Wildrose Peak is an 8.4 mile round trip trail beginning at the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley National Park, California. Ascending the excellent trail from the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns at 6,800ft elevation to the summit of Wildrose Peak at 9,064ft elevation, your total elevation gain is 2,264ft.
Views at points along the trail and definitely from the summit are spectacular including the expanse of Death Valley almost directly below from Badwater to Furnace Creek and further in both directions with the Funeral Mountains as a backdrop. To get a more spectacular view of Death Valley you could ascend to the summit of Telescope Peak from the Charcoal Kilns or Mahogany Flat Campground. However, Wildrose Peak summit offers an incredible view with a lot less effort. And the feeling is a lot closer and intimate than the Telescope Peak trail as you pass through juniper and pinyon pine forests nearly all the way to Wildrose Peak summit.
Also, from the summit of Wildrose Peak you can see out west to the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, South to Telescope Peak, Rogers Peak and Bennett Peak Summits, to the North look down on Aguereberry Point and beyond and to the West view all the way to the Mt. Charleston Wilderness.
For the best views try to time your adventure so that you return to the trailhead just before dark. This will put you on the summit in the early evening when the sun best lights up Death Valley below. Alternately, you might plan to camp in one of the many great camping spots near the base of the final summit approach after summiting near sunset. This will give you incredible views of the night sky. Bring your telescope. The best time of year for this adventure is Fall or Spring as Summer can get pretty hot at this altitude and the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns approach road could be blocked by snow in the Winter.
Definitely take in the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns at the trailhead as these are pretty unique and significant. I did this adventure all in one day starting in Las Vegas at 2:40am, reaching the Wildrose Peak trailhead at 6am, completing the 8.4-mile summit trip by 12 noon and back home in Las Vegas at 3:30pm. If you don’t run the descent as I did, just add about an hour. You still have lots of time to spare!
Same directions as the Telescope Peak Trailhead
From the Wildrose Peak Trailhead at the left end of the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns begin your ascent winding around a ridge through low juniper and pinyon pine “pigmy forests” to the approach canyon that will lead to the Panamint Mountain Range summit ridge. This is one of two major ascents, each about 800ft, the other beginning at the base of the final summit approach.
As you wind through the approach canyon the trees grow taller…no longer a pigmy forest…and Wildrose Peak comes into view. The first ascent levels off at the summit ridge of the Panamint Mountain Range as an expansive view of Death Valley opens up 8,000ft almost directly below.
At this point pause to notice the ridge rising above Death Valley just to the right. This is the upper ridge of Hanaupah Canyon which ascends all the way from the floor of Death Valley to Mahogany Flat campground and from there on to the summit of Telescope Peak. This is an incredible adventure passing through perhaps the most climate zones in this brief distance on earth, beginning in the barren salt flats on the floor of Death Valley, rising up through desert cactus and brush lands, entering pinyon pine and juniper pigmy forests which become full fledged forests, continuing through the taller mahogany, pine and juniper forests at Mahogany flat and finally arriving at the majestic bristlecone pine forests at the summit of Telescope Peak!
There is no trail on the ridge above Hanaupah Canyon but it’s pretty easy to remain in the center of the main ridge all the way to Mahogany Flat Campground. However, the return trip can be a bit complicated as many of the ridges look similar and some may lead you off course to cliff dead ends. If you’re low on water this could quickly become life threatening. I show the Hanaupah Canyon ridge in the video and slide show on this page. Make this trip in the Spring or Fall as you don’t want the temperature to be an oven at the valley floor or blocked by snow and ice near Telescope Peak summit.
Enough said about the Hanaupah Canyon Ridge Adventure. Back on the Wildrose Peak Trail, once you reach the upper spine of the Panamint Mountain Range, the trail takes a sharp left and levels off a bit as it traverses the upper ridge continuing toward Wildrose Peak.
As the trail begins to gently ascend and circle around toward Wildrose Peak you’ll pass a large number of beautiful camping spots. Of course, there are no services, but there and many level spaces amongst the juniper and pine trees with views up into the night sky. Pick your spot, lay down a sleeping bag and enjoy! Definitely no fires of any kind allowed…everything in the area is so dry that the smallest spark could quickly burn the entire beautiful forest in minutes. There was not a single camper present in this entire area on this day. It was the first Saturday in September. I believe a better time of year to spend the night would be August, since the night temperatures in September at this altitude can drop down to around 40 degrees, and in July the day temperatures can rise to the 90s.
As you approach the 800ft or so final ascent the trail briefly dips to form a saddle before sharply ascending to Wildrose Peak summit via a series of switchbacks. As you ascend more incredible views open up mostly to the East including the expanse of Death Valley and to the South including Rogers Peak. There are many photo ops along the way with fallen weathered pine wood trees in the foreground and the Death Valley in the background. Looking closely you can pick out the Mesquite grove to the South of the Furnace Creek area. Then look a bit North of the grove to see Furnace Creek Ranch and Inn. To the South of the Mesquite grove you can see Golden Canyon and Zabriskie Point. South of that, Devil’s Gold Course, Badwater and Dante’s View. Again, a telescope of a good pair of binoculars would help, but these points can be seen with the naked eye as long as you know what you’re looking at.
The summit of Wildrose Peak is actually a “saddle summit” similar but smaller than Telescope Peak summit. More specifically, there are actually three summits: South Summit, true Mid-Summit and North Summit. Each has unique views, so take time to view them all. You did, after all, invest in the energy to reach the summit area and the three summits are pretty close to one another. The North summit of Wildrose Peak looks down to the Aguereberry Point area. On this summit area there are cool veins of white marble and the plant life looks like a garden arrangement. The South summit has the best views of Rogers Peak, Bennett Peak, Telescope Peak and the Southeastern expanse of Death Valley. The mid-summit or “true summit” has the summit box and survey market. In addition, the views East and West are at their best.
The Wildrose Peak adventure is definitely a “must do” if you’re in the Death Valley area or even making a day trip from Las Vegas!