Bad can be Beautiful
Overview: Short loop from Zabriskie Point into the colorful Badlands of DVNP. Bring your camera.
Warning: There is no water at the trailhead or on the trail. Summer temperatures can be extremely high.
Hike: The trail begins near the first informational sign at the Zabriskie Point parking lot. A small notch cut into the first ridge line offers a fantastic view of the Badlands and Valley beyond. The initial descent is gradual along a smooth trail which can get muddy and slick after any rain. A half mile into the hike you are faced with a choice of doing the loop portion clockwise or counter clockwise. Either choice is good. Manly Beacon will be ahead and to your right at this point.
The loop is well signed. The western section of the loop is shared with the Gower Gulch Trail which offers the opportunity to descend west to the Golden Canyon trailhead or go north to the Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail.
Where the trail follows Gower Gulch and various side canyons you will find limestone and sandstone walls along with soft compressed mud walls, all from the ancient lake that once covered this area. See if you can spot rock slabs that still show ripple marks or the dried cracked mud patterns of a dry lake bed. Some of the upper canyon walls are topped with black volcanic ash and debris reminding us that Death Valley was recently geologically active and remains so today through uplift and erosion.
The climb back to the trailhead appears difficult but is actually mild. Before you are ready, this short gem of a hike is over and you back in the parking lot with the tour buses.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.