5 Easy Tips for Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley

It was Day 2 of our Death Valley Spring Break road trip. After leaving Las Vegas that morning, we drove to Death Valley National Park. On our first stop we explored the beautiful Dante’s View where we spent about an hour in a half taking in the scenery. Then, we headed to Zabriskie Point. After admiring the beautiful and colorfully banded badlands, we set off on Badlands Loop Trail. After a peaceful afternoon hike, Buddy and I are sharing 5 Easy Tips for Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley.

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Two men in black walk away from the camera on a white trail carved into the side of a beige hill in the badlands of Death Valley. Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley. MPA Project Travels.
Buddy & Sal on the Badlands Loop Trail in Death Valley

About Badlands Loop Trail

Badlands Loop Trail is a 2.7-mile loop trail rated moderate by the National Park Service. There is a slight elevation gain of 535 foot and the trail takes an average of 1.5-2 hours to complete. The trailhead is located at the popular and scenic Zabriskie Point. There is ample parking at the trailhead for cars, RVs, and other large vehicles. We found plenty of available parking spaces when we visited on a Thursday afternoon in March. And if you need facilities, there are vault toilets at the Zabriskie Point parking lot and trailhead.

Badlands Loop Trail is takes you through an ancient lakebed filled with colorful bands of rocks. The trail intersects with two other trails in the area, the 3 mile out-and-back Golden Canyon Trail and the 4.3-mile loop Gower Gulch Trail. All three trails can be combined to hike what the National Park Service the Complete Circuit trail. The Complete Circuit is a 7.8-mile loop trail rated as strenuous. Taking an average of 4.5 hours to complete, the hike has a a slight 850 ft elevation gain.

Given that we were short on time, we did not do the longer Complete Circuit and chose to hike the Badlands Loop Trail. The trail was quiet and tranquil as there were only a few other hikers out and about at the time we visited. It was nice to experience the quiet of Death Valley in long moments of solitude during this hike. We hiked Badlands Loop Trail on a Thursday afternoon in March. Beginning our hike at 4:30pm in the afternoon. It took us 1.25 hours to complete the trail stopping to enjoy the scenery and film a Movement Postcard. We hiked the trail clockwise and had a small climb near the end. It was a lovely hike!


5 Easy Tips for Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley

1. Bring an offline map!

It is highly unlikely that your cell phone will work in Death Valley. If you usually use your cell phone or GPS to navigate a hike, it is important to plan accordingly as most likely your phone will not work.

For this reason, our #1 tip: bring a paper map or download trail maps to your phone.

A brown sign with white letters reads Zabriskie Point Trailhead and lists several trails in Death Valley. Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley. MPA Project Travels.

Paper maps

The free Death Valley National Park Visitor Guide has detailed map of Badlands Loop trail. Pick you your paper copy of Death Valley Visitor Guide at the Visitor’s Center or at one of the park’s pay stations. In addition to Badlands Loop trail, the guide has maps of the Golden Canyon, Gower Gulch, and Mosaic Canyon Trails.  The trail maps inside the Visitor Guide are simple, accurate, and helpful.

Downloaded maps

However, if you are not able to get a Visitor Guide prior to your hike, another great option is to download hiking trail maps on to your phone. Alltrails and the National Park Service have apps that offer the option of downloading trail maps and other trail information to your phone. However, if you chose to use your phone as a map, make sure you bring a power bank to keep your phone charged over the course of the hike!

When we arrived at the information and pay station on Highway 190 located just east the road to Dante’s View, there were no available Visitor Guides. That means that we began our Badlands Loop hike in Death Valley without a paper map. On a side note, I like paper maps because I prefer something tangible when I am navigating.

I was not worried, however, because I spent the evening before in the hotel in Las Vegas downloading offline maps of Death Valley on Google Maps. However, after a mile or so, the trail became unclear (more on that later!). I pulled up my downloaded Google Maps and lo and behold, Badlands Loop Trail is not on Death Valley’s Google Map! Luckily, I also downloaded an offline version of the park in the National Park Service app and was able to access the trail map that way. After some second guessing, we found our way forward on the trail!

A brown post with a white arrow pointing upwards with Badlands Loop spelled out in white letters. Buddy and Sal walk in the background. Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley. MPA Project Travels.
Badlands Loop Trail Marker in Death Valley

2. The trail markers are far apart      

If you are hiking Badlands Loop Trail, do not be surprised if a lot of hiking goes by before you see a small trial sign. According to the National Park Service website, small trail signs are located at each major intersection on the Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley. If hiking clockwise on Badlands Loop Trail, the first trail sign is 0.8 miles into the hike! If you don’t see a trail marker for a while, no worries! Chances are you are on the right path. Keep on walking until you come to a trail sign.

As we wandered through and between the rocks for nearly a mile without a trial sign or another hiker in sight, we wondered if we were lost. I pulled out the map on the National Park Service app and it said we were on the right track. We kept on walking and sure enough, we found the Badlands Loop trail sign.

3. Do not hike in the heat

All around Zabriskie Point, including in the restrooms, you will find warnings about the dangers of hiking in the heat. There are signs informing hikers that rescue helicopters cannot take off in extreme heat. Dehydration and heat related illness is real and can be fatal. Heed the warning signs and do not hike in Death Valley in the heat!

The best time to visit Death Valley is during the fall, winter, or spring months, before the heat kicks in. Visiting Death Valley during cooler months means that it is less likely that you will experience high heat during your hikes.

If you must visit during the summer months, please follow the precautions that you will find posted throughout the national park. It is recommended to hike before 10am during the hot months. And carry plenty of water. Please do not hike in extremely hot temperatures. It is very dangerous and can be fatal. If you think it might be too hot to hike, it is better to be safe and avoid hiking all together. Do not underestimate the heat!

Brown hills frame a blue snowcapped Telescope Peak in the distance under a cloudy sky. Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley. MPA Project Travels.
Snowcapped Telescope Peak in the distance

Temperature in Death Valley

The heat begins early in Death Valley. In April, the average temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Then desert heats up averaging in the 100s Fahrenheit/40s Celsius and above from May through September. October remains hot with the average temperature 93 degrees Fahrenheit. In general, visiting Death Valley National Park between November through March for cooler temperatures is your best bet.

We did the Badlands Loop hike in Death Valley in mid-March when the afternoon temperature was in the mid-80s. This was a perfect temperature for us desert dwellers as we are used to warmer temperatures. But, depending on where you live, a mid-80s afternoon hike might be too warm. In that case, an early morning hike might be best.

4. Ups and downs

Although not as steep as other hikes in Death Valley such as Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail, there are some hills to climb on Badlands Loop Trail. Watch your step as it can be steep in some areas. And prepare to climb up and down a few hills at the beginning of the hike if going counterclockwise, or at the end, if going clockwise.

5. What to bring

Prepare for little to no shade on the Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley. Because of the lack of shade, you will want to protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen, a hat, or a light long sleeve coverup. Even during the cooler winter months, the sun is intense in Death Valley and sun protection is a must.

Also remember to bring a full  water bottle that can be refilled as you journey around Death Valley. Also remember sturdy shoes, first aid kit, a whistle like this one that also has a compass and thermometer, hand sanitizer, and a pocketknife. 


Two male figures in the distance looking away from the camera stand on top of a light beige hill on the horizon looking over a blue sky dotted with wispy white clouds. Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley. MPA Project Travels.

Buddy’s Tips

  • Bring lots of water.
  • You might get lost. To stay on track, you should look for metal arrows.

Hiking Badlands Loop Trail in Death Valley is a beautiful experience. The vibrant colors of the badlands combine with the views of a snowcapped Telescope Peak mountain in the distance are extraordinary. The quite tranquility of trail led to a beautiful experience where we could really feel the essence of Death Valley.

Have you hiked Badlands Loop Trail in Death Valley National Park? If so, what was your favorite part of the hike? Let us know in the comments below.

Planning a trip to Death Valley? Check out our series about the national park!

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9 thoughts on “5 Easy Tips for Badlands Loop Hike in Death Valley

  1. I was there on a hot summer day. Great advice to do this hike before the heat of the day. I did a rather short walk (perhaps less than 1/2 mile) and i went through most of the water I brought.

  2. It’s super important to know you won’t have service on the trail! So smart to download offline. i’d probably get lost and I never pack enough water so I’d really be in trouble haha. Looks like a beautiful hike though

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