Death Valley National Park is mostly known for being one of the hottest places on the Earth. Not only is it the hottest national park (with a record of 134 degrees F) but it is the driest and lowest (with a low point of -282 Ft below Sea Level) in the entire U.S. Park System. Plan to visit in the Spring and Fall months and you will be rewarded with some of the best views.
The park itself is very large, boasting over 3 million acres of varying landscapes from sand dunes to rocky mountain peaks.
Places to Visit:
Perfect for sunrise (and sunset), this beautiful rolling terrain features amazing hills and one large rock point. Be sure to walk around and enjoy all the different angles and trails.
This is the lowest point in all of North America at 282 Ft below sea level. Be sure to walk further out into the salt flats to see some of the better salt formations as the early part of the trail has seen heavy foot traffic.
Artists Drive / Artist's Palette:
This one way roadway will take you on a beautiful path through multi colored hills. Be sure to stop and walk around at the beautiful Artists Palette which boasts the most colorful sections of terrain.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes:
These are the most accessible sand dunes in the national park as the dunes sit right off one of the arterial roadways, Highway 190. CAUTION: hiking on Sand Dunes is very strenuous and be sure to bring a lot of liquids.
The best time to come here is in the morning as the overnight wind would have helped erase many of the footprints. As you get further into the higher dunes, less and less footprints will be noticeable. Note, that the wind changes these sand formations and they will look a little different everyday!
Ibex Sand Dunes/ Eureka Sand Dunes:
These sand dunes are way larger than the Mesquite Flat Dunes but they are far more difficult to get to as well. You don’t need a 4x4 vehicle (unless it has just rained) but the path is very bumpy. These dunes will naturally have far less footprints and are the ideal spot for trying to capture the perfect sand dune.
Other Notable locations:
The Race Track - this dried up lake bes requires a 4x4 vehicle to access. This is a very far location to get to but you'll enjoy some amazing mud cracks and the phenomenon that is the moving rocks! These large rocks have streaks behind them showing how far they have moved.
Ubehebe Crate - a huge crater can be seen that is the result of a massive volcanic explosion
Natural Bridge - 1 mile hike, out and back, is a beautiful rock bridge
Dantes View - drive up to the top and have unobstructed views of the entire valley floor!
Places to Stay:
Many people will camp but there are a few limited hotel options as well. Be sure to book early as these will sell out very quickly during peak season.
The Inn at Death Valley is the glamorous location to stay at in the park. A beautiful pool, lush landscaping, and clean guest rooms make this the perfect Oasis in the Valley.
The Ranch at Death Valley - the sister property of the Inn, features a more affordable option which also has great dining options and a marketplace.
When to Come:
The best time to come is of course in the Spring or Fall but be sure to come during a New Moon because the star gazing here is unlike any other. There is very little light pollution so these are definitely some of the darker skies you will find. Milkyway Season is visible between February - October making the New Moons during March, April, September, and October the best times to plan a trip.
What to Bring:
There are limited services in the park so be sure to plan ahead.
GAS - there are two gas stations but note that they are pricey so be sure to top off your tanks before entering the parks.
MAPS - I always bring Google Map directions or download offline maps to my phone as cell service will be very minimal.
FOOD - there is a market and restaurant at the Hotels but you should definitely plan to bring snacks or food if you are planning a longer stay.
Water Bottles & Sun Screen are a must.