Hiking Motivation! Join the 52 Hike Challenge!

Telescope Peak Featured
play video
Death Valley Hikes

Telescope Peak Hike (Death Valley)

  • 12.5 miles - Hard Effort
  • 5-7 Hours (Total)
  • 3,200 Total Feet of Climbing
  • Max Elevation of 11,049 feet
  • No Dogs Allowed

Offering dramatic views into some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world, the beauty of the Telescope Peak hike will leave you breathless. You'll hike up a well-maintained trail to Death Valley's highest point, Telescope Peak, towering eleven-thousand feet over the lowest point in the USA, Badwater Basin. The trail passes through alpine meadows, amongst ancient bristlecone pines, along rocky ridges, and ends at an epic panoramic peak. Add Telescope Peak to your bucket list if you haven't done it already.

In this Guide:
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the Telescope Peak Hike
  • Getting to the Telescope Peak Hike Trailhead
  • Insider Tips and Planning Info

Where is the Telescope Peak Hike?

The short answer is that this hike is about as far away from anything as you can be. Specifically it's in the western part of Death Valley National Park, the largest National Park in the lower-48. The hike starts from the Mahogany Flat Campground. Use this trailhead address:
Mahogany Flat Campground, Death Valley, CA, 92328

Telescope Peak Hike Directions 3
There's no entrance booth on the way into the park here, just a sign. Grab a National Parks Pass just in case, but I've never seen rangers checking for park passes here.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 4
From most approaches you'll be driving up from sea level to over 8000 feet. Don't forget to stop and check out the views behind you as you drive in.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 5
At about 1.6 miles before the trailhead, you'll arrive at Wildrose Canyon and the charcoal kilns, built in 1877. Pine trees were taken off the mountain, burnt into charcoal here, and then used to smelt silver and lead ore in the valley to the west.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 6
Here's what the kilns look like inside.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 7
After the kilns you'll see a sign recommending only 4x4 vehicles. The state of the road changes every spring, but every time I've come here, I've seen low-clearance sedans at the upper trailhead, so you can probably drive on it too. If you don't feel comfortable, you can park here and hike the 1.6 miles up.

The road to Mahogany Flat can be closed from late fall to late spring because of snow. Check the park website before you drive all the way out here.

Telescope Peak Hike Directions 8
This section of road is washboarded but drivable if you go slow. It's only one lane wide, so someone may have to back up if you need to pass opposing traffic.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 9
Here's the trailhead parking at Mahogany Flat.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 10
You can stay at Mahogany Flat overnight, a popular option for those wanted to start the hike at sunrise.

Mahogany Flat Campground is free, first-come-first-serve, offers pit toilets, but no water.

Gear For the Hike

Telescope Peak Hike Directions 2
Snow in Death Valley NP. If you are hiking in a shoulder season, bringing micro-spikes is a smart move to deal with any snowy or icy trail sections. Late June to October are usually snow-free.

You're truly in the backcountry here, so prepare accordingly.

Gear That I Love Right Now

Nothing is sponsored or promoted, just the actual gear that I use.

Gear Inreach Mini 2
Garmin InReach Mini 2If you are out of cellphone range the Mini 2 will reliably allow you to hit SOS via satellite. You can also send non-emergency texts to just say that you're late, let friends and family follow along, and check the weather. You can see my review here.
Gear Topo Pursuit
Topo Pursuit 2The wide toe box means no blisters, an aggressive tread is great on the trail, it dries very quickly, and it has lots of cushion for long days. It combines everything I love about every other shoe into one.
Gear Epix Pro Up Ahead
Garmin Epix ProThese watches are pricey, but I use them 24/7 for sleep tracking, workouts, heart rate, and tracking my hike. It has preloaded hiking maps that help me navigate the trails and is a backup to my smartphone navigation. The Epix Pro has a great battery life, a screen similar to an Apple Watch Ultra, and works in harsh conditions when just using the buttons. See my review here.
Hikelite 26 Gear
Osprey Hikelite 26This updated version of the Hikelite 26 offers incredible value for the money. It's got a wide trampoline back, so your back doesn't get sweaty. It's under 2lbs, has deep side pockets, and is a great balance of what you need without what you don't.

Check out the complete list here. ( Updated June 2024)

Camping on Telescope Peak

The dramatic landscape and incredible views make the Telescope Peak Trail a popular option for backcountry camping. You can overnight it with your car at the Mahogany Flat Campground, or hike to a primitive tent site along the trail, which is free. Permits are optional but prudent in case of an emergency.

There are many places to camp, and I would recommend finding an existing tent site to minimize your impact on this fragile environment. Also note that the Telescope Peak Trail can get very windy; it can be hard to sleep with the winds whipping the way they do. I've highlighted a handful of decent tent sites on the map, and have some pictures of them below.

Telescope Peak Hike Directions 38
Camping 1: Just past the 2 mile marker and slightly off the trail at the start of Arcane Meadows. This is the first place where you are allowed to camp. It offers nice views of Telescope Peak and some respite from the wind on the flat.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 39
Camping 2: This spot lies below the trail on a small plateau with views east into Hanaupah Canyon, Death Valley and Badwater Basin.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 40
Camping 3: This is close to the last site, but on the other side of the ridge with views west into Jail Canyon and the Panamint Valley.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 41
Camping 4: A spot closer toward the final climb to the summit, with views to the east and west and some protection from the wind.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 37
Summit: If you are a real masochist, you can setup a bivy in one of the little clearings on the summit.

Telescope Peak Trail Maps

Overall the Telescope Peak Trail is in great condition, maintained by the Park Service, and a one-way shot to the summit without any (official) junctions or side trails. Just hop on the trail and follow it until you get to the summit.

Click Here To View

Use This Map:
View in CalTopo | PDF Map | GPX File

Elevation Profile

Telescope Peak Elevation Profile
From the trailhead it's a tough 1500 feet of climbing in 2 miles. Then you have a nice cruise-friendly middle section along the ridge of the Panamint Mountains, and then tackle the final steep ascent to the peak. The trail is almost entirely exposed.

Landmarks on the Hike

Arcane Meadows and Saddle2.19680
Clear Bennett Peak3.59530
Start Final Climb510110

3D Map

Telescope Peak 3d Map
Form the parking area we'll head south and up the east side of Rogers Peak. Then we gain the ridge, wind around Bennett Peak, and approach the foot of Telescope Peak. From there we have the final climb to the summit.

Telescope Peak Hike Directions

Telescope Peak Hike Directions 11
Head down the road, opposite the campground. Don't go down the gated service road to Rogers Peak, but instead look for the trail to the left.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 12
Hike past the interpretative display for the trail.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 13
And then you'll see a trail sign. As is typical in many National Parks, the distance has been inflated to deter the unprepared.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 14
Sign in at the trail register.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 15
And now you start a steep but steady climb up through the pinyon pines.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 16
And then you'll clear the trees and views into Death Valley NP open up.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 17
Shortly after that, you'll round the bend to the right and Telescope Peak will come into view. You'll be able to see the peak for most of the hike.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 18
The trail winds around to the west. You'll be able to see the trail in the distance. The peak to the left is Bennett Peak, which we will hike around, not over.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 19
There's no switchbacks until the end. You'll see the trail ahead making its way up the side of the slope.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 20
After about 2 miles you'll reach the saddle at Arcane Meadows. Views into Panamint Valley, to the west, open up.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 21
If you look back from here you'll see Rogers Peak, covered in humming radio towers. The towers have been there since 1959 and are used by governmental agencies. Rogers Peak and the road to it actually lie outside of the Death Valley Wilderness Area, which, like all Wilderness Areas, prohibits human-made structures.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 22
Hike across Arcane Meadow. The next 2 miles are nice and flat.

Who were Arcane, Rogers, and Bennett? They were all part of a party that headed west in search of gold and homesteading, back in 1849. Worried about taking the northern route after the tragedy of the Donner Party, they chose instead to take a southern route through the area here. When they reached the Panamint Mountains (where you are now), they assumed they were impassable, and they decided to stayed put. Eventually the party were able to continue on, but not after naming the area "Death Valley," the name which sticks today.

Telescope Peak Hike Directions 23
As you skirt around the west side of Bennett Peak, you'll get great views into the Panamint Valley. Don't forget to look backwards for nice views of Mt Whitney and White Mountain.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 24
After you clear Bennett Peak, Telescope Peak comes back into view.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 25
Now you head along the middle of the ridge of these Panamint Mountain high peaks. In the early summer, this is a great place to spot wildflowers.

No, Panamint is not named after a breath mint. The mountain range was named after a local Native American word in 1861 by the Darwin-French party.

Telescope Peak Hike Directions 26
And then you cross back to the east side of the ridge.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 27
And then the trail starts to gradually angle uphill, passing by the ancient bristlecone pines, the oldest of which, at over 5,000 years old, is about 100 miles north of here by White Mountain.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 28
And with about 2 miles to go, the trail gets steeper.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 29
Luckily the last stretch also has about a dozen switchbacks to ease the gradient.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 30
When you get to the saddle and false peak, make the left.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 31
And follow the narrow (but safe) ridge to the summit.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 32
Here you are at Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley at 11,049 feet.

Telescope Peak is named that because from the summit, it's as if you're looking through a telescope.

Telescope Peak Hike Directions 33
To the west you can see Mt Whitney (in a forest fire haze here).
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 34
And to the east, Charleston Peak in Nevada, just outside of Las Vegas. Below lies Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the USA at -282 feet.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 36
There's a USGS marker here from 1950, when the peak was used as a benchmark.
Telescope Peak Hike Directions 35
From here, enjoy, and then go back the way you came. It's as easy as that!

Need More Info?

  • Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.
  • When planning, always check the park website and social media to make sure the trails are open. Similarly, check the weather and road conditions.

This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I'm Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn't so you don't waste money. I don't do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn't do it without folks like you!). You can stay up to date with my new guides by following me on YouTube, Instagram, or by subscribing to my monthly newsletter.