We had two fairly strenuous hikes today. In the morning we drove back to Zabriskie Point to see the colorful hills in a different light. Then we walked the 2.5 mile Badlands loop. The loop gives you a first person look at the crumbly hills seen from the overlook. It’s a pleasant walk on a 62-degree morning with some ups and down after the initial walk into the canyon. Many people arrange a car shuttle to Golden Canyon so they can walk down from Zabriskie point and on through to Golden Canyon and the Badwater Road.
After lunch near Furnace Creek, we drove the more than 50 miles north to secure a camping site at Mesquite Springs and then headed to Ubehebe Crater for a second hike – 1.5 miles. There are numerous volcanic craters in this area, but the two significant ones are Ubehebe (1000 years old) and Little Hebe (300-500 years). These are volcanic craters without a cone and, as noted, formed recently. The craters are still very spectacular even though they are beginning to fill in by erosion — in fact the alluvial fans formed by this erosion are part of the beauty. On our visit there was a pool of red iron tinted water in the bottom of the crater. There are other more eroded craters in the area. The black cinders that blanket the area are nothing like anything else in the park. The hike around the big crater — 1/2 mile across, 500 feet deep — is a must do.
This end of the park is quiet and unpopulated compared to the rest of the park since the main access road from the outside, Scotty’s Castle Road, has been closed since a major flood in 2015 destroyed the road and infrastructure in the area; reopening is scheduled for 2019. For the time being, one is driving more than 30 miles into a dead end unless you have 4-wheel drive or at least a high clearance vehicle so as to explore further into the north end of the park.
Mesquite Springs is a lovely small, primitive Campground located on a wash about two miles off the main road. Picnic tables, grills, and fire rings are provided. We had ATT phone service, but no data.