Hike the Badlands Loop in Death Valley
Yosemite › Zabriskie Point Parking Area
Added by Shannon Kalahan
The Badlands Loop lets you get a closer look at the otherworldly rock formations that make up Zabriskie Point. The unique perspective and spectacular views make this hike a must-do! You'll have the option to extend the hike, including both Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch trails.
The Badlands Loop is a surreal 2.5 mile walk down into the gullies and gulches below Zabriskie Point in Death Valley. The loop takes you past distinct rock formations, through mud tiled washes, past old abandoned borax mines and finally up above the eroded arteries to a fantastic view of an otherworldly landscape.
The trailhead for the Badlands Loop begins at the base of Zabriskie Point, just to the right of the main trail. After your initial decent into the valley below the overlook, you will come to a spot where the trail splits. Although there is no right way to hike the trail, we took the low road first, following the trail signs along the way. You’ll make your way through some spectacular rock erosion, get to see some great mud tiles left from the last time water swept through, and admire the tenacity of the plants that are able to survive in that arid environment.
Eventually, the Badlands Loop meets up with Gower Gulch Trail and you’ll see signs for the Golden Canyon. It’s an interesting trail split, so you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for two different sets of trail markers, one to the far right, and one along the fork to the left. It would be very difficult to get lost – there are numerous signs pointing out where you should not stray from the trail – but you will have a little walk between the trail markers at that particular junction to make sure you follow the correct path. In our case, that was the branch to the right, where the trail began to turn back towards the overlook. A short distance later, you’ll begin to climb back up out of the valley.
Along this section of trail, you’ll also see signs specifically siting the danger of the borax mines. Borax was mined extensively in this region in the 1880s and many mines shafts remain. Those mining shafts are unstable, dangerous and not for exploration.
Once you gain enough elevation, stop a moment to take in the spectacular 360 degree view...and to catch your breath. Haha. If you are nervous about heights, be warned, this trail does meander along some intimidating hillsides with large drops at some points.
Eventually, the trail will reconnect with the main trail that heads back to the parking lot. You’ll have to take a left, re-climb the initial decent, and viola! Your 2.5 mile loop is complete.
We hiked this trail just after sunrise in the winter, and were perfectly comfortable in light coats and sturdy hiking shoes. However, the trail is exposed to the sun with no shade. Wear a hat and sunblock to protect yourself from the sun, and bring plenty of water with you whenever you venture out into the desert.
- Appropriate hiking shoes and clothes
- Snacks and water
- Camera and tripod
- Hiking poles if you have bad knees
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
Spring, Autumn, Winter
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I decided to hike this in mid July, in 115 degree heat. Probably wasn't one of my best decisions but it was a cool place with very unique landscapes. Definitely need to go in the winter or early spring.
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