Elevation Gain (ft)
Wildrose Peak Trail provides grand views of Death Valley to the east and Panamint Valley to the west. It is a somewhat strenuous hike that can be completed in half a day, and is an attractive option for those looking to gain some perspective on the lowest point in North America.
Location: Death Valley National Park
Trailhead: Wildrose Charcoal Kilns parking lot (accessed via graded gravel road); pit toilet
Length: 8.2 miles round trip; +2,200 ft. elevation
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous
Trail Type: Out and back
Warnings: No water available at the kilns or along trail; may have snow from December to April; dogs are not allowed.
While Wildrose Peak (ft) may be considered the little sister of Telescope Peak (11,049 ft), which is the highest point in the park, its trail is more manageable than the 14 miles RT and +3,000 ft of elevation gain required to summit Telescope. Its trailhead also starts at the historic Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, which are definitely worth a visit pre- or post-hike.
Theses beehive shaped kilns stand 25 feet tall and are in remarkably good condition most likely owing to their short operational use during 1877 – 1879. All told, there are 10 kilns.
Leaving the moderately sized gravel parking lot, the trail begins to climb away from the kilns and in the general direction of Wildrose Peak. If you start before sunrise, you may even glimpse the Belt of Venus over the High Sierra in the distance. If you are hiking the trail in winter, like we were, be advised that the trailhead temperature may be in the teens. It was 15º F when we started so you can imagine that we were happy to begin climbing out of the shaded parking lot and into the pre-dawn light.
The trail is easy to follow so route finding is not an issue. As you climb, the views start to gradually open up as you gain in elevation. About halfway up the mountain you start to glimpse Death Valley and the salt flats of Badwater Basin below. What makes the view special is the relative relief of Wildrose Peak compared to the valley below. When you finally reach the summit, there will be 9,000 vertical feet between you and the floor of Death Valley!
On your way up to the top, you will pass pinyon pine, juniper trees, and even ancient, twisted bristlecone pine trees, some as old as 3,000 years.
The last mile of trail is the most difficult as you climb up switchbacks to the rounded summit. While mostly bare, don’t forget to sign the summit log book, which can be found in an old ammo box.
Enjoy the views and keep your eyes peeled for fighter jets flying through the Panamint Valley. You will hear them before you see them.