Death Valley is the largest National Park in the USA, outside of Alaska. The park covers an area of approximately 3.4 million acres, with about 1000 miles of paved and dirt roads. The well-established network of roads provides access to some of the famous attractions and also caters enthusiasts who would like to explore the backroads. The park offers a unique landscape, including rolling sand dunes, rugged mountains, winding canyons, spring-fed oases, and low valley floors crusted with barren salt flats.
Death Valley is famous for being the hottest place on earth with a record of 134°F (57°C) recorded at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913. The best time to visit is Winter or Spring when the weather is pleasant. The average summer temperature often tops 120°F (49°C) in the shade with overnight lows dipping into the 90s°F (30s°C).
During our road trip, we did not venture out to remote areas of the park. This post will cover some of the top attractions that are easily accessible and are a must-see. In the future, we will revisit the park to explore the backroads and remote locations. There’s more to explore!
How to get there
California Highway 190 is the main road that transect Death Valley National Park from east to west.
Death Valley is accessed from Las Vegas by US Route 95 that runs parallel to the park. The drive from Las Vegas is about 150 miles or 2.5 hours via Route 95. The route 95 then connects with State Route 374 at Beatty.
There are two options to enter Death Valley National Park if you are coming from Los Angeles. Drive from the west via Route 190, or from the south via I-15 and Route 127 from Baker. Death Valley is approximately 260 miles from Los Angeles.
Highlights of the trip
We entered the Park from Route 190. The first stop of interest was Stovepipe Wells, where we stopped for lunch and visited the general store and a gift shop.
Furnace Creek Visitor Center
Visitor Center opens daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. It is a great place to visit for information and to buy the tickets/pass.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is the largest dune field in the park. The view of the dunes can be enjoyed from the parking area. But you can hike and wander around the in the sand. We enjoyed the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
Harmony Borax Works
Harmony Borax Works will take you back in time as you explore the ruins of the plant and associated townsite. You will see an original twenty mule team wagon train at this site. The Harmony Borax Works trail is approximately 1/4 mile and the pathway is paved.
Devils Golf Course
Devils Golf Course is an area full of rock salts that have transformed into jagged spires due to erosion caused by wind and rain. This place is so incredible, and the rocks are serrated that “only the devil could play golf on such rough links.” You can drive to the parking area and enjoy the view and listen closely to hear some pops and pings. The sound is produced by billions of tiny salt crystals bursting apart as they expand and contract in the heat.
Note: Stay in designated areas only, and do not climb over the rocks as they have sharp edges.
The Badwater Basin is the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below the sea level. You will have a unique experience to walk on the landscape that stretches forever. A short hike takes you to the polygon salt formations, one of the most famous attractions of the park. You will require an hour or two minimum to enjoy this fantastic landscape.
Hike the Golden Canyon
Golden Canyon is one of the must-visit attractions in the park. Hike through the narrow winding canyons surrounded by golden coloured hills. The time required will depend on how far you would like to hike, so the time will vary from 5 to 180 minutes to complete the loop that is 4.5 miles. We enjoyed the hike through the canyon and admired the details in the rocks and the formations.
Note: Summer Hiking is not recommended in the lower elevations of the park due very high temperatures.
Zabriskie Point is one of the most famous viewpoints in the park. It provides a vantage point over the golden-coloured badlands of the Furnace Creek. You can enjoy the view or start a hike from the viewpoint. The trail from the Zabriskie Point can lead to the golden canyon, Gower Gulch, and Red Cathedral. Likewise, this spot is very famous for sunset, sunrise and photography.
A Must Visit attraction for sure!
Enjoy a 9-mile scenic drive through a geologic rainbow. It is a one-way lane that passes through eroded colourful desert hills. Unfortunately, we were unable to visit Artist Drive as it was closed due to flash floods.
Trip order recommendations
Visiting from Las Vegas via Beatty, NV: Start at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Harmony Borax Works, Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Devils Golf Course, Badwater Basin, Artists Drive, Zabriskie Point.
Visiting from Las Vegas via Death Valley Junction: Begin at Zabriskie Point, Devils Golf Course, Badwater Basin, Artists Drive, Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Harmony Borax Works, and finally the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
Driving from the west via Ridgecrest, CA: Begin at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Harmony Borax Works, Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Devils Golf Course, Badwater Basin, Artists Drive, Zabriskie Point.
Visitor Information – National Park Service – Death Valley National Park
There are many campgrounds in the park. Please see complete list of the Campgrounds.
There are multiple hotels available in the area. We stayed at the Amargosa Opera House Hotel, which is approximately 30 miles from Furnace Creek at the historic Death Valley Junction. The hotel was originally part of the Pacific Coast Borax Company’s civic town centre and was built between 1923 and 1925.
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THERE IS LOT TO EXPLORE. KEEP EXPLORING