When faced with deciding where our second Epic Run would take place, our eyes turned west. Death Valley, California is known for being one of the hottest places in the United States.
Fortunately, the weather was practically perfect when we flew in over the winter. The second challenge came to selecting the most epic place to run within the park – there are SO many amazing places to not only run but to see and capture to share with you. In the end, we decided that it would be a disservice to the park to only run in one place… so we took on four! We have also provided you with some 5K routes to assist in your planning. All of these locations are within driving distance from one another, and you’d be able to see all four in a day. We’d definitely recommend adding on some extra time to see even more incredible places. Hopefully, this will serve as a starting point when planning your next trip.
The lowest point in North America, falling 282 feet below sea level, is Badwater Basin. This is absolutely the flattest run we covered during the day, so it’s a good one to start out with. While the weather for us in the winter months was nice and cool (about 60 degrees Fahrenheit), it can get pretty fiery down there during the peak season. Be sure you are well hydrated! The salt basin will get especially warm. That being said, it was incredible traversing the salt beds on foot – and a little surprising to find that the salt would change texture throughout the 5k run. We recommend running without headphones because the cracking under your feet as the salt moves with you changes throughout the different textures.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Get ready for some climbs and sore hamstrings! Even if you’re used to running on the beach, be prepared to work hard on this one. We weren’t able to capture a 5k run at this location, but it still provided a great workout for the team with the constantly-changing climbs and descends through the loose sand. Being surrounded by the mountains in the distanced provided some great scenery, as is true with ALL of these runs.
All around, our team agrees this is the one not to miss. It’s easy to tack on miles here as you’re running through the canyons with rocks on either side of you, and a surprising amount of climbing, too. The official trail ends at either Zabriskie Point or the Red Cathedral, but you could stay right around the trailhead if you are short on time. It wasn’t until we returned home that we found out the Golden Canyon is actually one of the locations used when George Lucas was filming some parts of the original Star Wars movies. Be sure put it towards the top of your list! It’s located on the road you drive down to get to Badwater Basin.
We rounded out our day with the breathtaking scenery and technical terrain at Dante’s View. This is certainly more of a hike-able 5k unless you’re an experienced trail runner. There are some great climbs, fun descents, and of course some of the most amazing views of Badwater Basin and the incredible landscape that surrounds you in the National Park. It was a bit cooler for us in the winter up at elevation (5,476 feet above sea level), but as with the rest of these locations, be wary of the heat (it is a desert after all) and be sure to stay well hydrated.
As always, we wanted to give a special shout out to this month’s run crew. These guys all come from a strong running pedigree. Russell Hornsby, Brandon Johnson, and our very own Stephen Pifer all ran collegiate track and field. The goal was to immerse them in a terrain completely different than anything any they’d ever seen before. I mean, c’mon who’s run on a salt flat before, right? In the end, they escaped Death [Valley] and had a ton of fun doing it.
Published: March 2019