Hiking Ubehebe Crater: Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated on: 6th November 2023, 01:34 pm

At half a mile wide and up to 777 ft deep, Ubehebe is Death Valley’s largest crater. While visitors have the option to simply overlook the colorful crater from the parking lot, more adventurous travelers can get a much closer look. Not only does the Ubehebe Crater hike entail walking around the rim, but you can even descend right into it. And as we’ll cover below, there’s even an additional smaller crater nearby that many people miss.

In the following guide, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about hiking the Ubehebe Crater. Also be sure to check the end of the article for info on reaching the crater and the best places to stay in or around Death Valley National Park.

About This Hike

The trail as seen on Maps.me

THE BASICS: Rather than a single Ubehebe Crater hike, think of this experience as three short back-to-back hikes. In addition to descending into the crater, you can hike around the rim and then go on to see a smaller crater called Little Hebe.

In total, I spent a little under 2.5 hours at Ubehebe Crater. I did a lot of free exploring while also taking things slow to capture photographs. But if you’re in a rush, you could probably do the full Ubehebe Crater hike in around 90 minutes.

For details on reaching Ubehebe Crater from elsewhere in Death Valley, check the very end of the article.

Note that there are no bathroom facilities at the crater. The closest one is at the Grapevine Ranger Station which you’ll pass on the way. It’s just before the North Highway splits into Scotty’s Castle Rd and Ubehebe Crater Rd.

RECOMMENDED APPS: The most straightforward app to use for this hike would be Maps.me, which works offline and has the entire trail network clearly marked.

STAY SAFE:  When people talk about the heat of Death Valley, they’re really talking about Furnace Creek or the Badwater Basin area.

But given its elevation of 2,467 ft (752 m), Ubehebe Crater is consistently 10-15°F cooler than Furnace Creek. On top of that, it tends to be very windy, with winds over 50 mph (80 km/h) not uncommon.

As such, you don’t need to take quite the same extreme precautions regarding heat as you do elsewhere in Death Valley. With that being said, it’s always wise to carry more water than you think you’d need.

Heat aside, the most dangerous part of this hike would be the descent into the crater, as it’s not uncommon for people to slip and sometimes injure themselves.

WHAT TO BRING: As mentioned, Ubehebe Crater doesn’t get as hot as the lower sections of Death Valley. But you should always keep your car stocked with plenty of food and water in the event that your car breaks down in a remote section of the park.

Regarding the Ubehebe Crater hike, wearing hiking boots would be ideal, while a trekking pole would help you descend into the crater. Otherwise, just take your basic water, sunscreen and snacks.

Into the Crater

Ubehebe Crater is 500-777 feet deep, depending on which side of the ridge you’re measuring from. And it is indeed possible to walk all the way to the bottom.

Ubehebe Crater Hike

It was extremely windy during my visit. So windy that I couldn’t open the car door without various objects flying around inside. And so I chose to hang out at the bottom of the crater for a bit to escape the wind.

Though I optimistically hoped that it would die down a bit by the time I came back out, it never would for the duration of my visit.

Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike

As one can tell from a glance, the descent into the crater is steep and slippery. While there are a few different paths to choose from, they all appear to be about equal in steepness and difficulty.

I found it most efficient to face forward while sliding each foot down the gravel heel first. While I had a few close calls, I luckily managed to avoid slipping. But I have heard stories of people slipping and breaking a bone.

With that in mind, you may want to bring a trekking pole just for this part of the hike.

Ubehebe Crater Hike

Taking it slow and steady, I eventually made it to the bottom, which is now covered in silt. After experiencing the ferocious gusts of wind at the top, it was strikingly calm and quiet here – almost eerily so.

With no other people at the crater during visit, I had the entire place to myself.

Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike

Ubehebe Crater is still considered a sacred place to the Timbisha Shoshone tribe, whose ancestors have occupied Death Valley for centuries. Even to this day, they have a small reservation located not far from Furnace Creek.

They considered it the ‘Coyote’s burden basket’ and according to their belief, it was here that humans first emerged before spreading to the four corners of the planet.

Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike

There’s still confusion regarding the name Ubehebe (pronounced ‘you-be-he-be’). Its origin is Paiute, and not far from here is a mountain peak also called Ubehebe. 

The mountain peak was likely named first, and how the crater also came to be known as Ubehebe remains a mystery. The Timbisha Shoshone, on the other hand, call the crater ‘Wosa.’

Ubehebe Crater Hike

After enjoying the views and the silence of the crater’s interior, it was eventually time to make the ascent back to the rim. This is one of the most tiring aspects of the whole Ubehebe Crater hike, but still less risky than the initial descent.

Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike

Along the Rim

Arriving back at the rim, I was disappointed to find that the strong wind hadn’t let up. But I still decided to carry on with the hike, and I grew used to it over time.

The rim trail is about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) and is mostly flat throughout. But if you’re hiking during an extremely windy day like I was, avoid getting too close to the edge.

Ubehebe Crater Hike

The rim hike allows one to admire the beautiful shapes and colors of Ubehebe Crater from a variety of different angles. But how, exactly, did it form?

Incredibly, the Ubehebe Crater is one of the youngest geological landmarks at Death Valley. All in all, much of what we see at the park has probably only been this way for three or four million years – very young in geological terms. But when discussing Ubehebe Crater, we can speak in terms of thousands!

Ubehebe Crater Hike

Date estimates for Ubehebe Crater range from 2-7000 years, though some geologists believe it could be even younger. In any case, there’s a general consensus on how it came to be.

Over time, the magma beneath the surface in this area turned the local ground water into steam. This gradually resulted in a great buildup of pressure. And the pressure ultimately caused a huge explosion, resulting in this crater – Death Valley’s largest.

The pits created by such eruptions are called maars, and Ubehebe is therefore categorized as a maar volcano.

Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike

The explosion here was so massive that it sent cinder and other debris flying all over the area, with some of it landing as far as a few miles away.

Considering how recent the eruption was, some geologists suspect that another one occurring in our lifetimes is not outside the realm of possibility. But as of right now, no abnormal hydrothermal activity has been detected.

Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike

Another part of what makes the Ubehebe Crater special is its colors. For example, some parts are yellow while others are orange, which is due to different sections having been separated by a fault.

The walls of the crater are comprised of a conglomerate of quartzite, limestone and mudstone. And after the eruption, the exposed rock has since been subject to thousands of years of erosion.

Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike

Eventually, once you make it to the southern end of the crater, you’ll have to make a choice. One option is to simply keep walking along the rim until you end up back at the parking lot. 

But if you’ve made it all the way out to this remote part of the park, it’s well worth seeing everything there is to see.

Ubehebe Crater Hike

By continuing further south, you’ll get the chance to check out Ubehebe Crater’s little (but older) brother. And the views of the surroundings from this part of the hike are just as spectacular.

Ubehebe Crater Hike

Little hebe Crater

Making it to Little Hebe Crater from Ubehebe’s rim was a little bit tricky, as the trail seemed to disappear at some point. And so I blindly trudged uphill through the gravel until I eventually spotted the crater in the distance.

Ubehebe Crater Hike

Little Hebe Crater is just one of around a dozen or so smaller spatter cones to be found in this area. While these smaller craters are also the result of hydrovolcanic explosions, they’re mostly believed to have been formed earlier than Ubehebe.

Ubehebe Crater Hike

Little Hebe Crater is only a fraction of the size of Ubehebe, but it’s still impressive in its own right. And here you can also walk around the canyon’s entire rim, in addition to descending to the bottom if you so desire.

Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike

While there is a path to follow, the overall Ubehebe and Little Hebe Crater hike offers plenty of opportunities for free exploration. As such, not everyone is going to spend the same amount of time here.

Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike

Finished with the crater, you’ll have to walk back uphill and then along a narrow and curvy ridge that eventually leads you back to the parking lot. The views from up here are also some of the most impressive of the entire hike.

During my visit, the crazy winds had still not let up, and I had to take serious care not to lose balance!

Ubehebe Crater Hike

Finally arriving back at the parking lot, I saw another group of visitors arrive, only to snap a few photos of the large crater from above before leaving. While there are many ways to experience this area, those who have the time and energy to hike Ubehebe Crater shouldn’t pass up on the opportunity.

Notably, the road to the Racetrack Playa begins right behind Ubehebe Crater, and those visiting independently can easily stop here before or after that long and treacherous journey. But more on that in a separate guide.

Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike
Ubehebe Crater Hike

Additional Info

The Ubehebe Crater is located in a remote section of northern Death Valley. The one-way journey from Furnace Creek takes about 90 minutes. Stovepipe Wells is a bit closer, with the journey taking about 75 minutes. Fortunately, the road to the crater is entirely paved.

Everyone visiting the Racetrack Playa will pass by Ubehebe Crater, as Racetrack Road begins right behind it. But Racetrack Road is only passable with a very rugged high-clearance 4×4. Even an AWD SUV would not be enough.

Therefore, visiting the Racetrack should never be a spontaneous decision, and you should be well aware of all the risks involved before you set out. See our dedicated guide for more info.

Alternatively, you could take a guided tour to the Racetrack arranged by Farabee’s Jeep Rentals & Tours, after which you’ll have some time to admire the crater on the way back. But don’t expect to be able to do the full Ubehebe Crater hike as described above.

For those basing themselves in Beatty, Nevada, you could start your day by driving through Titus Canyon. The one-way route would take you to Scotty’s Castle Rd, which would give you a head start for Ubehebe Crater. But at the time of writing, Titus Canyon has been closed for quite some time.

A visit to the Ubehebe Crater could also easily be combined with a stop at Scotty’s Castle, though that historical landmark has also been closed for years at the time of writing.

Figuring out where to stay for your Death Valley trip can be stressful and challenging. Given the park’s massive size, the most convenient base would be at one of the hotels within the park itself.

Unfortunately, however, all of the hotels and restaurants within Death Valley are owned by the Xanterra Corporation and they don’t come cheap. The different options include The RanchThe Inn at Death Valley and The Oasis.

If you don’t have the budget to splurge on those hotels, you’re left with two options: stay in a city outside the park or camp. First, let’s explore the best bases outside of Death Valley, all of which are located in Nevada.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas isn’t ideal for those doing longer adventures in the park. But if you only have a day in Death Valley, it serves as a fine base. The city is about two hours one-way between the city and the eastern pay station.

Tourists into gambling, nightlife and an all-around typical Las Vegas experience tend to stay on or near the Strip. This area is home to a myriad of hotels and casinos, many of which are household names, such as Mandalay Bay or Luxor.

Las Vegas, however, is a fast-growing city with new residential areas being built each year, and much of the greater metropolitan area feels surprisingly normal.

Some good choices outside of the strip area include Tahiti All-Suite ResortSouth Point Hotel or Aloft Henderson, just to name a few.


The small city of Pahrump is arguably the best base for Death Valley. It’s right in between Las Vegas and the park, or an hour each way from either.

It has lots of shopping and restaurant options, while many of the local casinos also feature hotels. My only experience was at the Saddle West Hotel Casino. While the rooms were nothing special, they did have all of the essentials and were reasonably priced.


Beatty, Nevada is another convenient base for Death Valley, being only 50 minutes from Furnace Creek. Compared to Pahrump, however, it’s harder to reach for those coming from afar.

All in all, Beatty is much more charming than Pahrump but it also has fewer shopping and dining options. I stayed once at the Exchange Club Motel, which was fine as far as motels go. It seems to be run by the same management as the nearby Death Valley Inn (not to be confused with The Inn at Death Valley inside the park).

If you’re still considering camping, read more below.

Death Valley is home to numerous campsites, with the most popular one being right in Furnace Creek near the Visitor Center. I spent a night there during one visit and it only cost $22 per night. But would I recommend it?

While the campsites themselves are cheap, consider the fact that the gas stations at Death Valley cost around double what they cost in Pahrump or Beatty.

Also keep in mind that the campsites lack showers. So if you’re hoping to shower after a long day, your only option will be to buy a pool pass from one of the Xanterra hotels which will grant you access to their showers. But at the time of writing, these passes go for a whopping $14 per person per day!

And if you want to eat at a restaurant within the park instead of cooking at your campsite, you’re going to spend more than double what you would at a restaurant in a nearby city.

Taking all of this into consideration, you may even end up spending more by camping at Death Valley compared with booking a cheap hotel in Pahrump.

Another issue to consider when camping is that it can sometimes get extremely windy without warning in the desert. And the ground is so hard at the lower elevation campsites that you can’t use your tent stakes.

If you have an RV, of course, some of the issues above can be averted. (If you don’t have your own, consider renting one on a site like Outdoorsy.)

Despite all of the issues, there’s still one major reason to camp at Death Valley: getting an early morning start for a hot low-elevation hike, such as the Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch loop hike.

In the end, the best way to enjoy a longer stay at Death Valley is to mix things up by camping and staying at hotels outside the park on alternate nights.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any tours to Death Valley which also include a stop at Ubehebe Crater. But if it’s your first time at the park and only have a day, it would be wise to focus on the highlights around Furnace Creek.

For those basing themselves in Las Vegas, this highly-rated tour takes visitors to many of the central attractions, and it even includes a stop at the fascinating Rhyolite Ghost Town.

At the time of writing, Death Valley costs $30 to enter (learn more here).

If you’re visiting from abroad, note that in contrast to many other countries, US parks typically charge per vehicle rather than per person. However, if you’re traveling by bicycle instead, they’ll charge you for an individual pass which costs $15, while those on motorcycles will be charged $25.

Considering how many National Parks and National Monuments there are to see in the Southwest alone, the best option for most will be to buy an ‘America the Beautiful’ Annual National Parks Pass.

These cost $80 for the year. In most cases, you’re already saving money by just visiting four National Parks/Monuments anywhere in the country within a full year.

What’s more, is that only one person in your vehicle needs to have the pass. Additionally, seniors can buy the pass for just $20. So if you have someone over 62 in your party, just have them get the annual pass and everyone else will be set.

As for where to get the pass, you can purchase it in person at most National Parks or Monuments. But you can also order it in advance online.

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