The Telescope Peak quadrangle encompasses the central Panamint Mountains which form the western boundary of the central part of Death Valley, California (Fig. 1). The Panamint Mountains are a north-trending range with great relief. Telescope Peak, 11,049 ft about sea level, is the highest point, and it lies only about 25 km west of the lowest point in Death Valley, 282 ft below sea level. The lowest elevations within the quadrangle are in Panamint Valley about 1,040 ft above sea level. The topography is rugged along the east side of the range crest and along the western margin of the range. West-flowing streams are deeply incised near the western margin, but the canyons widen toward the divide, and the heads of many drainages occur in broad, high peaks.
The climate in the Death Valley region is desert, and the vegetation at the lower elevations is sparse and is characterized by creosote, desert holly, and plants of the buckwheat family. The higher elevations of the Panamint Mountains receive substantial precipitation, and west-draining, spring-fed streams flow nearly year-round. Mesquite and willow grow in the canyons and near springs. At higher elevations, sagebrush, mountain mahogany, pinyon, juniper, limber pine, and bristle-cone pine grow. In general, the rugged topography, dry climate, and sparse vegetation allow good exposures of rock.