Why should you hike Corkscrew Peak in Death Valley?
If you are looking to escape the crowds and up for a real challenge, the 360-degree views from the top of Corkscrew Peak, located on the northeastern side of Death Valley, cannot be beat! While the mileage may seem doable, don’t be fooled. The hike to Corkscrew Peak is extremely steep, strenuous and not for those afraid of heights. The trail is about 7 miles roundtrip, but covers over 3000 feet of elevation. In this article, we’ll fill you in on what to expect on this off the beaten track hike in Death Valley! We hope you’ll enjoy the adventure as much as we did.
- About Corkscrew Peak
- Corkscrew Peak hike details
- Planning your Corkscrew Peak hike
- Other useful resources
Hi there! We’re Sarah and Matt, and we’ve been road tripping across the United States, making a new place our home month to month while working full time and adventuring as much as possible. We spend any free time we can get hiking, camping, backpacking and exploring new places!
About Corkscrew Peak
Corkscrew Peak is located in the Grapevine Mountains, towards the northeastern side of Death Valley National Park near the Nevada border.
Those dedicated enough to reach the summit will be rewarded with unimpeded 360-degree views of the surrounding red and purple-toned mountains. The hike to the 5,804 foot high peak is challenging, but the incredible views are well worth the effort.
The trail to Corkscrew Peak is very lightly trafficked, meaning you are likely have the summit all to yourself and see only a handful of other hikers the entire day. Hiking to Corkscrew Peak is a great way to escape the bustling crowds of tourists and relish the best views in Death Valley National Park in peace.
Corkscrew Peak Hike Stats
Hiking distance | 7 miles
Elevation gain | 3100 feet
Total time | 4 – 7 hours
Epic-ness rating | 9
Difficulty | strenuous
Crowd Level | low
- Find this hike on AllTrails: Corkscrew Peak
Before we get into the details, let us break down the top highlights and lowlights of our experience hiking Corkscrew Peak:
- Epic views of the Grapevine Mountains
- No crowds
- No trouble parking
- Difficulty level makes the hike challenging but worth the effort
- Steep trail with loose scree can be challenging for those with fear of heights
- Difficulty finding the trail at the beginning of the hike
- No shade
Although the mileage for this hike is moderate, the trail is extremely steep making it quite strenuous. The majority of the 3,100 feet of elevation gain is covered over the last 2 miles of the ascent.
This hike should not be underestimated. Prepare to be on the trail for a good portion of the day. Typically, we hike at a rate of about 30 minutes per mile (including breaks), but we averaged closer to 45 minutes per mile on this hike. Even the trek down is slow moving due to how steep, and at times precarious, the trail is.
Should I hike Corkscrew Peak if I have a fear of heights?
There are sections of this trail that are fairly exposed and covered in loose gravel, making it tough to keep your footing. There are also a few sections which require some quick, easy rock scrambling.
I typically don’t have a fear of heights, but this trail made me very nervous at times. We would highly recommend trekking poles to reduce the stress on your knees and provide additional support and balance for the steep gravel sections.
Lastly, keep in mind that, like most of Death Valley, there is no shade and temperatures can be extreme, so be sure to pack sunscreen and sufficient water. We hiked in early March, with perfect hiking weather in the mid-60’s.
This hike should not be attempted during the summer, as extreme temperatures can lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Getting to the Trailhead
Corkscrew Peak is located in the Northeastern part of Death Valley National Park, about 20 minutes from Stovepipe Wells, 30 minutes from Furnace Creek Visitor Center, 45 minutes from Badwater Basin and 1 hour from Ubehebe Crater.
Corkscrew Peak Map
The map below shows Death Valley National Park with a zoomed in view of the location of the trailhead for Corkscrew Peak (the park is seriously huge!). You may also find complete maps from the National Park Service here.
The parking lot is a small unassuming dirt pull off on the side of Daylight Pass Road, north of Mud Canyon.
Look out for the sign for Corkscrew Peak (shown in the photo below) to know you are at the right spot. From the parking lot, there is not a well marked trailhead, so you may think you’ve come to the wrong place. However, the trail will just take a little extra effort to find.
You may find the exact location of the parking lot on GoogleMaps here (but remember you won’t have service if coming from inside the park).
Starting the hike to Corkscrew Peak
From the parking lot, you can see your final destination standing high in the distance. The peak is aptly named due to the twisting shape of the mountain.
For the first mile or so, the trail can be difficult to follow. From the parking lot, you’ll need to head slightly left to bypass the small canyon. Keep an eye out for cairns to find the sandy trail.
The first 1.8 miles of the trail are fairly moderate, with a slow, steady incline gaining about 700 feet in elevation. At 1.8 miles, you’ll pass through a narrow canyon, scramble over a few rocks, and begin the upward climb towards Corkscrew Peak.
Have we mentioned this hike is steep yet? After making your way through the narrow canyon, things start going up. Like really, really up.
The trail will quickly start to climb and is fairly unrelenting until the summit. There are few flat sections and plenty of places to rest, but the remainder of the trek is a real bun-burner.
The good news is that it is less than two miles to the summit. So despite the insane incline, you can do it. Also, throughout the entire climb, you will have amazing views looking back over Death Valley.
Final ascent up the Corkscrew
At 3 miles into the hike, the trail levels-off briefly for about 0.2 miles. From here you can see the final climb up the “corkscrew” part of the mountain.
The final 0.3 mile is a brutal push. With about 0.1 miles to go to the summit, you’ll reach a small clearing with awesome views over the mountains and a craggy gray arch. Take a moment to enjoy the views (we promise they get even better!), but then keep going – this is not the summit!
Corkscrew Peak Summit
After passing the arch, the summit is so close you can taste it. Just one final steep push, and you’ll have made it to the top of Corkscrew Peak! From here, you’ll be rewarded with stunning 360 degree views of the surrounding red and purple mountains.
Hiker’s Log Book
At the peak there is a lock box with a hiker’s log book inside. Previous hikers who have summited Corkscrew Peak over the past 4 years have signed the log book. Sign the book (and leave a note if you desire!) to document your achievement.
Flipping through the notes from previous hikers was really cool! Our favorite note read “If death is as beautiful as this valley, then I don’t mind dying.“
Planning your Corkscrew Peak hike
In the section below, we’ll help you plan all the logistics for visiting Death Valley.
When is the best time of year to hike to Corkscrew Peak?
The best time to hike Corkscrew Peak is during the spring and fall, when temperatures are mild. There is no shade on the trail, so it’s best to avoid hiking during the summer.
Death Valley is literally the hottest place on earth. On July 10, 1913, Death Valley had a recorded temperature of 134°F. This remains the hottest air temperature ever documented. Anywhere. In the entire world.
The daily mean temperatures for May, June, July, August and September are 86.6, 95.5, 102.2, 100.2, and 91.1, respectively. With no shade and no water sources, hiking Corkscrew Peak during the summer months should be reserved for masochists or those searching for a particularly cruel form of self-punishment.
Tips for a great hike
- Bring hiking poles! They will be very helpful for stability on the steep sections of this hike and reduce the stress of the descent on your knees.
- Wear hiking boots with good traction. Some of the steeper sections of the trail can be rather slippery due to loose gravel. Do not attempt this hike in tennis shoes. (I can’t recommend my Danner Mountain 600’s enough, Matt loves his Salomon X Ultra 4) .
- Don’t forget sunscreen. Since there is no shade, it’s easy to get sunburned even if the temperature is cooler.
- Bring a map (yes, a physical one!). There is almost no cell service once you are inside the national park, so be prepared with directions and maps (seriously, I never use maps, but you truly need one here). You can pick up a map from any of the visitor centers or ranger stations.
- Keep a careful eye out for the cairns and look for directional rocks on the trail leading you the correct way. The beginning of the hike is not well marked, and it can be easy to get off track.
- Pack plenty of snacks and at least 2 liters of water per person (or more if its a hot day). Corkscrew Peak is a strenuous hike, so it’s important to be prepared for a long day.
- Get an early start. This is especially important if it’s hot, but even on a mild day, be sure to budget enough time to finish before dark. The hike will take you significantly longer than a typical 7 mile hike, so plan accordingly.
Death Valley National Park
About the park
Death Valley is the largest national park in the contiguous United States, spanning over 3.3 million acres in Southern California and into Nevada. Originally established as a national monument in 1933, Death Valley was officially designated as a national park in 1994. The park is well known as the hottest place on Earth, with the hottest temperature ever recorded of 134°F.
Before planning our trip to Death Valley, we had a vision of the area as a barren desert wasteland and not much else. But there is so much more in Death Valley! We were completely surprised by the vast array of geological formations.
From salt flats to sand dunes to craters and red, rugged mountains, the geological formations in Death Valley are unique, outlandish, and starkly contrasting.
Entrance to Death Valley National Park costs $30 per vehicle, and tickets are valid for 7 days. Alternatively, you may opt to purchase an annual Death Valley National Park pass for $55, or an annual U.S. National Park pass for $80, giving you access to all national parks in the United States for one year.
Find more details about entrance fees here.
Where to Stay in Death Valley
For camping inside the park, you have two options:
- Frontcounty camping: There are 9 front country campsites with amenities like restrooms, running water, picnic tables and fire rings, all available on a first come first serve basis.
- Backcountry camping: Dispersed camping is allowed on specific dirt roads within the park, as long as you park at least 1 mile from the main road. You may find a complete list of roads where dispersed camping is permitted here.
Accommodations Outside the Park
Unfortunately, options for accommodations located nearby but outside the park are limited. Two decent options are Ridgecrest and Lone Pine, California, both located about 1 hour 15 minutes from Panamint Springs.
Other Death Valley Resources
Planning a trip to Death Valley? We spent a month in the area, and compiled some resources we think you may find useful:
- 9 Best Things to do in Death Valley & How to Escape the Crowds
- Ultimate Guide to Death Valley: Camping, Hiking, and Road Trip Logistics
- How to hike to Telescope Peak: the Tallest Point in Death Valley
- Backpacking to the Panamint Sand Dunes
- Golden Canyon, Gower Gulch, Badlands & Zabriskie Point Loop Hike
For all things California: California Travel Guide
Interesting in tackling the hike to Corkscrew Peak? Let us know if you’re planning to take on the challenge in the comments section below!