Death Valley National Park is one of the hottest, driest, and lowest places in the U.S but also one of the most beautiful. Don’t be scared by the record-setting 134-degree temperature or -282 ft below sea level elevation. During the mild months of Spring and Fall, this is an absolute MUST visit location.
This National Park is located just West of the California & Nevada border. A 2-hour drive from Las Vegas or a 4-hour drive from Los Angeles makes this a relatively easy destination to visit. You can make this a designated vacation or include it in a longer California or Vegas vacation.
Places to Visit
1. Zabriskie Point
This gorgeous rock structure is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and has great views of the valley floor. This vista point is easily accessible by walking up a few hundred feet up a paved pathway. This is a great spot to catch sunrise or sunset. If you are more adventurous you can hike on some of the natural trails on the ridges for different viewing angles.
2. Badwater Basin
Welcome to the lowest point in all of North America sitting at an elevation of -282 FT below Sea Level. You will be shocked when you see how far below Sea Level you are when you look at the marking on the mountain behind the parking lot.
Be sure to walk further past the pathway to see the beautiful white salt formations. The early part of the trail isn’t as pretty due to the heavy foot traffic and damage. You won’t need to walk more than a mile to enjoy the best parts.
3. Artists Drive / Artist’s Palette
This one-way road will want you to stop to pull over and take photos every few hundred feet. The windy road will bring you up close and personal to the multi-colored hills.
Be sure to stop and walk around at the beautiful Artists Palette which boasts the most colorful sections of terrain. The colorful section is only a few hundred feet from the parking lot.
4. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
If you are looking for Sand Dunes these are the go-to dunes in the park. These are easily accessible to view and enjoy from the main Highway 190. You will need to walk about 10-15 minutes on the sand to get to the start of the dunes.
Sand Dunes are strenuous so be sure to only go if you can handle the hike. Be sure to bring a lot of liquids no matter what time of year you visit.
These dunes are very popular so there will be a lot of footprints. If you are looking for pristine sand dunes you will need to explore deeper to the taller dunes as well as want to come first thing in the morning. Typically the wind will clear up many of the footprints overnight and even change the sand dune formations.
Ibex Sand Dunes/ Eureka Sand Dunes
These sand dunes are way larger than the Mesquite Flat Dunes but they are far more difficult to reach. You don’t need a 4×4 vehicle (unless it has just rained) but it is certainly recommended. These dunes will naturally have far fewer footprints and will be the ideal place to capture the perfect sand dune photograph.
Other Notable Locations
The Race Track – a dried-up lakebed home to amazing mud cracks.
Ubehebe Crater – A volcanic explosion created this massive and beautiful crater
Natural Bridge – A 1-mile hike, out and back, will bring you to this beautiful rock formation
Dantes View – Get in the car and drive up to the top of the valley and enjoy the unobstructed views of the entire valley below.
Where to Stay
There aren’t many lodging options as you will be in the middle of the valley. You can reserve a camping spot or look at booking a room at the Inn or Ranch at Death Valley.
The Inn at Death Valley is a more luxurious option with a beautiful pool making you feel like you are truly in an oasis in the middle of the desert. The Ranch at Death Valley is a sister and neighboring property which has more affordable options.
Be sure to book early if you are planning to come during peak season as these rooms will quickly be taken.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to plan a visit is in the milder Spring and Fall seasons but be sure to plan ahead because the weather can still reach very high temperatures. Finding a warm day with mild evenings is the ideal time to explore and hike the park while also being able to comfortably enjoy the sunset and the night sky.
Stargazing in Death Valley National park is one of the most amazing experiences due to the minimal light pollution. Being in the middle of nowhere has its privileges as you will have clear views of all the stars.
Be sure to plan a trip during the Milkyway Season (Feb-Oct) to catch some amazing skies. Ideally, with the milder temperatures, the perfect trip would be during a new moon in March/April or September/October.
What to Bring
Be prepared as there aren’t many services here. Be sure to have food, gas, and supplies, and do not rely on what is at the park. There are two gas stations but they are pricier. Cell service is very limited to be sure to bring a map or download an offline map beforehand. There is a market and restaurant by the hotels in Furnace Creek which are great options for quick or longer dining.
Download the National Parks App
One app, every park at your fingertips. The NPS App is the new official app for the National Park Service with tools to explore more than 400 national parks nationwide. Find interactive maps, tours of park places, on-the-ground accessibility information, and much more to plan your national park adventures before and during your trip.
The free app is currently available for iOS and Android devices.