Telescope Peak (11,049 ft) is the highest point in Death Valley National Park. It belongs to the Panamint mountain range. It rises about 11,300 ft above Badwater (-282 ft), the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, which lies 20 miles to the east. The peak is so named because "you could see no further with a telescope." The trail starts at Mahogany Flat campground (8,133 ft). Distance one-way is 7 miles. Grade is steep for last mile of ascent. Ice axes and crampons are often necessary in winter. The summit rewards you with spectacular views of Death Valley and Mount Charleston to the east and the High Sierra, Mount Whitney, the White Mountains and Panamint Valley to the west.
From Los Angeles, take CA 14 north. Just before the highway enters Red Rock Canyon State Park, turn right on the road to Randsburg. At the only major fork in the road (before it hits US 395), go left. At the junction with US 395, turn left. Go about 2 miles and take the road to Trona. When this roads ends at CA 178, go right. Pass through Trona and descend into Panamint Valley. At the only major junction, go straight (left to Death Valley via CA 190 over Towne Pass) to Wildrose. At the stop sign in Wildrose, turn right and drive to the Charcoal Kilns (start hiking here if the dirt road to Mahogany Flat is closed at the gate). If your vehicle has low clearance (2WD), park at Charcoal Kilns (elev: 6,960 ft); otherwise, continue on the dirt road for about 1.5 miles to the entrance of Mahogany Flat campground (requires 4WD vehicle).
If the road from Panamint Valley to Wildrose is closed (it is often washed out), you must make a long detour, going over Towne Pass to Emigrant, then south to Wildrose over Emigrant Pass.
From Las Vegas, take US 95 north to Beatty, then NV 58 to CA 190. Cross Death Valley to Emigrant, and proceed as above.
Death Valley Morning Report
The Death Valley Morning Report is no longer available on the Internet. Please see the National Weather Service 7-Day forecast for specific weather information. A road condition report (phone recording) is available by calling (760) 786-3200. Press 1 and then press 4 from the menu. The road conditions message is updated as conditions change.
Climbers are asked to fill out a voluntary backcountry camping permit for backcountry hiking or camping at the Visitor or any ranger station. During winter, the road above Charcoal Kilns is often closed by snow and/or ice (adding 3 miles to your roundtrip distance).
When To Climb
The trail starts at the flat area at the entrance to Mahogany Flat campground. It goes around to the east of Rogers Peak (9,994 ft), and the pointed summit of Telescope Peak first becomes visible. The trail then skirts Bennett Peak (9,980 ft), follows the ridgeline up to the base of Telescope Peak and then climbs rather steeply to the summit.
Telescope Peak is usually snow-free by June. The mountain is usually climbed from early May until mid-November, when the trail is mostly snow-free. In winter, add ice axe and crampons. Winter climbers are asked for their own safety to check in at the Wildrose Ranger station before and after their climb.
Camping at Mahogany Flat (8,133 ft) is free. It officially opens on March 1st and closes on November 30th, according to Death Valley National Park. It has 10 sites and there is no water. Backcountry camping is allowed two miles beyond the end of the road.
NPS Telescope Peak page Fairly informative page, with the usual NPS scare tactics for winter climbing. Says "During winter the road above the Charcoal Kilns is often closed by snow, adding 3 miles to the round-trip distance of the hike," but no mention of hard dates of the road closure.