Peggy is perched on the edge of Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley National Park holding on to the sign that warns her not to be there. Fortunately, the sign is several feet away from the big hole. Falling in involves a 600-foot plus tumble.
There is a safer, but slower way, to get to the bottom. Several trails snake their way down from the crater’s parking lot. If you have ever had the desire to climb into a volcano, Ubehebe makes it easy. Getting out is the challenge.
Geologists used to believe the volcano was 10-12 thousand years old. A recent study by Columbia University suggests it is much younger. The study also warns that the area is still volcanically active. Ubehebe could explode at any time, or not.
The original eruption was violent, a heck of a big bang. Rising magma came in contact with seeping water. They don’t mix well. The result was instant steam. Boom! Scientists call it a hydro-volcanic eruption.
Peggy and I opted to walk around rather than down the crater. There are a dozen or so volcanoes in the area including Little Hebe, which is easy to reach and provides a different perspective. For me, the surreal nature of the eroded landscape more than justified the 1.5-mile hike. Carry water. Oh yeah, Peggy says stay away from the edge.
If you want to visit Ubehebe Crater, and you should, you will need to drive to the north end of the Park. Scotty’s Castle is next door so you can easily include both sites.