Pyramid Peak, the highpoint of the Funeral Mountains, is the dominating peak of the Amargosa Range, the long, desolate range of mountains running along the eastern border of Death Valley National Park.
Surrounded by miles of sagebrush, lonely canyons and rugged ridges, with not a drop of water in sight, this peak is an emblem of the vast, surreal and thirsty desert.
Pyramid’s summit views are among the best to be found in the area.
From her top, the huge expanse of Death Valley can be seen to the west, including the towering peaks of the Panamint Range, such as Telescope Peak
, with their stunning backdrop of the High Sierra. To the south, the seldom-explored, excellent peaks around Shoshone, CA and Pahrump, NV grudgingly greet the solemn visitor. The Nevada Test Site lies to the east beyond the Amargosa Valley, and to the north, the spine of the Amargosa Range itself crawls toward the horizon.
As impressive a peak as it is, were it not for its inclusion on the DPS (Desert Peaks Section
- Sierra Club list of note-worthy desert peaks) list, I have little doubt that it would be rarely climbed. Instead, owing to its membership in the aforementioned, it is a frequently (being a relative term, of course) sought-after objective.
Pyramid Peak’s easiest, and standard, route involves about 10-12 miles (roundtrip) of cross-country travel over class 1-2 terrain, gaining about 3700 feet in the process. The vast majority of this 3700 feet comes in the last 2 miles as the route slogs its way steeply up the tired southeast ridge of the peak. The views along the way are stunning, the going is easy and reasonably enjoyable, and it’s unlikely you’ll see any living thing…at all – except for maybe a lizard or a snake…or maybe a bighorn.
Another semi-common route is the west ridge. This route climbs directly up from nearby highway 190. At a glance, the route appears to be class 3-ish, though I’ve heard it described as “not for the squeamish”.
Check it out. Another classic desert peak.
Pyramid Peak lies right along highway 190 on the east side of Death Valley National Park.
If coming from the east, you’ll want to park along the side of the highway about 11-11.5 miles west of Death Valley Junction (if doing the standard route).
If coming from the west, head east from Furnace Creek (inside the park) about 17-18 miles or so and park on the side of the highway (again, for the standard route).
If doing the west ridge route, simply drive a little bit further (or not as far, depending) toward the obvious base of the west ridge and park.
Exact mileage is not super-important, since Pyramid is easily seen from the highway as the most obvious, dominating peak on the north side of the road. Drive to its vicinity and park.
None that I’m aware of.
Obviously, don’t take home any bighorn skulls you stumble across, don’t chip away any petroglyphs that may (or may not) be encountered, and since the peak’s inside a national park, don’t bring any firearms (Charles Manson hasn’t lived in Death Valley since 1969, so there should be no expectations of impending violent death by deranged hippy).
When To Climb
November to April is a great time. The middle months of May-October can be brutally hot. Armed with this knowledge, make your own decision.
I doubt anyone will really care if you do some backcountry camping here, but contact
the visitor’s center to be sure.
There are also adequate established campgrounds within a few miles’ drive of the peak, inside the park, if that’s what you want.
Also, just outside the park’s boundary, and extremely close to the peak, is BLM land. You can camp on BLM land without concern.
The desert may look like hell (to some), but it should still be treated with respective. It’s just as fragile as those alpine environments we all know and love and fight to protect.
Though the weather around the peak tends to be rather stable, that doesn’t mean that a major storm can’t create the occasional flash flood that closes the road for nearly a year
, thereby making access difficult and/or unreasonably long.
Contact the visitor’s center
if you have specific questions.