On the Eastern border of California, and near the Western border of Nevada, is an area that is full of mystery, wilderness, and desert solitude. This area is Death Valley National Park. The name alone “Death Valley” transcends time and space, and for hundreds of years has been a beacon to prospectors, explorers, adventurers, and today, casual visitors. While Death Valley is, as its name suggests – a fundamentally hostile environment, with temperatures regularly soaring over 100 degrees from April through October, it is more than a flat wasteland. In reality, Death Valley is one of the most geologically diverse environments on the planet, where the remains of glacial Lake Manly are laid bare, and the effects of active volcanism and erosion are easily visible. Within the confines of Death Valley, one can find tall, uplifted mountains, year-round waterfalls, volcanic craters, sand dunes, eroded canyons, and the lowest spot in North America.
When most people think of Death Valley National Park, they don't think of stunning sunrises and sunsets. The truth of the matter is that they should. From Zabriskie Point, to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and into the mountains like Dante's BM and the summit of Telescope Peak, the park has a number of amazing spots to watch the planet spin. In my opinion, the best - and easiest location to catch the sunrise is Father Crowley Vista. While it does not have the cache of Zabriskie Point, Father Crowley Vista has a great panoramic views of the Panamint Valley below, Rainbow Canyon, and the Panamint Range in the far distance. Moreover, its location - directly off of Highway 190 on the park's far West border ensures that it will not have the crowds that the more popular spots listed above will. The location is named for the Padre of the desert, Father Crowley, and is a great spot to stop at even if you miss the sunrise. Do note that unlike other park locations, this is a spot that is just a vista, and not much for hiking, unless you want to walk from the parking area down the unpaved dirt road of the actual viewpoint; but it is a great spot to start (or finish) your Death Valley adventure.
Telescope Peak, in my mind, is a hike full of contrasts. In 2002, I solo climbed Mt. Whitney in day at the end of May, and then got in my car and drove into Death Valley to camp at Mahogany Flat. At sunrise, I was up and on the Telescope Peak trail, and after a few hours of vigorous hiking, had summited Telescope, Bennett, and Rogers well before the day was half over. On that day, it felt like the trail positively flew away under my feet. Then again, I suppose anything after Mt. Whitney the day before would seem easy. However, on a subsequent trip to Telescope Peak, the stretch of trail from Arcane Meadows to the summit seemed to me to be the longest trail ever created. Two things are clear about the Telescope Peak trail: first, that it winds up and around to the 11,331 summit of Telescope Peak, which is the highest mountain in Death Valley National Park and the Panamint Range; and second, that it has stunning views of the surrounding terrain.