Telescope Peak

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Telescope Peak
Telescope Peak viewed from Devil's Golfcourse, Death Valley, California.
Elevation 11,043 ft (3,366 m) NAVD 88[1]
Prominence 6,168 ft (1,880 m)[2]
Parent peak Keynot Peak[3]
Listing Ultra
DPS Emblem peak[4]
Location Death Valley National Park, Inyo County, California, U.S.
Range Panamint Range
Coordinates 36°10′11″N 117°05′21″W / 36.169815947°N 117.089198336°W / 36.169815947; -117.089198336Coordinates: 36°10′11″N 117°05′21″W / 36.169815947°N 117.089198336°W / 36.169815947; -117.089198336[1]
Topo map USGS Telescope Peak
Easiest route Trail from Mahogany Flat (hike)
Road map of the area of Telescope Peak.
Telescope Peak from the main trail.

Telescope Peak is the highest point within Death Valley National Park, in the U.S. state of California. It is also the highest point of the Panamint Range, and lies in Inyo County. From atop this desert mountain one can see for over one hundred miles in many directions, including west to Mount Whitney, and east to Charleston Peak. The mountain was named for the great distance visible from the summit.


Telescope Peak is also notable for having one of the greatest vertical rises above local terrain of any mountain in the contiguous United States. Its summit rises 11,331 feet (3,454 m) above the lowest point in Death Valley, Badwater Basin at −282 feet (−86 m), in about 15 miles (24 km), and about 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above the floor of Panamint Valley in about 8 miles (13 km).[5] This is comparable to the rises of other tall, but better known, U.S. peaks. It is even somewhat comparable to the rise of Mount Everest above its northern base on the Tibetan Plateau, a rise of roughly 13,000 feet (4,000 m). However Everest rises much more, and much more steeply, above its southern base in Nepal.[6]

Since it is the high point of a range surrounded by low basins, Telescope Peak also has a particularly high topographic prominence of 6,168 feet (1,880 m), ranking it 22nd in the contiguous US by that measure.[7]

A variety of trees can be found on the mountain, including Single-leaf Pinyon (Pinus monophylla), Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis), and, at the highest elevations, the ancient Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva).


From Ridgecrest, California State Route 178 leads northeast into Death Valley National Park. The road turns to unpaved about 50 miles (80 km) later as it loses its highway status. It winds up through Wildrose Canyon up to a parking lot where the trail for the summit starts. The section from the Charcoal Kilns can be rough and might only be suitable for 4-wheel-drive cars with high clearance, depending on weather conditions.

Hiking Telescope Peak by the normal route involves a 14 miles (23 km) round trip hike. The trail starts in the cool western part of Death Valley National Park at Mahogany Flat campground. The trail slowly winds itself up to the summit 7 miles (11 km) later at a steady gradient of roughly 8%.

An established, but more advanced, climbing route is from Shorty's Well (elevation around −250 feet (−76 m)) to Telescope Peak. This route is approximately 30 miles round trip and provides a net gain of elevation of roughly 11,300 feet (3,400 m). The route follows Hanaupah Canyon for about 9 miles (14 km) until Hanaupah Springs is reached. This route can be done in one day by experienced hikers, and has one of the largest elevation gains that can be gained up a single summit; it is often descended to Mahogany Flat rather than back to Shorty's Well.

Panamint Valley, California, looking south. Telescope Peak is visible at left.

See also[edit]

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns


  1. ^ a b "Telescope". NGS data sheet. U.S. National Geodetic Survey. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  2. ^ "Telescope Peak, California". Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  3. ^ "Telescope Peak". Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  4. ^ "Desert Peaks Section List". Angeles Chapter, Sierra Club. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
  5. ^ Southern California Atlas and Gazetteer, DeLorme Mapping, 1990.
  6. ^ Mount Everest (topographic map, second edition), National Geographic Society/Boston Museum of Science/Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research, Bradford Washburn, project director, 1991.
  7. ^ "USA Lower 48 Top 100 Peaks by Prominence". Retrieved 2012-04-01. 

External links[edit]