Death Valley National Park wildflower trip: Dante’s View and Dante’s Peak

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The second day of my visit in Death Valley National Park to view the spring wildflowers began in the town of Beatty, Nevada, where I had a hotel room. My plan for the day included a visit to Dante’s View and a short hike to Dante’s Peak, both overlooking the valley from a relatively lofty 5500-foot elevation. After that I had several alternatives in mind, all generally in the Furnace Creek area.

After a quick breakfast I was on my way west on Daylight Pass Rd, which climbs gently from Beatty, located at 3400 feet elevation, to Daylight Pass, at 4300 feet elevation and at the Nevada-California state line. From there the road descends steadily to the valley floor. There is a fork in the road 19 miles from Beatty, at 2300 feet elevation, known as Hell’s Gate. The name may be more relevant in the summer, when the temperature rises dramatically upon entering Death Valley itself. Approaching Hell’s Gate there is a nice view of the Death Valley Buttes, just ahead on the right.

photo of Death Valley Buttes

Death Valley Buttes

You can also see “over the edge” into Death Valley.

photo of dramatic morning view of Death Valley

Dramatic morning view of Death Valley

From several places along Daylight Pass Rd there are views of Corkscrew Peak, which has colorful bands of different types of rock that spiral around the peak.

photo of Corkscrew Peak

Corkscrew Peak

At the fork in the road I stopped to check out the wildflowers, since I’d noticed some on and next to the shoulder. One was cryptantha, likely scented cryptantha (Cryptantha utahensis), with tiny white flowers with yellow centers and leaves with prominent hairs.

photo of cryptantha, or forget-me-not

Cryptantha, or forget-me-not

I continued down Beatty Cutoff Rd, which continues the descent from Hell’s Gate to CA-190 at about 150 feet below sea level. A few minutes’ drive before reaching CA-190 I stopped to view some more wildflowers.

Here I found several clusters of purple mat (Nama demissum), which is a low-growing plant that sometimes forms mats. Purple mat is one of the so-called belly flowers, since the flowers are small enough that you need to get down on your belly to see them well.

photo of purple mat, a belly flower

Purple mat, a belly flower

There were also a few clusters of desert star (Monoptilon bellioides), one of the most well-known belly flowers in Death Valley.

photo of desert star, another belly flower

Desert star, another belly flower

Upon reaching CA-190 I turned left and drove past Furnace Creek and Badwater Road, where I’d spent the entire previous day. This time I would continue on CA-190, which climbs into the Amargosa Range. About 3 miles past Badwater Road I was surprised to find a fairly major parking area signed Zabriskie Point. A quick checkout convinced me to plan to stop in on my return from Dante’s View. For now, though, I was headed to the famous view. From Badwater Road it is a 10-mile drive on CA-190 followed by 13 miles on Furnace Creek and Dante’s View Roads. As the road climbs higher, becomes steeper, and has tighter turns, there are places where trailers and longer vehicles can be parked; on the last several miles vehicles longer than 25 feet are prohibited. A short section at the end of the road is fairly steep – for a road – as it reaches the Dante’s View parking area at 5500 feet elevation.

From the parking area there are spectacular 360-degree views. Perhaps I should say more than 360 degree views, since one of the most dramatic views is essentially straight down toward the Badwater Basin salt flats nearly 6000 feet below. I could barely/almost make out people walking on the white path, where I had walked the previous afternoon.

photo of Badwater Basin salt flats, from Dante’s View

Badwater Basin salt flats, from Dante’s View

Across the valley is Telescope Peak, which is 11,049 feet high. Views of Telescope Peak and the valley floor are below.

In the opposite direction, roughly east, you can see over the Greenwater Range to the Spring Mountains, where snow-topped Charleston Peak and Mummy Mountain exceed 11,000 feet elevation and there are several peaks over 10,000 feet. The Spring Mountains are 60 miles away from Dante’s View and less than 30 miles from metropolitan Las Vegas. In the foreground the last stretch of Dante’s View Road climbs to the parking area.

photo of view to the east from Dante’s View

View to the east from Dante’s View

My plan was to do a short, 1-mile round trip hike north to nearby Dante’s Peak, which is just over 200 feet higher than the parking area. Then there was a “bonus” hike, 0.5 mile round trip, to a view point just south of, and 100 feet lower than, the parking area. These are shown on the GPS track, where the orange dot denotes the parking area.

GPS track

GPS track

The elevation profile shows the relatively modest elevation changes.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

Although trail-finding is straightforward and the hike to Dante’s Peak is rated as easy, the trail is narrow (single-track width) and just below the true ridge line with a very steep drop-off (see below). So it was important to pay attention to the hike and be sure to stop for any sightseeing. From Dante’s Peak there was a fantastic view to the west across Death Valley to Telescope Peak in the Panamint Mountains. The vertical elevation range in the picture covers over 11,000 feet.

photo of Telescope Peak and Death Valley from Dante’s Peak

Telescope Peak and Death Valley from Dante’s Peak

I think the two distinct rounded brown areas at the near side of the valley floor are small alluvial fans, deposits of mud and gravel that have washed down from the mountains over the millennia.

Dante’s Peak has two or three nearby “peaks” of essentially the same height. I found three different geodetic or survey markers. This picture shows the one that is in the best condition.

photo of geomarker on Dante’s Peak

Geomarker on Dante’s Peak

Roughly to the northeast there is a distinctive peak with different colored bands of rock at a steep angle. I think it may be Pyramid Peak, which is 6700 feet high.

photo of striped peak, possibly Pyramid Peak

Striped peak, possibly Pyramid Peak

After enjoying the views from Dante’s Peak I started to hike back toward the parking area. About 1/3 of the way back I noticed that a green pool could be seen on the valley floor surrounded by white salt. The wiggly white line might denote an intermittent stream.

photo of Death Valley’s valley floor with a pool

Death Valley’s valley floor with a pool

I stopped frequently to enjoy the views and to remind myself to walk carefully. The last thing I wanted to do was walk off the side of the trail, where the drop-off was nearly direct to Badwater Basin nearly 6000 feet below.

photo of it’s a long way down to Badwater Basin!

It’s a long way down to Badwater Basin!

As I got closer to the parking area I had a good view of the continuation of the trail to the south, toward a different view point. I continued that way and turned around at the dark-colored rock pile visible in the photo.

photo of view toward a southern view point near Dante’s View

View toward a southern view point near Dante’s View

From the southern view point there was a nice view roughly northwest of Death Valley, showing different gradations of tans and greys with white salt areas.

photo of view of Death Valley

View of Death Valley

Another visitor had hiked out to the view point with a big camera on a tripod. Once again Telescope Peak was visible across the valley and the 11,000-foot elevation range was apparent.

photo of view west across Death Valley to Telescope Peak

View west across Death Valley to Telescope Peak

The views from Dante’s View and Dante’s Peak certainly lived up to their reputations. I had made a point of going there in the morning to have the sun illuminating Telescope Peak. It certainly seemed to be the best time of day for the visit.

After returning to my car I began my return to the Furnace Creek area. My next stop was back at Zabriskie Point to explore the badlands.

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3 Responses to Death Valley National Park wildflower trip: Dante’s View and Dante’s Peak

  1. Pingback: Death Valley National Park wildflower trip: Zabriskie Point Badlands loop | trailhiker

  2. Pingback: Death Valley National Park wildflower trip: Artist Drive at sunset | trailhiker

  3. Pingback: Mt Whitney Trail: Day Hike from Whitney Portal to the Summit and Back – the ascent | trailhiker

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