Updated July 2019
There are plenty of amazing hikes in Death Valley National Park. The Ubehebe Crater hike is perfect for a shorter hike with friends or family. I love that this hike has some elevation change, gives you huge sweeping views and allows you to see how the earth has changed over time.
How Ubehebe Crater was Made
Ubehebe Crater is is a 1/2 mile wide hole created by a maar volcano. Unlike an asteroid crater or a volcanic eruption, maar volcanoes are created by steam and gas explosions. As hot magma rises to the surface of the earth it comes into contact with ground water. The hot magma flash boils the water creating steam that expands until it reaches the point of explosion, blasting the earth out of its way resulting in a crater.
Death Valley National Park contains more than one of these maar volcanoes and this particular hike will let you experience Ubehebe and it’s neighbor Little Hebe. While this hike is not very long the initial incline coupled with the loose gravel path can make the start of your journey slow going.
Preparation for the Ubehebe Crater Hike
Driving to the trailhead of Ubehebe Crater feels like you are truly in the middle of nowhere. It took us an hour to get there from Furnace Creek Campground. If you take a look at the park map you can really see how far out of the way this spot is, but don’t be fooled, it’s well worth the trip.
There are a couple things to keep in mind if you’re heading out to the Ubehebe Crater hike. Although there is a parking lot for your car or RV, there are no bathrooms, so plan accordingly. Likewise, there is no running water so make sure you’ve filled your water bottles before you head off on this hike. This hike has no shade. Make sure you wear your sunscreen, UPF clothing, and take the proper precautions for hiking in hot weather.
Ubehebe Crater Hike
Total Distance: 2.00 mi.
Trail Type: Loop
Net Elevation Gain: 276 ft.
Hiking time: about an hour
You start this hike at the Ubehebe Crater parking lot. Since this particular hike is a loop you can make your own decision to go clockwise or counterclockwise. I myself recommend going counterclockwise.
The initial climb is very close to the crater’s edge, so make sure you’re paying attention. You wouldn’t want to fall in there. The trail is made up of loose gravel that feels a bit like hiking in sand. As you hike upward the gravel reduces and you start hiking on more solid ground.
From the top of the first climb, you can get a really good look at the inside of the crater itself. Notice the changes in soil and rock color, the surrounding cinder fields as well as the Panamint Mountains surrounding you. At this point, you can also take a side trail that goes around Little Hebe. This is a smaller crater just beside Ubehebe Crater.
There is very little plant life around the crater, but plenty of geology to explore. The hike comes around the crater and begins a subtle downward slope. Watch your footing and allow your shoes to gently slide down into the rocks to prevent tripping or injuring your ankles.
As you start coming back towards the parking lot there is one final small ascent that for me was unexpected. While this hike might seem short and out of the way, I have to admit it is one of my favorite hikes. It feels like stepping into another planet in a way that no other hike I’ve done feels like.
As we hiked we also saw several hikers practically run down into the crater itself. While this looks like loads of fun, I didn’t envy them as they made the steep climb out of the crater. But if you’re willing and able, I imagine going down to the bottom would be pretty amazing.
Nearby Hikes & Things to Do
Since Ubehebe is a ways away from other more populated parts of the park you will most likely have a quiet hike. If you drive a high clearance 4×4 you can also take a side trip to check out the strange moving rocks at The Racetrack.
Check out the National Park Service website for a full list of hikes in Death Valley National Park.