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Quick Fix: Death Valley National Park

Badlands, peaks, wildflowers: Catch the best of the California desert with this trio of hikes.
Backpacker_Magazine_Death_Valley_National_ParkPhoto by Chuck Haney


3 Hours
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3 Hours
Explore Silent Sands

Sometimes it’s easy to avoid the crowds: Just head the other direction. In the sand dune country around Mesquite Flat, north of Stovepipe Wells, most hikers march like ants to the area’s high point, an unnamed 100-foot-high dune. Instead of joining the parade, head cross-country from CA 190 to the dune field’s empty east or west ends, tucked into the base of the valley wall. Here, the only tracks disturbing the wind-sculpted sand belong to kangaroo rats, kit foxes, and horned rattlers. Mornings and evenings (when the wind dies down) are the best times to chart your own easy course in the trailless sand; in summer, avoid the dunes’ sole-melting heat (it can be 100°F at 8 a.m.) by striking out during a full moon.


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