of the large western national parks will be worth visiting. Depending on how long you can take for this trip, you might be able to visit more than one park. If you have 3-4 days excluding airline travel, I would just stick with Death Valley.

Death Valley has an amazing amount of diversity in its landscapes, because the elevations are from 282 feet below sea level to 11,042 feet above. That means varieties of vegetation as well as climate. At the very bottom, at Badwater, you’ll find snow-white salt flats where nothing grows, while on top you’ll see Bristlecone pines and other plants typical of the high Sierra. If it’s snowing, winter climbing experience and equipment may be required for Telescope Peak or some of the other high points in the Panamint range.

As a general rule of thumb, every 1000’ of elevation change means 3-5ºF difference. Furnace Creek, the location of the park visitor center, the main resorts, the most popular campgrounds, and much of the visitor activity, is 190 feet below sea level. You can do the arithmetic to figure approximate temperatures around the park.

As for getting to the “real cool trails” with a regular vehicle, there are many nice hikes accessible with a regular rental car. In fact, for your first visit, there is enough to do to fill several days on or near main roads. I think every newcomer planning more extensive exploring should first spend a day on the main roads, see the major sights along those roads, and go to the visitor center to see the exhibits and the park movie and maybe get a map or a book or two. Getting the lay of the land and some familiarity with the overall setting will help you enjoy your hikes or specific explorations more.

Main roads are paved: Hwy 190, Badwater Road, Daylight Pass, Mud Canyon, Beatty Cutoff Road, North Hwy (aka Castle Road), and Emigrant-Wildrose except for about 2 miles which is graded gravel. Most of the graded gravel or hard dirt roads off these main roads are maintained often and are suitable for any car driven carefully. However, Badwater Road from the south park boundary to Badwater Basin, West Side Road, and all of Emigrant-Wildrose Road are currently closed due to summer flashflood damage. That will not affect the following hikes which you can get to in a regular car: the ridges around Dante’s View; Golden Canyon, Mosaic Canyon; the west end of Titus Canyon and Fall Canyon that intersects it to the north; and Ubehebe Crater.

For daily updates on road and weather conditions, go to the park website and select “Morning Report.”

http://www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm

If you want to do one backcountry adventure, I suggest Titus Canyon. My earlier mention of it was for the west end, which is accessible by car from the Castle Road to a parking area at the canyon mouth, where you can then walk as far as you wish. To see all of this canyon, it’s about 26 miles, often requiring 4wd high clearance (and in winter, because it has elevations where snow is possible, I wouldn’t go there without 4wd HC). It is a one-way road from just west of the ghost town of Rhyolite to the east of the park (well worth seeing if you’re going over there). Titus has something for everyone: higher elevation plant life; beautiful rock formations and colors; a ghost town founded on a scam; petroglyphs; a chance to see bighorn sheep if you’re early enough and lucky enough; sheer, high walls at the west end that show the power of flashfloods; and the side hike in Fall Canyon which some people consider one of the most beautiful in DV.

Farabee’s is a company that rents Jeep Wranglers by the day at Furnace Creek Inn. Unlike many ordinary rental companies, their vehicles are meant for backcountry use and have heavy-duty tires. They will also give you trip suggestions and maps. Rather than pay premium rates in Las Vegas for a 4wd that you aren’t supposed to take to the backcountry (and which will most likely have standard street tires), rent a sedan, decide once you arrive in the park what you want to do, and then call Farabee’s. Reservations would be a good idea.

http://www.farabeesjeeprentals.com/

Camp Sherman, Oregon
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8. Re: Death Valley in November?

Nice backpacker link for DV, never saw it before.

I think everyone has given you good advice. I am perhaps not as responsible or cautious as Frisco in regards to Titus Canyon but I haven't been there in other than ideal conditions. A couple of times it has been closed due to ice or wash outs for a few days in March.

Many people do back pack on multi day hikes but as been said perhaps sticking to the basics as an introduction best. Here are some hikes that I have enjoyed:

On Badwater Rd., Natural Bridge if you keep on going you will come to several sloping obstacles/dry falls that can be real fun to go up and then slide back down on. You will finally come to a point where it's about a 20' straight up dry fall that you can't climb safely without climbing gear, I think. Going north, along Artist's Drive, there are some neat hikes going into the rocky canyons. We had planned on doing them this past March but as the blood thinners I had been taking previously were still in my system I was bleeding quite a bit from the rocks and had to stop.

Between the exit from Artist's Drive and Golden Canyon is a little used gem, Desolation Canyon. A couple of trail options there, one that goes up onto a bluff that looks down onto Artist's Drive. Below the bluff is a canyon that leads to a dry fall that I attempted to climb but chickened out after about thirty feet or so. Looked like it was done quite a bit with footwells and hand holds in the dirt wall. My cheap smooth soled Nike Airs were slipping a lot.

Twenty Mule Team Canyon has trails that are rarely used.

One favorite hike from this past trip was the trail leading off of the NE? end of the board walk at Salt Creek. It skirts the east edge of the creek and goes up some steep hills with shear drops off below. You come to the spring that the I believe the "Jayhawkers" pioneers party crossing the Panamint Mountains used for water. I got somewhat off course past here as the trail was washed out from winter rains. I was trying to make it over to Devil's Golf Course along 190 to be picked up by family. I did find an old graded road that was perfect to orientate myself to between the intersection with 190/Scotty's Castle Rd. and the Mesquite Dunes. Took about two hours and was exhilarating in the morning heat. Constantly drinking water. I did for the first time feel like a pioneer.

Lot's of people like Fall Canyon trail at the west entrance to Titus and also further north Red Wall Canyon.

I had quite an experience too this trip at Grotto Canyon but that is something I would only suggest with lot's of experience and knowledge here.

Mosaic Canyon, if you keeping going up and around several walls/obstacle you can go miles. Several trail guides talk about this. I still haven't gotten around the third one as my trail guide was wrong. Tried with a couple of twenty somethings but we gave up after climbing up a scary, steep loose rock hill.

If you really wanted to do a long hike another high point from this trip was Marble Canyon. You do need high clearance 4wd to get to the trail head. Decades ago when I first went you could drive a car to the trail head but intense flooding has changed that and recent flooding has caused more damage. This fantastic trail goes through various changing canyon conditions. Really an all day hike.

I would really suggest you look at the DVNP web page for info on hikes and roads. And there are many trail books available, online and at the Visitor's Center.

These web pages may help: birdandhike.com/Hike/…_DEVA_Over.htm

And for something perhaps more extreme at times but good advice: http://www.panamintcity.com/

Camp Sherman, Oregon
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9. Re: Death Valley in November?

Sorry I meant "over night" hikes, and "making it over to Devil's Cornfield" not Devils' Golf Course.

San Francisco
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10. Re: Death Valley in November?

Thanks for bringing up Natural Bridge, Jes. I forgot to mention it, perhaps because most of my time in the park is in summer and we suggest it reservedly because it’s an approximately half-mile, gently uphill walk from the parking to the bridge formation. In cool weather, it’s a comfortable, easy stroll. For those who have been to the southern Utah parks, the bridge itself might not seem spectacular, but as Jes said, it is only the beginning, with other dramatic formations beyond it. After a couple miles, there are dry falls that most visitors probably won’t (or shouldn’t) attempt.

Many people consider Fall Canyon one of the most beautiful in the park. It runs north from Titus Canyon near the mouth; the trailhead is not signed but is pretty obvious. Not many people go in there, but it has some spectacular views, colors, and dry falls. It’s a couple miles from the mouth to where the real “cool” features start to appear, but it seems that Peter and friends have time for it. It is like being in the backcountry but the trail is 5-10 minutes from the main highway on a car-friendly gravel road.

Fall Canyon can be part of a day trip to Rhyolite, Titus Canyon, Scotty’s Castle, and/or Ubehebe Crater, with the Devil’s Cornfield and Sand Dunes reasonably close. Mosaic Canyon is just beyond the Sand Dunes and Stovepipe Wells Village, but if you want to do extensive hiking, it might be better to go to Mosaic on a different day.

Ubehebe (“you be he be”) is a volcanic crater, but not from an eruption; groundwater met molten magma and the resulting steam implosion created this beautiful hole in the ground. This happened only in the last few hundred years. The name is from a Timbisha Shoshone phrase for “basket in the rock.” You can walk down into the crater, or around the rim where you can see other smaller craters. You’ll see loose pumice soil all around, characteristic of a violent explosion or implosion, but not the obsidian that we associate with volcanoes because there was no lava flow. The crater is lined with this ashy soil, which makes walking out fun and good exercise. :^)

One reason to go to the visitor center early on is to see the park movie and exhibits and get any specific info you want. Another is for the store run by the Death Valley Natural History Association, which has scads of books, maps, and other goodies. If you forgot extra water bottles, a hat, field guides, or even a planisphere, or you want videos or a DV shirt, the store has them. As for maps, the National Geographic Trails Illustrated series is more than 95% of hikers will need. It's a topographical map on a waterproof plastic sheet and also has general visitor info. The next step up is the USGS section topos (about 100 of them cover the entire park and adjoining lands). I don’t recommend the Tom Harrison plastic topo map because it has much less info. For a general road map with more detail than the official NPS map, get the CSAA (AAA) Death Valley National Park Guide Map. All these maps are sold at the visitor center.