6 Tips for Hiking the Unique Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley

It was Day 3 of our Death Valley Spring Break road trip. That morning, we set off on an adventure renting a Jeep and exploring Teakettle Junction and Racetrack Playa. After leaving Racetrack Playa, we visited Ubehebe Crater before driving back to Furnace Creek to return the rented Jeep. After a fun time, hiking Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail, Buddy and I are sharing 6 Tips for Hiking the Unique Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley.

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A man in black shorts and shirt and a boy in a blue shirt and gray shorts walk along a gray gravel trail cut into a barren volcanic crater. Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail Death Valley National Park. MPA Project Travels.
Buddy and Sal hiking Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail in Death Valley

Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail is a 1.5-mile loop trail rated moderate by the National Park Service. True to its name, the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail takes you on a journey around the rim of Ubehebe crater. There is a smaller trail, Little Ubehebe, that branches off from the main trail. Little Ubehebe or Litte Hebe Trail is a 0.9 mile out and back trail that is accessible off Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail. Access to the main Ubehebe Crater Rim trailhead is from the Ubehebe Crater parking lot and paved viewing area. There is ample parking in the area, but the parking lot can fill up during the high season.

Some visitors will hike the first steep hill adjacent to the parking lot on the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail to take in the views. Then they headed back down to the parking lot and viewing area, leaving the trail open for a quiet hike.

Ubehebe Crater is a beautiful and at times challenging hike. We visited at 3pm on a Friday in mid-March and it took us one hour to complete the hike. During our visit, we were the only hikers on the trail. When we drove by Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail earlier that day on the way to Racetrack Playa, we noticed many hikers walking along the rim of the trail. Arriving early or later in the day, if the weather allows, may be the best to avoid the crowds. In our experience, the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail was much less crowded than the Mosaic Canyon Trail in Death Valley.

In a colorful but desolate landscape a teenage boy and his dad walk on a steep trail away from the camera. A narrow section of the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail in Death Valley. MPA Project Travels.
A narrow but picturesque section of the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail in Death Valley

What is Ubehebe Crater?

Ubehebe Crater is maar volcano formed approximately 2,000 years ago when rising magma met ground water causing an explosion of steam and gas. Ubehebe Crater is 600 feet deep. There are beautiful views of Death Valley from the rim of Ubehebe Crater.

While Ubehebe Crater is a bit off of Death Valley’s beaten path, it is definitely worth a visit! The landscape of this volcano is unlike scenery you will see in other areas of the park. There is an incomparable uniqueness to Ubehebe Crater that is definitely worth the drive.

Where is Ubehebe Crater?

Located northwest of both Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells Village in Death Valley, Ubehebe Crater I approximately 50 miles from Furnace Creek and 46 miles from Stovepipe Wells. The general directions to Ubehebe Crater are Highway 190 to North Highway to Ubehebe Crater Road. GPS and cell phone service is hard to come by in Death Valley. It is recommended to download an offline map or picking up a paper map from the visitor center before driving to Ubehebe Crater.

During our trip to Ubehebe Crater, we used paper maps provided by in the Death Valley National Park Visitor’s Guide. And found the map in the Visitor’s guide simple, accurate, and helpful. I also downloaded offline google maps of Death Valley, including Ubehebe Crater during the first night of our trip in Las Vegas. Just in case we needed extra maps.


6 Tips for Hiking the Unique Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley

1. Prepare for no shade

There is no shade at Ubehebe Crater. Absolutely none. And the sun can be hot and intense. Here’s how to prepare for the sun and stay safe during your hike around Ubehebe Crater.

When to visit

Photo taken from the bottom of a steep hill looking up where a man in black and a boy in blue are climbing. Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail Death Valley MPA Project Travels.
Buddy and Sal hiking a steep section of the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail in Death Valley.

In general, 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. Hike very early in the morning and carry plenty of water. 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.

What to bring

If you are visiting during cooler months, it is still important to prepare for the sun. To protect you and yours from sunburn, even in the winter, bring adequate sun protection. This can be sunscreen, a hat, or a light long sleeve coverup. Light layers to protect your skin from the sun and sunglasses are also helpful. And make sure to bring your water bottle that can be refilled as you journey around Death Valley.

During our trip to Death Valley National Park, we kept four 2.5-gallon containers of water in the back of the car, or in this case, rented Jeep. We refilled our water bottles every time we stopped to take in a new site. Take as much water as you need.

2. Plan for no facilities

There are no facilities at Ubehebe Crater parking lot, trail, or overlook. The nearest facilities are at Grapevine Ranger Station located about 6 miles away. With no restrooms on site, please plan accordingly.

3. Watch your step

Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail is steep

Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail is a steep climb in some areas. If you follow begin the trail counterclockwise from the parking lot, you will begin by climbing and descending a few steep hills. The trail is gravel, which can make for a slippery climb. Be prepared to climb and get that heart rate up! Bring lots of water and wear sturdy shoes.

When we hiked Ubehebe Crater, we made many stops to take dump bits of gravel out of our shoes after climbing up the first series of steep hills. It made the hike memorable. I even snapped a photo of Buddy with his shoe in his hand. (And that picture is in this post. Let us know in the comments if you see it!)

Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail is narrow

Some areas of the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail are quite narrow and close to the crater drop off. Watch your footing. We do not recommend the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail for littles or those with a fear of heights.

A man dressed in a black Tshirt and black shorts and a boy dressed in a blue T shirt and gray shorts stand at the edge of Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley National Park. A yellow caution sign is in the center of the photo. MPA Project Travels.
Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail yellow caution sign.

Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail has steep drop offs

The drop off to the crater is steep. And the edges of the crater are lined with little yellow signs that say “Use Caution Near the Edge. Footing Can Be Dangerous.” In some places, there is not much separating you from the drop off. Please use caution and watch your step.

While Sal is the hiker in our family that likes to get as close to the edge as possible. At Ubehebe Crater, Buddy filmed me performing a Movement Postcard in a duet with one of Ubehebe Crater’s little yellow caution signs. Although I was close to the edge, you will see in the Movement Postcard that I never lose my grip on the little yellow caution sign!

4. Brace for wind

Death Valley can be very very windy. If hiking during times of high wind, please use caution on the rim.

It was slightly breezy when we hiked Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail. But it was nothing like the wind we experienced the next two days of our trip when there was a Death Valley Sandstorm. It was incredible to see the valley blanketed in a sheet of sand from Mosaic Canyon. We caught a bit of the Sandstorm as experienced during our hike in Mosaic Canyon in a Movement Postcard. If we visited Ubehebe Crater a day later, during the high winds and sandstorm, it is unlikely that we would have hiked Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail.

5. Hike Little Hebe

Off of the main Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail, there is a trailhead for Little Hebe, 0.9 mile out and back trail around the rim of Little Ubehebe. Taking an average of 25 minutes to complete, the National Park Service recommends beginning the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail counterclockwise to access Little Hebe Trail.

Little Hebe Trail was picturesque, and I wanted journey down that path during our hike. However, at the Little Hebe Trailhead, Buddy experienced a moment of teenage exhaustion and vetoed my suggestion to hike Little Hebe Trail. In fact, he even laid down near the trail overlooking Ubehebe Crater to rest. (That picture is in this post as well. Let us know in the comments if you see it!). Good thing there were no other hikers on the trail!

6. Hike down into the crater

Yes, you can hike down 600 feet into the crater. From the viewing area, there are several trails that lead down into the bottom of Ubehebe Crater. Eventually the trails merge and the path come to a sudden stop in the heart of the crater. The trails that lead down into Ubehebe Crater are best accessed hiking clockwise on Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail.

When we first arrived at Ubehebe Crater’s viewing area, Sal and Buddy were eager and excited to hike down to the bottom of the crater. Opting to first take in the gorgeous views of the surrounding valley and the desert’s endless blue skies, we decided to hike the rim before heading down to the bottom of the crater.

A black and yellow volcanic maar crater 600 feet deep with a network of trails going down to the bottom. Ubehebe Crater MPA Project Travels.
A view of Ubehebe Crater and the trails that lead to the bottom of the crater.

By the time we finished the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail hike, Sal and Buddy decided not to hike down into crater. The steep hills at the beginning the hike made them think twice about how fun and easy it would be climbing back up out of the crater. I was relieved at their decision. After a long day of exploring Death Valley, I was dreading the thought of a steep uphill hike at the end of the day. Maybe next time!


Buddy’s Tips

  • If you decide to hike all the way around Ubehebe Crater, make sure you have a lot of water because you it is hot and sunny and will be sweating a lot.
  • Some areas of the hiking trail are very steep. Watch your step.
  • It was a fun trail. There were lots of rocks. I thought it was cool that the crater was created only a couple thousand years ago.

Ubehebe Crater is an extraordinary and unique landscape in beautiful National Park. Ubehebe Crater was a nice stop on our way back from Racetrack Playa. And our afternoon hike on Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail was a perfect ending to a long and memorable day in Death Valley.

Have you hiked Ubehebe Crater Rim 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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13 thoughts on “6 Tips for Hiking the Unique Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley

  1. I love how you’ve provided so much helpful info on Death Valley in this series! I will definitely reference your posts if I finally make it out there.

  2. These are all great tips especially bracing for the wind and the trail being steep. I haven’t heard of this trail before but I’d be interested in visiting.

  3. Wooow! It is mad that this is not more famous, what fabulous scenery to hike though! I am totally in love with the views from the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail hike, especially from above the crater.

    Its hard to imagine this dry, arid area under water- but it’s really interesting to hear that is how this cool geology was formed. Great tips for the hike too. <3

    • Thank you! I am wondering if it isn’t more well known because how remote it is in comparison to other sites in Death Valley. But it is so worth the trip! I know, it is incredible to imagine the entire area under water!

  4. My birthday is in February and I like to get out of the cold and head to Death Valley where it’s usually in the 70’s. Last time I hiked Ubehebe, there was a park ranger there who told me about tourists who attempt to hike to the bottom in the summer and are unable to make it back up and have to be rescued. It’s a great place to visit…in the winter.

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