Your Guide to the Death Valley National Park

Your Guide To The Death Valley National Park (1)

Travel Itinerary to the Park

All the national parks of the United States of America offer access to scenic landscapes and beautiful wonders of nature. The Death Valley National Park, despite its difficult desert area and extreme temperatures, is not an exception. If you are someone who loves to explore landscapes of unfathomable scale and stunning sights, you should start planning a trip to Death Valley National Park. Most of the top attractions are not located at a lot of distance from each other so you can have a very well planned visit without having to spend much of your time traveling in the park. This travel itinerary can help you plan a perfect trip to the Death Valley National Park with all important aspects of the itinerary considered.

Best Time to Visit the Death Valley

The hottest temperature on earth was recorded in July, 1913 at Death Valley. The extreme temperatures in summer keep visitors away and a number of hotels, restaurants, and campgrounds remain closed during summer. That said, the weather conditions in fall, winter, and spring are generally suitable for a trip. You can plan your trip from late November to April for most suitable daytime temperatures. Even in the month of December, the weather is quite pleasant with average temperature of 65 degrees. Spring brings beautiful wildflowers and if you manage to plan your visit to the park in the super bloom year, you can find gorgeous beds of wildflowers in the park.

How Long to Spend in the Death Valley

You can plan your itinerary to the park for 1-3 days. If you do not have much time to spend at the park, then you should try and spend at least one full day at the park. If you are planning just a day long visit to the park, you can start off early in the morning and stay overnight to enjoy stargazing as well. However, a one day trip has to be in a rush if you want to visit all the top attractions of the park. Planning a 2-3 day trip to the park can allow you to visit all the sites easily along with long hikes and other activities that the park has to offer.

Entrance Fees

The vehicle entrance fee to the Death Valley National Park is $30 for a week. This allows a single private, non commercial vehicle with passengers to leave and enter the park as many times as they want during the week starting from the day of payment. The motorcycle entrance fee to the par is $25 valid for a week. The individual entrance fee to the park is $15, valid for a week. This pass allows the individual to enter or exit the park as many times as they want over a period of a week.

Apart from these entrance passes, the park also offers a Death Valley Annual Pass at $55 which is valid for a whole year. It allows free entry to the park for a period of 12 months.

Sightseeing in the Death Valley

The Death Valley National Park has a lot of scenic landscapes to offer sightseeing at various locations in the park. You can access these views by merely hiking or by private vehicles including four-wheel drives, bicycles, mountain bikes, etc. The Badwater Road, State Route 190, roads to Dante’s View, Scotty’s Castle Road, and Wildrose can all take you directly to the most fascinating views in the park. You can also watch the important historic points inside the park.

Hiking in Death Valley

There are some constructed trails in the park for hiking but due to the barren desert land, most hiking trails in the park are up canyons, cross country, or along the ridges. Since the summer temperatures are extreme, the most suitable months for hiking in the park are November through March. Even during spring and fall, the heat sometimes becomes unbearable for hikers. The high peaks of the mountains in the park are pleasant to spend your time at in summers. They are covered in snow during winters and spring. The climate of the Death Valley is hot and dry, so it is important that you remain properly hydrated during your trip and carry sufficient water with you during a day’s hike. There are some springs in the park but do not rely on that water source.

Camping in the Death Valley

Another interesting activity to plan for your trip to the Death Valley National Park is camping. With clear, dark skies overhead, you will absolutely love to sleep under the canopy of stars at night. The NPS have nine campgrounds in the Death Valley with almost 800 sites available. Many of the campgrounds in the park have the facilities of grocery stores and restaurant near by which can make the most difficult part of camping i.e. arranging a meal, feel like a breeze. Most of the campgrounds also have water facility and over half of the campgrounds have flush toilets and RV dump stations. You can camp inside or outside the park with the same spectacular experience either way.

Drive on Backcountry Roads

Death Valley National Park has more miles of roads as compared to all other national parks. Although 93% of the park’s area is wilderness area without roads, almost 1000 miles of paved and dirt roads give you a great opportunity to take an adventurous ride on the backcountry roads through the park. The weather conditions can cause a lot of trouble on these roads sometimes so we recommend you to do some planning for the trip beforehand. Carry a shovel and extra supply of water and food with you on the drive. You might require tire chains if you are to drive on higher elevations in snow. Moreover, one of the most common problems on such trips is the issue of flat tires due to rough roads and terrains. Before you head out to Death Valley,make sure you carry off-road tires with you to make the most of your trip without any problems.

Backpacking in the Death Valley

Death Valley National Park also offers the opportunity of backpacking in the park. It can be quite challenging but the wonderful chance to experience fascinating vistas, majestic night skies, and the astounding geology of the 3 million acres of wilderness in the park are all worth trying. There are some constructed trails in the park but backpackers can follow the canyons along the ridges and dirt roads to go around different sites in the park. You will have to acquire a free backcountry permit from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center or the Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station. Overnight group sizes are to be not more than 12 people with 4 or less vehicles. Large groups are required to split up and camp at half mile distance from each other.

Visit the Star Wars Filming Locations in the Park

Certain scenes of the iconic Star Wars Episode 4 and 6 were filmed in Death Valley National Park. You can visit different locations where the scenes of these movies were filmed many years ago. You can explore the different locations of Tatooine at Golden Canyon, Artists Drive/Palette, Desolation Canyon,Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Dantes View and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. You can check out these locations to find out how many of these you recognize.

Stargazing in the Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is also famous for a very suitable location for stargazing with its clear, dark skies at night. The darkest skies are in the northwest sites of the park like Ubehebe Crater. In spite of the remote location of the park, the light pollution from nearby Las Vegas affects the night visibility of the sky. You can observe the Andromeda Galaxy and the Triangulum Galaxy with the naked eye. The Milky Way also casts shadows like zodiacal light or false dawn are also visible to the naked eye in these locations. Most southern regions of the park are average dark sky sites.

With such a vast area to explore and a great number of recreational activities to experience, Death Valley National Park can be a very exciting adventure for your vacation. We recommend you to visit the visitor’s center of the park before setting out on hikes or camping to learn everything you need to know about the park. With a little planning and some research, you can plan a memorable trip to one of the largest national parks in USA.

Top Attractions at Death Valley National Park

Contrary to its name, Death Valley National Park is a fascinating and exciting area of unique landscapes and beautiful scenic views. From sand dunes to mountains, salt flats to lakes; it has all the elements of dramatic scenery. With an area that covers about 3000 square miles of difficult terrains, Death Valley is known for its extremes. The hottest and lowest point in North America has colorful sandstone canyons and below sea-level salt flats. It is one of the best destinations for a vacation to enjoy breathtaking vistas, discover wildlife and enjoy the ultimate wildflower show.

We have put together the top attractions of the Death Valley National Park for you to include in your itinerary.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center

Currently, there’s only one operational visitor center in Death Valley National Park—Furnace Creek Visitor Center. It is located in the Furnace Creek resort area on California Highway 190. It is the main visitor information source in the park. You can find out information about all aspects of the park from the staff at the information desks.

Every half an hour, the visitor center presents a 22 minute long slide program for the visitors. From November to April, park rangers offer informative tours, talks, presentations, etc about the park’s geological and paleontological history. The visitor center also exhibits different displays regarding the wildlife, climate, and geology of the park. The visitor center also has some sections on early human history. The Death Valley Natural History Association also maintains a bookstore at the visitor center where you can find extensive literature on the park’s natural and cultural history. The Furnace Creek visitor Center is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm.

Harmony Borax Works

In the late 19 century, a borax mine with the name Harmony Borax Works was significant in introducing Death Valley to workers and traders, and later on to tourists. Nowadays, it is one of the top attractions of the park to learn about the mining history of this area.

About 40 employees worked in the mine and it was very challenging to keep the mining team motivated to work in such a hot and desert environment every day. It was even more difficult to get the product out into the market. Harmony Borax Works thus came up with a solution for this problem and became commonly known for its large mule teams and double wagons. These animals along with men travelled the difficult overland road to the closest railroad station, Mojave. The mining operations at Death Valley were hence characterized by the twenty mule teams.

The remains of the Harmony Borax Works plant are open for visitors now to learn about the mining history of the region. It is situated just outside of the Furnace Creek and has a trail that gives you a tour around the mine. You will also come across an old mule wagon along the trail. This Death Valley tourist attraction is also a part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point is the most famous viewpoint of Death Valley and it is also one of the most visited areas of the park. It is an elevated overlook that offers a spectacular view of the colorful and undulating landscape of the Death Valley and the salt flats beyond. You can enjoy the beautiful landscape by passing by the viewpoint on foot or while taking a longer hike towards the Golden Canyon.

Pacific Coast Borax Company built this famous attraction in the 1920s and named it after its vice president, Christian Zabraskie. This site was initially built for visitors to watch the Manly Beacon which was an important landmark of the Death Valley canyons.

The famous 1970’s movie, Zabraskie Point was shot at this overlook. In the past, people were able to drive to the edge of the overlook but now a new larger car park has been constructed so people have to take a short walk uphill. It offers a fascinating view to the visitors of the beautiful dunes and salt flats.

Dante’s View

Another famous overlook of the Death Valley National Park is Dante’s View which offers panoramic views of the park’s vast and beautiful landscape. Being at an elevation of 5,475 ft on the Black Mountains, it is a place of stark contrasts and mesmerizing scenic views. Just below Dante’s view, you can see the Badwater Basin which is the lowest point in North America while across the valley, you can see Telescope Peak which is the highest point in the park. Whichever direction you turn, you will find spellbinding beauty. You can also get a bird’s eye view of the vast valley and even get a chance to marvel at the striking mountain range across.

To get to Dante’s View, you will have to drive for 11 miles from Furnace Creek, taking a right turn on Dante’s View Road and then continue driving for 13 miles to find Dante’s View at the end of the road.

Salt Flats at Badwater Basin

The Badwater Basin in Death Valley is at 282 ft below sea level. You can find it 20 minutes south of the inn along the Badwater Road. It is a 200 square mile area of salt flats and it is among the largest reserves of salt flats in the world. An easy boardwalk trail from the parking lot can take you to the Badwater Basin where you can find the valley floor covered with delicate salt flats. Although the salt flats do not support plant or animal life, the crystals are delicate enough to get crushed easily by merely walking over them. The thin upper crust of the salt layer breaks through to the mud layer below, leaving foot prints and tire tracks. Due to their fragility, it is not allowed in the park to drive a vehicle off the established roads.

Artist’s Drive

Artist’s Drive is a 9 mile drive that crosses a steep mountainside of beautiful colors. These vibrant colors of the mountains are due to the presence of rich metals. Artist’s Drive is a one way road from south to north that is above the Badwater Road and offers a beautiful view of the salt flats. It is also a side hiking track to the Furnace Creek for people who are coming from the Badwater Basin. The main stop of the drive is the Artist Palette which is one of the most unique landmarks of the park. After getting off the road, you can park in the parking lot of the Artist’s Palette and head towards the colored mountains on foot. You will find a gorgeous view of the mountainside in vibrant colors. The beautiful view of the rainbow bands that color the soil of these mountainsides is what has given the name of Artist’s Palette to this spectacular site.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

The 100 ft high Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is another amazing element of the diverse landscape of Death Valley National Park. The Eureka Dunes are the tallest sand dunes of the park but Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are the most accessible for the visitors. Walking on the silky, rippled sand dunes can be a wonderful experience for you. The wind makes the silky sand dunes shift continuously, therefore, there is no marked trail in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. You can wander through the sand dunes as you like and how far you want to wander is also up to you. The most suitable time of the day to visit this attraction is just before sunrise or close to sunset. The soft light and long shadows will give you a wonderful setting for photography. You can also find animal tracks on the sand dunes early in the morning including those of rodents. Full moon nights are also mesmerizing in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, but you will have to watch out for rattlesnakes at night.

Devil’s Golf Course

Devil’s Golf Course can be another short stop on the drive between Badwater Basin and Furnace Creek. It is full of salt formations that are spread all over the arid landscape far and wide. You can reach it by a half a mile drive on a dirt road and you can find signs that can direct you to Devil’s Golf Course. You will find a sea of rugged salt formations and some plaques with information about this attraction of Death Valley National Park.

Best Hikes in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is a great spot for hiking all through the year. It is interesting that the park has even more options in the winter and spring than its hot summers. For hikers and adventurers who are looking for a hiking destination from fall through spring, Death Valley National Park is one of the best options to choose.

When you think about Death Valley as a hiking destination, images of flat sandy landscapes might pop into your mind. With that said, however, Death Valley has varying landscapes of 11 ft mountains, beautiful golden sand dunes, and much more. It is thus an adventurous destination for hikers because of its unique and unusual terrains. Here are the best hikes in the Death Valley National Park.

Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Loop Trail

Starting slow and easy with a moderate hiking trail like Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Loop Trail is recommended for people who are new to hiking. This trail is near the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and is a 4 mile loop trail. Unlike most of the trails in Death Valley, it has a paved road to the trailhead, therefore, you would not need a 4x4 vehicle to reach the trailhead.

You can go up the Golden Canyon and down Gower Gulch. You can have an exciting experience hiking through the Golden Canyon and past the famous ruins of borax mining. You can also enjoy the scenic views from Zabriskie Point and the stunning beauty of the Red Cathedral. It is best to start your hike in the morning for adequate light and temperatures. November through March is the most suitable time for hiking on this trail.

Hungry Bill’s Ranch

Hungry Bill’s Ranch is a difficult trail for hiking. It has a historic significance in the region and is related to the biggest silver rushes in the area. It is a 3.3 mile loop hike that passes through the Johnson Canyon which is one of the most watered canyons in the Death Valley National Park. You will have to take a rough four wheel drive to get to this trail. Despite all the effort and difficulty, it has some of the most spectacular views of the canyons and hand-built rock walls.

Telescope Peak

At an altitude of 11,049 ft, the Telescope Peak is the highest peak in Death Valley. It is a 14 mile round-trip hike to the top and is categorized as a strenuous hike. You need a four wheel vehicle to get to the trailhead which is just outside of the Mahogany Flat Campground. In winters, the trail has snow over it due to the elevation, therefore, it is best to choose this trail for hiking in summers, spring and fall. This strenuous hike offers a stunning view from the top. You can enjoy the views of the Badwater Basin and the Mountain Whitney from the Telescope Peak.

Panamint Dunes

The hike to the Panamint Dunes is the most straight forward hike in the Death Valley National Park because there is no foliage or hills to make navigation difficult. It is an 8 mile round-trip that takes you to the most beautiful dune field in the Death Valley. It is a rarely visited trail because there is no signage or route information regarding this trail. It is on the side of a mountain and you can find a fascinating view over the Panamint Valley. You will have to take a drive on a four wheeler to reach the trailhead and the road conditions can sometimes get worse because of the weather. Cooler months like from November to March are the most suitable for this hike.

Sidewinder Canyon

Another easy hiking trail in the Death Valley National Park is the Sidewinder Canyon. It is a 5 mile round-trip with no signs or genuine trail to follow. The hike is not well maintained but it offers a great opportunity for exploration and fun. It is important to come prepared on this trip and do some research about Sidewinder Canyon beforehand. Usually, most hikers start from the main canyons but there are many side canyons with twisted terrains of rocks to explore. Some area where the canyons are above the track gets dark so we recommend you to bring a flashlight on this hiking trail. You will have to hike through different slot canyons, twisting arches, sculpted narrows and hollows at the base of the Smith Mountain. You can find the trailhead in the south of the Badwater Basin off of Badwater Road.

The weather conditions in Death Valley can be extreme and the hiking trips can be difficult. So, it is important that anyone who wants to hike in the Death Valley should go to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center first and check in. It can help you to get necessary information regarding the trail you are going to take for hiking and help you prepare for the trip.

Accommodation Options

Death Valley has vast acres of remote lands and the distances between the top attractions and lodgings can sometimes be long. There are various lodging and camping options for visitors in Death Valley National Park but it is important to consider the locations that you are to visit in the park while picking the best lodging option. We have made this a whole lot easier for you by compiling the best options for lodging and campsites for your trip to Death Valley.

The Inn at Death Valley

The Inn at Death Valley is mid-range lodging in the heart of the Death Valley. It is a historic hotel located at the feet of the Funeral Mountains and overlooks the desert salt pans as well as the Panamint Range. Although it was renovated in 1997, it still has the characteristic feel of the 1920s. The Inn has a lot to offer including tennis, golf, horseback and carriage riding, pool, air conditioned rooms, etc. It remains closed from mid-May through mid-October.

The Ranch at Death Valley

The Ranch at Death Valley is also mid-range lodging which is a former working ranch turned family-friendly resort inside the Death Valley Park. It has comfortable guestrooms with patios or balconies, a swimming pool, and some courts for various sports. It offers horseback and carriage rides and allows guests to rent Jeeps to explore the park. It is located just beside the little town square where you can find restaurants, an ice-cream parlor, a coffee shop, as well as a store for essentials.

Camping Sites

Death Valley National Park also has various camping sites for visitors. In summer, there are usually very few campgrounds that are open due to the extreme temperatures. The campground at higher elevations can be full on busy weekends and on holidays. Except the Furnace Creek campground, the open campgrounds are all first-come, first-served with no available staff. You will have to travel to the camping sites yourself, find an empty spot and then pay at the self-help kiosk with a credit or debit card. NPS has 9 campgrounds in Death Valley with about 800 sites with most of them having water and more than half of them have flush toilets and RV dump stations. You can find three campgrounds near the Furnace Creek Resort, a privately-run Stovepipe Wells campground in the north of the Furnace Creek and other options including; Panamint Springs Campground, camping in the backcountry or outside the Death Valley Park.

Safety Tips for your Trip

Your trip to the Death Valley National Park can be exciting and full of adventure. Yet, due to the park’s extreme temperatures and vast remote area, there can be some dangers. With some safety measures provided here, you are all prepared to set out on your adventurous trip to Death Valley National Park.

Dehydration

Death Valley can be dry and hot. You should drink at least one gallon of water per day in Death Valley to avoid dehydration from sweating. Balance fluid and electrolyte levels. Avoid hiking in low elevation areas in the heat. Keep a check on any warning signs like feeling dizzy, nauseous or having a headache. In any such situation, immediately find shelter from the sun and drink lots of water. You can also dampen your clothes to lower your body temperature in such a situation.

Traveling Precautions

While travelling in a car, carry extra water with you. Stay on paved roads in summers and in case your car breaks down, stay with your car until you find help. It is also important to follow driving rules inside the park including speed limits, shifting to lower gear on steep downhill terrains, and wearing seatbelts. All of these precautions can help you avoid any kind of accidents. We also recommend you to avoid canyons in rainstorms and if you are in such a situation, quickly move to higher ground. If you are driving, be alert for water running in washes and flash flooding.

Safety from Dangerous Animals

The park has many rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders. While hiking or travelling on foot, do not put your hands or feet where you cannot see first. Narrow openings can be a hiding place for such animals, so do make sure to keep an eye out for dangerous animals while travelling.

Afterword

Located in Southeastern California, Death Valley National Park is about 186 miles north of Los Angeles and 149 miles west of Las Vegas. While the region was generally avoided in the mid 19th century owing to the terrain and extreme temperature, it is now much easier and exciting to visit the Death Valley region. You are very unlikely to run into any risks as long as you follow important safety tips when traveling to Death Valley.

Death Valley National Park is full of unique and fascinating formations and a variety of different landscapes including mountain ranges as well as sand dunes. From white salt flats to artistic mountains of pastel colors, the park has breathtaking views and picturesque scenery to offer to its visitors. You can also find it a great opportunity to engage in a number of recreational activities like hiking, horseback riding, golfing, camping, etc. Plan an itinerary for a memorable trip to Death Valley National Park and make sure to visit the Furnace Creek Visitor Center before visiting the top attractions in the park.

Safe Travels!

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Your Guide to the Death Valley National Park

Book AuthorGoglides
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Death Valley National Park

Travel Itinerary to the Park

All the national parks of the United States of America offer access to scenic landscapes and beautiful wonders of nature. The Death Valley National Park, despite its difficult desert area and extreme temperatures, is not an exception. If you are someone who loves to explore landscapes of unfathomable scale and stunning sights, you should start planning a trip to Death Valley National Park. Most of the top attractions are not located at a lot of distance from each other so you can have a very well planned visit without having to spend much of your time traveling in the park. This travel itinerary can help you plan a perfect trip to the Death Valley National Park with all important aspects of the itinerary considered.

Best Time to Visit the Death Valley

The hottest temperature on earth was recorded in July, 1913 at Death Valley. The extreme temperatures in summer keep visitors away and a number of hotels, restaurants, and campgrounds remain closed during summer. That said, the weather conditions in fall, winter, and spring are generally suitable for a trip. You can plan your trip from late November to April for most suitable daytime temperatures. Even in the month of December, the weather is quite pleasant with average temperature of 65 degrees. Spring brings beautiful wildflowers and if you manage to plan your visit to the park in the super bloom year, you can find gorgeous beds of wildflowers in the park.

How Long to Spend in the Death Valley

You can plan your itinerary to the park for 1-3 days. If you do not have much time to spend at the park, then you should try and spend at least one full day at the park. If you are planning just a day long visit to the park, you can start off early in the morning and stay overnight to enjoy stargazing as well. However, a one day trip has to be in a rush if you want to visit all the top attractions of the park. Planning a 2-3 day trip to the park can allow you to visit all the sites easily along with long hikes and other activities that the park has to offer.

Entrance Fees

The vehicle entrance fee to the Death Valley National Park is $30 for a week. This allows a single private, non commercial vehicle with passengers to leave and enter the park as many times as they want during the week starting from the day of payment. The motorcycle entrance fee to the par is $25 valid for a week. The individual entrance fee to the park is $15, valid for a week. This pass allows the individual to enter or exit the park as many times as they want over a period of a week.

Apart from these entrance passes, the park also offers a Death Valley Annual Pass at $55 which is valid for a whole year. It allows free entry to the park for a period of 12 months.

Sightseeing in the Death Valley

The Death Valley National Park has a lot of scenic landscapes to offer sightseeing at various locations in the park. You can access these views by merely hiking or by private vehicles including four-wheel drives, bicycles, mountain bikes, etc. The Badwater Road, State Route 190, roads to Dante’s View, Scotty’s Castle Road, and Wildrose can all take you directly to the most fascinating views in the park. You can also watch the important historic points inside the park.

Hiking in Death Valley

There are some constructed trails in the park for hiking but due to the barren desert land, most hiking trails in the park are up canyons, cross country, or along the ridges. Since the summer temperatures are extreme, the most suitable months for hiking in the park are November through March. Even during spring and fall, the heat sometimes becomes unbearable for hikers. The high peaks of the mountains in the park are pleasant to spend your time at in summers. They are covered in snow during winters and spring. The climate of the Death Valley is hot and dry, so it is important that you remain properly hydrated during your trip and carry sufficient water with you during a day’s hike. There are some springs in the park but do not rely on that water source.

Camping in the Death Valley

Another interesting activity to plan for your trip to the Death Valley National Park is camping. With clear, dark skies overhead, you will absolutely love to sleep under the canopy of stars at night. The NPS have nine campgrounds in the Death Valley with almost 800 sites available. Many of the campgrounds in the park have the facilities of grocery stores and restaurant near by which can make the most difficult part of camping i.e. arranging a meal, feel like a breeze. Most of the campgrounds also have water facility and over half of the campgrounds have flush toilets and RV dump stations. You can camp inside or outside the park with the same spectacular experience either way.

Drive on Backcountry Roads

Death Valley National Park has more miles of roads as compared to all other national parks. Although 93% of the park’s area is wilderness area without roads, almost 1000 miles of paved and dirt roads give you a great opportunity to take an adventurous ride on the backcountry roads through the park. The weather conditions can cause a lot of trouble on these roads sometimes so we recommend you to do some planning for the trip beforehand. Carry a shovel and extra supply of water and food with you on the drive. You might require tire chains if you are to drive on higher elevations in snow. Moreover, one of the most common problems on such trips is the issue of flat tires due to rough roads and terrains. Before you head out to Death Valley,make sure you carry off-road tires with you to make the most of your trip without any problems.

Backpacking in the Death Valley

Death Valley National Park also offers the opportunity of backpacking in the park. It can be quite challenging but the wonderful chance to experience fascinating vistas, majestic night skies, and the astounding geology of the 3 million acres of wilderness in the park are all worth trying. There are some constructed trails in the park but backpackers can follow the canyons along the ridges and dirt roads to go around different sites in the park. You will have to acquire a free backcountry permit from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center or the Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station. Overnight group sizes are to be not more than 12 people with 4 or less vehicles. Large groups are required to split up and camp at half mile distance from each other.

Visit the Star Wars Filming Locations in the Park

Certain scenes of the iconic Star Wars Episode 4 and 6 were filmed in Death Valley National Park. You can visit different locations where the scenes of these movies were filmed many years ago. You can explore the different locations of Tatooine at Golden Canyon, Artists Drive/Palette, Desolation Canyon,Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Dantes View and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. You can check out these locations to find out how many of these you recognize.

Stargazing in the Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is also famous for a very suitable location for stargazing with its clear, dark skies at night. The darkest skies are in the northwest sites of the park like Ubehebe Crater. In spite of the remote location of the park, the light pollution from nearby Las Vegas affects the night visibility of the sky. You can observe the Andromeda Galaxy and the Triangulum Galaxy with the naked eye. The Milky Way also casts shadows like zodiacal light or false dawn are also visible to the naked eye in these locations. Most southern regions of the park are average dark sky sites.

With such a vast area to explore and a great number of recreational activities to experience, Death Valley National Park can be a very exciting adventure for your vacation. We recommend you to visit the visitor’s center of the park before setting out on hikes or camping to learn everything you need to know about the park. With a little planning and some research, you can plan a memorable trip to one of the largest national parks in USA.

Top Attractions at Death Valley National Park

Contrary to its name, Death Valley National Park is a fascinating and exciting area of unique landscapes and beautiful scenic views. From sand dunes to mountains, salt flats to lakes; it has all the elements of dramatic scenery. With an area that covers about 3000 square miles of difficult terrains, Death Valley is known for its extremes. The hottest and lowest point in North America has colorful sandstone canyons and below sea-level salt flats. It is one of the best destinations for a vacation to enjoy breathtaking vistas, discover wildlife and enjoy the ultimate wildflower show.

We have put together the top attractions of the Death Valley National Park for you to include in your itinerary.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center

Currently, there’s only one operational visitor center in Death Valley National Park—Furnace Creek Visitor Center. It is located in the Furnace Creek resort area on California Highway 190. It is the main visitor information source in the park. You can find out information about all aspects of the park from the staff at the information desks.

Every half an hour, the visitor center presents a 22 minute long slide program for the visitors. From November to April, park rangers offer informative tours, talks, presentations, etc about the park’s geological and paleontological history. The visitor center also exhibits different displays regarding the wildlife, climate, and geology of the park. The visitor center also has some sections on early human history. The Death Valley Natural History Association also maintains a bookstore at the visitor center where you can find extensive literature on the park’s natural and cultural history. The Furnace Creek visitor Center is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm.

Harmony Borax Works

In the late 19 century, a borax mine with the name Harmony Borax Works was significant in introducing Death Valley to workers and traders, and later on to tourists. Nowadays, it is one of the top attractions of the park to learn about the mining history of this area.

About 40 employees worked in the mine and it was very challenging to keep the mining team motivated to work in such a hot and desert environment every day. It was even more difficult to get the product out into the market. Harmony Borax Works thus came up with a solution for this problem and became commonly known for its large mule teams and double wagons. These animals along with men travelled the difficult overland road to the closest railroad station, Mojave. The mining operations at Death Valley were hence characterized by the twenty mule teams.

The remains of the Harmony Borax Works plant are open for visitors now to learn about the mining history of the region. It is situated just outside of the Furnace Creek and has a trail that gives you a tour around the mine. You will also come across an old mule wagon along the trail. This Death Valley tourist attraction is also a part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point is the most famous viewpoint of Death Valley and it is also one of the most visited areas of the park. It is an elevated overlook that offers a spectacular view of the colorful and undulating landscape of the Death Valley and the salt flats beyond. You can enjoy the beautiful landscape by passing by the viewpoint on foot or while taking a longer hike towards the Golden Canyon.

Pacific Coast Borax Company built this famous attraction in the 1920s and named it after its vice president, Christian Zabraskie. This site was initially built for visitors to watch the Manly Beacon which was an important landmark of the Death Valley canyons.

The famous 1970’s movie, Zabraskie Point was shot at this overlook. In the past, people were able to drive to the edge of the overlook but now a new larger car park has been constructed so people have to take a short walk uphill. It offers a fascinating view to the visitors of the beautiful dunes and salt flats.

Dante’s View

Another famous overlook of the Death Valley National Park is Dante’s View which offers panoramic views of the park’s vast and beautiful landscape. Being at an elevation of 5,475 ft on the Black Mountains, it is a place of stark contrasts and mesmerizing scenic views. Just below Dante’s view, you can see the Badwater Basin which is the lowest point in North America while across the valley, you can see Telescope Peak which is the highest point in the park. Whichever direction you turn, you will find spellbinding beauty. You can also get a bird’s eye view of the vast valley and even get a chance to marvel at the striking mountain range across.

To get to Dante’s View, you will have to drive for 11 miles from Furnace Creek, taking a right turn on Dante’s View Road and then continue driving for 13 miles to find Dante’s View at the end of the road.

Salt Flats at Badwater Basin

The Badwater Basin in Death Valley is at 282 ft below sea level. You can find it 20 minutes south of the inn along the Badwater Road. It is a 200 square mile area of salt flats and it is among the largest reserves of salt flats in the world. An easy boardwalk trail from the parking lot can take you to the Badwater Basin where you can find the valley floor covered with delicate salt flats. Although the salt flats do not support plant or animal life, the crystals are delicate enough to get crushed easily by merely walking over them. The thin upper crust of the salt layer breaks through to the mud layer below, leaving foot prints and tire tracks. Due to their fragility, it is not allowed in the park to drive a vehicle off the established roads.

Artist’s Drive

Artist’s Drive is a 9 mile drive that crosses a steep mountainside of beautiful colors. These vibrant colors of the mountains are due to the presence of rich metals. Artist’s Drive is a one way road from south to north that is above the Badwater Road and offers a beautiful view of the salt flats. It is also a side hiking track to the Furnace Creek for people who are coming from the Badwater Basin. The main stop of the drive is the Artist Palette which is one of the most unique landmarks of the park. After getting off the road, you can park in the parking lot of the Artist’s Palette and head towards the colored mountains on foot. You will find a gorgeous view of the mountainside in vibrant colors. The beautiful view of the rainbow bands that color the soil of these mountainsides is what has given the name of Artist’s Palette to this spectacular site.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

The 100 ft high Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is another amazing element of the diverse landscape of Death Valley National Park. The Eureka Dunes are the tallest sand dunes of the park but Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are the most accessible for the visitors. Walking on the silky, rippled sand dunes can be a wonderful experience for you. The wind makes the silky sand dunes shift continuously, therefore, there is no marked trail in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. You can wander through the sand dunes as you like and how far you want to wander is also up to you. The most suitable time of the day to visit this attraction is just before sunrise or close to sunset. The soft light and long shadows will give you a wonderful setting for photography. You can also find animal tracks on the sand dunes early in the morning including those of rodents. Full moon nights are also mesmerizing in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, but you will have to watch out for rattlesnakes at night.

Devil’s Golf Course

Devil’s Golf Course can be another short stop on the drive between Badwater Basin and Furnace Creek. It is full of salt formations that are spread all over the arid landscape far and wide. You can reach it by a half a mile drive on a dirt road and you can find signs that can direct you to Devil’s Golf Course. You will find a sea of rugged salt formations and some plaques with information about this attraction of Death Valley National Park.

Best Hikes in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is a great spot for hiking all through the year. It is interesting that the park has even more options in the winter and spring than its hot summers. For hikers and adventurers who are looking for a hiking destination from fall through spring, Death Valley National Park is one of the best options to choose.

When you think about Death Valley as a hiking destination, images of flat sandy landscapes might pop into your mind. With that said, however, Death Valley has varying landscapes of 11 ft mountains, beautiful golden sand dunes, and much more. It is thus an adventurous destination for hikers because of its unique and unusual terrains. Here are the best hikes in the Death Valley National Park.

Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Loop Trail

Starting slow and easy with a moderate hiking trail like Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Loop Trail is recommended for people who are new to hiking. This trail is near the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and is a 4 mile loop trail. Unlike most of the trails in Death Valley, it has a paved road to the trailhead, therefore, you would not need a 4x4 vehicle to reach the trailhead.

You can go up the Golden Canyon and down Gower Gulch. You can have an exciting experience hiking through the Golden Canyon and past the famous ruins of borax mining. You can also enjoy the scenic views from Zabriskie Point and the stunning beauty of the Red Cathedral. It is best to start your hike in the morning for adequate light and temperatures. November through March is the most suitable time for hiking on this trail.

Hungry Bill’s Ranch

Hungry Bill’s Ranch is a difficult trail for hiking. It has a historic significance in the region and is related to the biggest silver rushes in the area. It is a 3.3 mile loop hike that passes through the Johnson Canyon which is one of the most watered canyons in the Death Valley National Park. You will have to take a rough four wheel drive to get to this trail. Despite all the effort and difficulty, it has some of the most spectacular views of the canyons and hand-built rock walls.

Telescope Peak

At an altitude of 11,049 ft, the Telescope Peak is the highest peak in Death Valley. It is a 14 mile round-trip hike to the top and is categorized as a strenuous hike. You need a four wheel vehicle to get to the trailhead which is just outside of the Mahogany Flat Campground. In winters, the trail has snow over it due to the elevation, therefore, it is best to choose this trail for hiking in summers, spring and fall. This strenuous hike offers a stunning view from the top. You can enjoy the views of the Badwater Basin and the Mountain Whitney from the Telescope Peak.

Panamint Dunes

The hike to the Panamint Dunes is the most straight forward hike in the Death Valley National Park because there is no foliage or hills to make navigation difficult. It is an 8 mile round-trip that takes you to the most beautiful dune field in the Death Valley. It is a rarely visited trail because there is no signage or route information regarding this trail. It is on the side of a mountain and you can find a fascinating view over the Panamint Valley. You will have to take a drive on a four wheeler to reach the trailhead and the road conditions can sometimes get worse because of the weather. Cooler months like from November to March are the most suitable for this hike.

Sidewinder Canyon

Another easy hiking trail in the Death Valley National Park is the Sidewinder Canyon. It is a 5 mile round-trip with no signs or genuine trail to follow. The hike is not well maintained but it offers a great opportunity for exploration and fun. It is important to come prepared on this trip and do some research about Sidewinder Canyon beforehand. Usually, most hikers start from the main canyons but there are many side canyons with twisted terrains of rocks to explore. Some area where the canyons are above the track gets dark so we recommend you to bring a flashlight on this hiking trail. You will have to hike through different slot canyons, twisting arches, sculpted narrows and hollows at the base of the Smith Mountain. You can find the trailhead in the south of the Badwater Basin off of Badwater Road.

The weather conditions in Death Valley can be extreme and the hiking trips can be difficult. So, it is important that anyone who wants to hike in the Death Valley should go to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center first and check in. It can help you to get necessary information regarding the trail you are going to take for hiking and help you prepare for the trip.

Accommodation Options

Death Valley has vast acres of remote lands and the distances between the top attractions and lodgings can sometimes be long. There are various lodging and camping options for visitors in Death Valley National Park but it is important to consider the locations that you are to visit in the park while picking the best lodging option. We have made this a whole lot easier for you by compiling the best options for lodging and campsites for your trip to Death Valley.

The Inn at Death Valley

The Inn at Death Valley is mid-range lodging in the heart of the Death Valley. It is a historic hotel located at the feet of the Funeral Mountains and overlooks the desert salt pans as well as the Panamint Range. Although it was renovated in 1997, it still has the characteristic feel of the 1920s. The Inn has a lot to offer including tennis, golf, horseback and carriage riding, pool, air conditioned rooms, etc. It remains closed from mid-May through mid-October.

The Ranch at Death Valley

The Ranch at Death Valley is also mid-range lodging which is a former working ranch turned family-friendly resort inside the Death Valley Park. It has comfortable guestrooms with patios or balconies, a swimming pool, and some courts for various sports. It offers horseback and carriage rides and allows guests to rent Jeeps to explore the park. It is located just beside the little town square where you can find restaurants, an ice-cream parlor, a coffee shop, as well as a store for essentials.

Camping Sites

Death Valley National Park also has various camping sites for visitors. In summer, there are usually very few campgrounds that are open due to the extreme temperatures. The campground at higher elevations can be full on busy weekends and on holidays. Except the Furnace Creek campground, the open campgrounds are all first-come, first-served with no available staff. You will have to travel to the camping sites yourself, find an empty spot and then pay at the self-help kiosk with a credit or debit card. NPS has 9 campgrounds in Death Valley with about 800 sites with most of them having water and more than half of them have flush toilets and RV dump stations. You can find three campgrounds near the Furnace Creek Resort, a privately-run Stovepipe Wells campground in the north of the Furnace Creek and other options including; Panamint Springs Campground, camping in the backcountry or outside the Death Valley Park.

Safety Tips for your Trip

Your trip to the Death Valley National Park can be exciting and full of adventure. Yet, due to the park’s extreme temperatures and vast remote area, there can be some dangers. With some safety measures provided here, you are all prepared to set out on your adventurous trip to Death Valley National Park.

Dehydration

Death Valley can be dry and hot. You should drink at least one gallon of water per day in Death Valley to avoid dehydration from sweating. Balance fluid and electrolyte levels. Avoid hiking in low elevation areas in the heat. Keep a check on any warning signs like feeling dizzy, nauseous or having a headache. In any such situation, immediately find shelter from the sun and drink lots of water. You can also dampen your clothes to lower your body temperature in such a situation.

Traveling Precautions

While travelling in a car, carry extra water with you. Stay on paved roads in summers and in case your car breaks down, stay with your car until you find help. It is also important to follow driving rules inside the park including speed limits, shifting to lower gear on steep downhill terrains, and wearing seatbelts. All of these precautions can help you avoid any kind of accidents. We also recommend you to avoid canyons in rainstorms and if you are in such a situation, quickly move to higher ground. If you are driving, be alert for water running in washes and flash flooding.

Safety from Dangerous Animals

The park has many rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders. While hiking or travelling on foot, do not put your hands or feet where you cannot see first. Narrow openings can be a hiding place for such animals, so do make sure to keep an eye out for dangerous animals while travelling.

Afterword

Located in Southeastern California, Death Valley National Park is about 186 miles north of Los Angeles and 149 miles west of Las Vegas. While the region was generally avoided in the mid 19th century owing to the terrain and extreme temperature, it is now much easier and exciting to visit the Death Valley region. You are very unlikely to run into any risks as long as you follow important safety tips when traveling to Death Valley.

Death Valley National Park is full of unique and fascinating formations and a variety of different landscapes including mountain ranges as well as sand dunes. From white salt flats to artistic mountains of pastel colors, the park has breathtaking views and picturesque scenery to offer to its visitors. You can also find it a great opportunity to engage in a number of recreational activities like hiking, horseback riding, golfing, camping, etc. Plan an itinerary for a memorable trip to Death Valley National Park and make sure to visit the Furnace Creek Visitor Center before visiting the top attractions in the park.

Safe Travels!