Ubehebe Crater (pronounced YOU-bee-HEE-bee) is located at the northern tip of the Cottonwood Mountains within Death Valley National Park. Due to it’s more remote location than most of the park’s other attractions it receives a bit less traffic than the park’s more southern attractions. If you are venturing to Ubehebe Crater you will most likely be coming from Scotty’s Castle or Furnace Creek. I will provide directions from both locations.
From Scotty’s Castle: From the entrance to the castle turn right on to Scotty’s Castle Road, follow it for 2.94 miles. At the fork in the road turn right on Ubehebe Crater Road. Follow Ubehebe Crater Road for 6 miles to the parking area.
From Furnace Creek: From the Visitor Center parking lot turn left (north) on Highway 190. Follow Highway 190 for 17.11 miles. Turn right on Scotty’s Castle Road and follow it for 33.36 miles. Turn left on Ubehebe Crater Road. Follow Ubehebe Crater Road for 6 miles to the parking area.
Ubehebe Crater is a rather large crater at half-mile wide, and 800 feet deep. In the last year there has been some controversy over the age of the crater. Original estimates had places the crater between 2,000 – 7,000 years old. New findings have shown that the crater is more likely closer to 800 years old. If the new evidence is correct it is likely that sometime in the future lava may again flow from Ubehebe, as it may be restive, with plenty of hot magma waiting to escape from beneath it.
The crater was formed when magma came close to the ground surface and the heat of the magma turned groundwater that was in the area into steam. This caused the throwing of a large quantity of pulverized old rock and new magma across the alluvial fan on the valley floor. The magma rose through a fault that lies along the western base of Tin Mountain. Movement on this fault was responsible for uplift of the entire Cottonwood Mountains range.
For those that are interested in hiking there are three trails from the parking area. One will lead you around the rim of the crater, another will lead you to the bottom, and the third will take you to the smaller Little Hebe Crater.