The body of a hiker from Washington state has been found in Death Valley National Park, about two miles from the closest road.

A California Highway Patrol helicopter found the body of 68-year-old Douglas Branham at around 2:25 p.m. Wednesday when temperatures were as high as 115 degrees, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.

Branham’s family said he planned to hike a 12-mile round trip across the salt flats, from Badwater to West Side Road and back.


After he missed a scheduled flight home to Tukwila on Tuesday, A family member called The Inn at Death Valley the next morning. The family member learned Branham’s belongings were still in his hotel room.

National Park Service rangers found his vehicle at the Badwater parking lot.

The Inyo County Coroner Office is investigating the cause of death.

Branham likely started his hike on Sunday or Monday, when temperatures were up to 118 degrees, with humidity up to 91 percent.

Summer visitors are urged to hike in Death Valley only before 10 a.m. or at high elevations. Park rangers also encourage the public to stay hydrated, eat snacks and stay close to air-conditioned buildings or vehicles.