Death Valley National Park – Place to see – Explore the depths of a Western Volcano at Ubehebe Crater, a large volcanic crater 600 feet deep and half a mile across. Unlike the Volcanos of the Pacific Rim in the Cascades that produced large black lava fields, the Ubehebe is a Maar volcanoes, created by steam and gas explosions when hot magma rising up from the depths reached ground water. The intense heat flashed the water into steam which expanded until the pressure was released as a tremendous explosion.
Ubehebe Crater is easily viewed from the parking area on its rim, but further exploration will reveal smaller craters and interesting erosion.
- Difficulty: Walking to the bottom of the main crater is easy; however, the trip back up can be exhausting. Walking around the rim is moderately difficult due to the initial climb and loose footing.
- Distance: The walk around the rim of Ubehebe Crater is about 1½ mile round-trip. This route leads past several smaller craters, including Little Hebe.
Ubehebe Crater in northern Death Valley National Park is an excellent place to explore the power of maars (explosion pit) volcanoes. Although Ubehebe Crater is only one of about a dozen craters in the Ubehebe volcanic field, it is the largest and youngest. Geologists estimate that the explosion occurred 6,000 to 10,000 years ago and some studies suggest it may have been even more recent! The crater is approximately 0.5 miles (0.8 km) in diameter, and ranges from 500-777 feet (152-237 m) deep, depending which ridge it is measured from.
Afternoon and sunset are particularly grand times to visit this spectacular site. In this lighting, the colorful layers of the sedimentary rock exposed by the explosion become quite obvious, along with the mantle of dark ejected material which caps these older deposits. Allow an hour drive time from Furnace Creek and come prepared for windy conditions.
Hike the Ubehebe Rim
HIKING NOT ADVISED AFTER 10 AM IN THE SUMMER
Ubehebe Rim Hike
Round Trip Length: 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
Round Trip Time: 1 hour
Elevation Gain: 500 ft (152m)
Trail Type: Official loop trail
Location: 8 miles (13km) west of Scotty’s Castle
Parking: Paved lot directly overlooking the crater- large enough for buses and large RVs
Closest Restroom: No restrooms. Nearest restrooms are located at the unstaffed Grapevine Ranger Station 5 miles (8km) east of the crater.
Route: Exposed edges! Not good for those with a fear of heights. Often done in a counter-clockwise direction, beginning with an uphill section. Little Hebe Crater comes into view in 0.5 mi (0.8km) and is a common destination for those looking for a shorter trip.