Although Tom and I love exploring Death Valley we get tired of driving. Death Valley is so big and we are in such a remote part of it that it takes us at least an hour to get anywhere. So, on days we don’t want to drive, we explore close to home by taking off. We just hike down the road or by the campground or over the next hill.
One hike we took recently was up Grapevine Wash just behind our compound. I’m not sure what it is really called, but it goes from Grapevine Compound to Grapevine Canyon and it is a wash, so I call it Grapevine Wash and everyone who lives here knows what I’m talking about.
The hike starts with a service road which is used by the Maintenance Department. We follow the road for 1/2 mile, then turn past a water main and go up a hill to a weather station. Then we follow a use trail (not officially maintained by Death Valley National Park but used enough that there is a clear trail) for another two and 1/2 miles along some really pretty ridges with great views. We head down into a small canyon that has a spring at the bottom and then back up one last ridge to Grapevine Canyon. At the top we had a great view of Grapevine Canyon with Scotty’s Castle in the distance.
I don’t have any pictures of the descent to Grapevine Canyon because I was too busy clinging to the steep slope. There was gravel underfoot and very little plant life along the slope and it was as steep as I ever hope to go down without a rope. I was glad to get to the bottom in one piece! From there we followed the road back to our compound. All together, it is about a six mile hike with enough ups and downs to be challenging but not exhausting.
Death Valley is unique among the National Parks because they not only allow you to explore anywhere you want to go, they encourage it. You often find cars just parked along the side of the road with people nowhere in sight. It is hard to get lost in Death Valley – you are either going up a hill or canyon or you are going down into the Valley. When you are on a ridge you often have a view of the canyon that stretches for 30 to 50 miles. Grapevine Wash is just one example of the hikes you can have when you strike out on your own.
Death Valley is fun to explore – especially now when the temperatures are mild. But even in January and February you need to be sure to bring plenty of water and remember that the mountains are not as close as they appear! Tom and I look forward to continuing to explore this big and beautiful park.