One look at Ubehebe Crater and you would think this half-mile wide, 600-foot deep hole in the ground was the result of a meteor impact long ago. On the contrary, the multiple craters around Death Valley National Park are caused by Maar volcanoes. When these broad, superficial magma pools come in contact with ground water, the water flash boils and creates a massive amount of steam. The pressure builds up until the ground explodes, projecting earth and rock miles away from the explosion's center. Ubehebe is the largest of such Maar volcano craters in the area, and the event that created the crater is believed to have happened as recently as 300 years ago.
Ubehebe Crater is a 46 mile drive from Stovepipe Wells and is on the way if you are checking out Scotty's Castle or heading out to the Racetrack Playa. The Grapevine Ranger Station and Mesquite Springs Campground are in the vicinity as well. From the parking lot, you can basically step out of your vehicle and view the crater. To catch a better vantage point, and to check out some of the other craters in the area, take the trail that leads for approximately 2 miles around the rims of the various craters. This includes the hike out to nearby Little Hebe Crater.
The initial hike to the top of the Ubehebe Crater is slow going because the ground is steep and includes a lot of loose cinder. Once you near the top, there are a few small side craters you can explore, and you will have an amazing panoramic view of the nearby Panamint Mountains. When hiking around the craters of Death Valley, use good judgment and keep in mind that the ground near the edges is loose and can potentially give way.