15 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

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Death Valley National Park is not like anyplace else we’ve visited. It’s one of many lowest and hottest locations on earth and is filled with unimaginable otherworldly landscapes.

We spent every week roaming its huge stark magnificence—watching sunrises on sand dunes and sunsets throughout salt flats, climbing by means of rippled badlands and golden canyons, and admiring multicoloured hills and snow-capped peaks.

Here I share our picks for the very best issues to do in Death Valley from simple however dramatic viewpoints to tougher hikes. You’ll additionally discover our ideas for profiting from your journey, the place to remain, a urged itinerary, and a map with all the highest points of interest.

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Where is Death Valley National Park?

Death Valley National Park is in Inyo County, California, alongside the border with Nevada (a small a part of the park is within the neighbouring state) and east of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

You’ll want your personal automobile to get there or you possibly can go to on this small group Death Valley day journey from Las Vegas.

Here are approximate driving occasions from close by locations to Furnace Creek (within the coronary heart of the park):

  • Las Vegas (Nevada) – 2 hours
  • Los Angeles – 4 hours Half-hour
  • Bakersfield – 4 hours
  • Joshua Tree – 4 hours quarter-hour
  • Palm Springs – 5 hours
  • Yosemite Village – 6 hours (in summer time)
  • Sequoia National Park – 6 hours
  • Zion National Park (Utah) – 4 hours Half-hour

We visited Death Valley on a highway journey between Palm Springs and Zion National Park. It’s additionally splendid to mix with Joshua Tree National Park, which we handed on the best way (and visited beforehand).

See our information to the greatest issues to do in Southern California for extra ideas for the realm in addition to our publish on the greatest Joshua Tree hikes.

At the top of this publish you’ll discover a map of Death Valley National Park with all these featured points of interest.

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Best Things to Do in Death Valley National Park: Our Top Picks

Death Valley National Park is immense—3.4 million acres with 1000 miles of roads. These urged Death Valley actions deal with the primary a part of the park (inside an hour or so of Furnace Creek the place the customer centre and resorts are situated).

There are many issues to see in Death Valley past this space, however you’ll should drive for hours and plenty of roads are 4WD solely (all of the locations beneath are accessible with out 4WD).

These are our Death Valley should sees.

1) See the Sunrise at Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, Southern California
Zabriskie Point, among the finest locations to see in Death Valley

Access: Paved highway
Facilities: Toilet in automotive park
Time wanted: 10+ minutes
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 5 miles (8km)/ 10 minutes

If you solely do one Death Valley exercise, make it the perspective at Zabriskie Point.

It’s just a few minutes’ stroll on a paved path from the car parking zone to the viewing space, and it’s spectacular.

You gaze down into the valley of bumpy badlands striped yellow and brown, formed by the pressure of water. You may see the jagged peak of Manly Beacon, the rugged Red Cathedral and past to the salt flats and snow-topped Panamint Mountains.

Zabriskie Point is hottest at dawn and it’s properly price getting up for. The solar rises behind you and it’s a shocking sight because it lights the mountains in entrance and turns them a glowing crimson.

Don’t anticipate to have it to your self, however on a winter weekday, we discovered there was sufficient area to unfold out. Some guests are organised and convey chairs, blankets, and sizzling drinks. You’ll undoubtedly need additional layers because it felt very chilly within the wind.

If you don’t handle to get up in time, the sunshine was nonetheless stunning two hours after dawn when the badlands are totally lit up. It’s additionally a well-liked sundown spot.

One of the very best hikes in Death Valley begins from right here (see beneath).

2) Hike the Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Loop

Gower Gulch, Death Valley
Gower Gulch

Access: Paved highway
Facilities: Toilet at each trailhead automotive parks
Time wanted: 1-3 hours
Hiking stats: 6.2 miles (10km)/ 2.5 hours / 1130 toes (345m) elevation acquire
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre to Golden Canyon Trailhead: 3.5 miles (5.5km)/ 7 minutes

The Golden Canyon hike is without doubt one of the greatest issues to do in Death Valley National Park. This common path has its personal trailhead and most guests do a 2-mile roundtrip hike from right here to the junction to Red Cathedral.

You may expertise it on an extended loop hike, which is what we did. As we have been already at Zabriskie Point for dawn we determined to hike down into Golden Canyon and are available again up Gower Gulch.

We’re so glad we did because the hike was superb. My favorite half was initially strolling down from Zabriskie on the Badlands Loop with the rippled badlands and Red Cathedral glowing within the golden morning mild. Starting at 7.15am we didn’t see anybody else till we reached the Golden Canyon.

Red Cathedral, Death Valley, Southern California
Majestic Red Cathedral behind us on the Badlands Loop

It was magical strolling in solitude by means of the tough, dry however beautiful surroundings.

It was a little bit steep and slippy in components, and it’s a must to stroll on a slender ridge at one level, which was barely nerve-racking, however total we didn’t discover it a troublesome stroll and it will get simpler if you attain Golden Canyon.

You undoubtedly need to begin early and convey loads of water as as soon as the solar hits the canyon, it feels extremely popular.

When you attain the excessive partitions of Golden Canyon, you could have the choice of a one-mile return detour to Red Cathedral, however we skipped it because it includes some scrambling.

It took us 65 minutes to achieve the Golden Canyon trailhead (the place there’s a rest room) after which we walked parallel to the highway for 10 minutes earlier than turning left into Gower Gulch.

Some folks don’t assume Gower Gulch is price it however we loved it (and it’s quieter than Golden Canyon). There was some gently scrambling at first, however then it opened up and the ascent was pretty simple. There are some fascinating rock formations and inexperienced and pink partitions.

It took one other hour to get again to Zabriskie Point—the final part again on the Badlands Loop was the toughest because it was a steep climb in full solar. The view trying again was astounding although.

Don’t miss climbing on this space. Even for those who don’t do the total loop, there are many shorter choices.

See a map of the Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch hike on Alltrails or the NPS web site for all of the Golden Canyon trails.

3) Enjoy a Colourful View at Artists Palette

Artists Palette, Death Valley in Southern California
This unimaginable view at Artists palette is without doubt one of the prime issues to do in Death Valley

Access: One-way paved highway, no autos longer than 25 toes
Facilities: Toilet in automotive park
Time wanted: Half-hour together with drive
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 14.5 miles (23.5km)/ 24 minutes

Another of the very best views in Death Valley is at Artists Palette. Here you possibly can admire the colorful hills created by mineral oxidation—pink and inexperienced mixing with the standard shades of orange and brown.

The viewpoint is accessed on the 9-mile Artists Drive Loop, a lovely if twisty highway that may solely be pushed a method (beginning on the south finish off Badwater Rd).

There are varied locations to cease and take pictures, however the third cease (marked on Google Map as Artist’s Palette) is the very best one. There’s additionally a rest room right here.

You can see the colourful hills from the car parking zone or stroll up the path so far as you’d like for a better perspective.

Artists Palette is greatest visited within the golden hour earlier than sundown. We arrived an hour after dawn (after visiting Badwater Basin) and the hills have been nonetheless in shadow so the colors have been muted.

We got here again one other day mid-morning (three hours after dawn) and the colors have been significantly better, though the sunshine was a little bit harsh.

This was one of many filming areas for Tatooine within the Star Wars films and it’s simple to imagine you’re on one other planet.

4) Watch the Sunset at Dante’s View

Dante's View, California
Stunning sundown at Dante’s View

Access: Paved, winding, and steep highway. No RVs or trailers (automotive park to go away trailers decrease down)
Facilities: Toilet at decrease parking however it’s fairly removed from higher parking—cease on the best way up
Time wanted: Half-hour – 1 hour
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 25 miles (40km)/ 35 minutes

Dante’s View is without doubt one of the greatest locations to go to in Death Valley for extra spectacular views. It’s common at sundown, though I’m positive dawn would even be stunning (if freezing).

Here you realise that Death Valley shouldn’t be all desert as you ascend to 5575 ft (1699 m) above Badwater Basin on the ridge of the Black Mountains. The temperature could be 30ºF decrease up right here.

The sweeping panorama takes in a lot of the park—the salt flats and the badlands and the Panamint Mountains on the opposite aspect of the valley.

You can simply benefit from the view from the car parking zone or comply with the paths in both path alongside the rim (I feel the view is greatest to the left). It’s busy at sundown however simple to discover a spot to your self.

Sunset, Dante's View, Death Valley
Beautiful colors at Dante’s View

Expect the solar to vanish behind the mountains 10 minutes earlier than the official sundown time. It’s properly price ready 20 minutes after sundown because the sky lights up in pink and orange and the clouds glow—simply attractive!

It’s properly well worth the drive up right here for views like this.

5) Visit the Lowest Point at Badwater Basin Salt Flats

Badwater Basin, Death Valley, Southern California
The hottest and lowest level in North America

Access: Paved highway
Facilities: Toilet in automotive park
Time wanted: quarter-hour+
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 15.5 miles (25km)/ 20 minutes

Badwater Basin is without doubt one of the most iconic spots in Death Valley. This salt pan is an historical lake mattress and is the most popular and lowest level in North America at 282 toes beneath sea degree (search for the ocean degree marker on the mountain above the car parking zone).

Again there’s an simply accessible viewing platform or you possibly can stroll out onto the immense salt flats so far as you need.

It’s common at sundown however there have been just a few others right here at dawn. Although we couldn’t see the solar come up, it was stunning to see the sunshine catch the snowy mountains reverse.

6) Climb a Dune at Sunrise at Mesquite Flat

Mesquite Flat sand dunes, Death Valley
Admire the views, then have enjoyable operating down the dunes!

Access: Paved highway
Facilities: Toilet in automotive park
Time wanted: Half-hour – 1 hour+
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 23 miles (35km)/ 26 minutes

The Mesquite Flat sand dunes are probably the most accessible sand dunes in Death Valley, subsequent to Stovepipe Wells.

It’s properly price venturing past the car parking zone and climbing up into the dunes for the very best views. There’s no path—simply create your personal path.

You can hike to the highest of the most important dune (about two miles return), however strolling on sand is difficult going so we loved the view from a distance.

We arrived about Half-hour earlier than dawn to permit time to get to a great spot—we solely needed to stroll about 10 minutes earlier than we selected a spot to attend. It was one other beautiful dawn with the tops of the distant mountains turning pink earlier than the dunes started to glow.

On our means again we had enjoyable operating down the dunes (which is much less scary than it feels).

Sunrise at Mesquite Flat, Death Valley
Gorgeous vista at Mesquite Flat

Mesquite Flat is greatest visited at dawn or sundown when the sunshine is attractive and it’s not too sizzling. We wore climbing sandals, which have been splendid as footwear would fill with sand.

Eureka Dunes are even taller however they’re three hours from Furnace Creek and should require a 4WD. It’s a lot tougher to get there for the very best mild except you camp close by.

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Other Death Valley Attractions Worth Visiting

If you could have extra time, we additionally advocate this stuff to do in Death Valley.

7) Hike the Rim of Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley, Southern California
Simon gazing down into the huge expanse of Ubehebe Crater

Access: Paved highway
Facilities: None (nearest rest room 5 miles earlier than at Grapevine Ranger Station)
Time wanted: 1 hour (longer to descend into crater)
Hiking stats: 2 miles (3.2km)/ 50 minutes / 485 toes (148m) elevation acquire together with Little Hebe Crater
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 55 miles (90km)/ 1 hour and quarter-hour

Ubehebe Crater is an extinct volcano in a extra distant a part of the park. We visited after Mesquite Flat sand dunes, that are an hour away.

We hiked the rim of the 2100-year-old crater, gazing down into the huge expanse—darkish gray on one aspect, orange and gold on the opposite. It’s a wild and delightful place—we have been the one ones there at 8.30am.

At 2800 toes, it’s cooler than Furnace Creek, however it nonetheless felt sizzling as there’s no shade. We hiked counterclockwise to do the elevation first—the primary hill was surprisingly exhausting going as you’re on unfastened gravel and sand.

This means you go the smaller Little Hebe Crater.

Little Hebe Crater, Death Valley
Little Hebe Crater

You may hike down into the crater however anticipate a difficult climb out in ankle-deep particles.

From Ubehebe you possibly can delve deeper into the park to the Racetrack Playa, however it requires a 4WD. Scotty’s Castle can be on this space, however it’s closed for repairs after a flood till at the very least 2023.

8) Make a Quick Stop at Devil’s Golf Course

Devil's Golf Course, Death Valley, Southern California
Leave your golf equipment within the automotive and simply admire the view!

Access: Gravel highway off Badwater Rd often accessible to sedans
Facilities: None
Time wanted: 5 minutes+
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 10 miles (15km)/ quarter-hour

Not removed from Badwater Basin is a fast cease known as Devil’s Golf Course the place rock salt has been eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires.

It’s a cool (and often quiet) place to see in Death Valley, however you possibly can’t stroll on the harmful sharp rocks. Apparently, solely the satan might play golf right here!

9) Hike Through Desolation Canyon

Arrive early for a quiet cool hike at Desolation Canyon

Access: Unmarked gravel highway off Badwater Rd often accessible to sedans
Facilities: None
Time wanted: 1.5 to 2 hours for full hike.
Hiking stats: 3.6 miles (5.8km) / 770 ft (235m) elevation acquire
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 5.5 miles (9km)/ 10 minutes

If you might be in search of a quieter climbing path than Golden Canyon, head to Desolation Canyon.

The hike begins uphill by means of the canyon and ends with a view of Artists Palette.

We didn’t make it that far as the warmth was a bit a lot and we circled after 25 minutes/ 1 mile once we reached an 8ft rocky wall that you just needed to scramble up.

See the Desolation Canyon hike on Alltrails.

The entry highway is unmarked so that you’ll want Google Maps to search out it.

10) Drive the Adventurous Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley, Southern California
What’s a highway journey and not using a nervewracking detour?

Access: One-way filth highway often accessible to sedans
Facilities: None
Time wanted: 10-Half-hour
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 6 miles (9.5km)/ 10 minutes

We drove the one-way Twenty Mule Team Canyon on the best way from Zabriskie Point to Dante’s View. It was solely a 10-minute detour (we didn’t make any stops) and price it in case you are seeking to get off the overwhelmed monitor in Death Valley.

It’s not for nervous drivers, although, because the filth highway by means of the badlands could be very slender, winding, and ends with a steep rollercoasteresque drop.

11) Head Back in Time at Harmony Borax Works

Harmony Borax Works history trail, Death Valley
Remains of the Harmony Borax Works

Access: Paved highway
Facilities: None
Time wanted: 15-20 minutes
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 2 miles (3km)/ 5 minutes

The 0.4-mile historical past path at Harmony Borax Works close to Furnace Creek is a simple stroll and a pleasant change from different components of the park.

Signs offer you data on the 1884 borax plant as you stroll previous the previous processing buildings. The wagon on show was pulled by giant mule groups (often known as the 20-Mule Team) to move the completed product to market.

Like the Rhyolite gold mine, the plant solely lasted just a few years.

Harmony Borax Works is without doubt one of the greatest locations to see the celebrities in Death Valley. We have been staying too far out to do that, however it’s a simple journey from the Furnace Creek resorts (some friends even biked right here).

12) Spot Pupfish on the Salt Creek Trail

Boardwalk loop, Salt Creek Trail, Death Valley
An simple boardwalk loop alongside the Salt Creek Trail

Access: Gravel highway often accessible to sedans.
Facilities: Toilet in automotive park
Time wanted: 20 minutes
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 14.5 miles (23.5km)/ 20 minutes

I didn’t anticipate a lot from the Salt Creek Trail, however I loved the simple stroll on the 0.5-mile boardwalk loop.

It feels very totally different from the remainder of the park—a little bit oasis with a reasonably stream surrounded by vegetation. The uncommon tiny pupfish lives within the salty water right here.

Salt Creek is simple so as to add to your Death Valley itinerary because it’s not removed from Furnace Creek.

13) Cool Off at The Ranch Lodge

Swimming pool at The Ranch Lodge, Death Valley, Southern California
The excellent reward after a hike

Access: Paved highway
Facilities: Toilets, shops, eating places, pool
Time wanted: quarter-hour – half a day
Distance from Furnace Creek Visitor Centre: 0.5 miles (1km)/ 2 minutes

The Ranch Lodge in Furnace Creek has just a few services open to non-guests that we actually appreciated after a sizzling morning climbing.

There’s an old school ice cream parlour the place you possibly can sit on the counter or on the skin terrace to take pleasure in a sundae, cone, or milkshake. It’s not the very best ice cream, however you gained’t care within the warmth.

There’s additionally a normal retailer, outside retailer, restaurant, golf course, and horse driving.

Best of all, the resort permits non-guests to entry the pool for $14. This was so refreshing after a morning of climbing and the right option to spend the warmth of the day.

The giant spring-fed pool is of course heat yr spherical so it’s snug to swim even in winter.

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Things to Do Near Death Valley

It’s price leaving the park and heading throughout the border to Nevada for some fascinating points of interest.

14) Visit Rhyolite Ghost Town

Building, Rhyolite Ghost Town, Southern California
Building stays at Rhyolite ghost city

Rhyolite ghost city is without doubt one of the most uncommon issues to do in Death Valley (even whether it is outdoors the park).

This distant gold mining city thrived in its temporary increase years—there was a prepare station, normal retailer, financial institution, college, miner’s union and extra—however it didn’t take lengthy till the gold ran out.

You can now wander previous the ruins of its glory years—a lot of the buildings have been in-built 1906 and 1907 and the mine shut down only a few years later.

Surrounded by dramatic desert mountains it’s a bleak however intriguing place.

Tom Kelly Bottle House, near Death Valley
Tom Kelly Bottle House

One of probably the most fascinating sights is Tom Kelly Bottle House—the home was made with 1000’s of glass bottles as wooden was exhausting to come back by.

If you might be staying in Beatty, it is best to undoubtedly cease at Rhyolite. It’s free entry and open 24 hours.

15) See Burros in Beatty

Wild burro in front of train mural, Beatty, Southern California
Wild burro in entrance of a picture-perfect mural in Beatty

Beatty is a small desert city in Nevada and probably the most inexpensive bases for exploring Death Valley. It has a distant, Wild West vibe with a wood saloon on Main St (sadly closed).

Best of all, you possibly can typically see wild burros roaming the streets. These donkeys have been used within the gold mining days and let free when the business went bust.

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Death Valley Itinerary for Two Days

If you solely have two days in Death Valley, that is the itinerary I like to recommend.

Day 1

  • Zabriskie Point for dawn
  • Hike Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch
  • Lunch/Rest (perhaps benefit from the pool at The Ranch)
  • Harmony Borax Works
  • Twenty Mule Team Canyon
  • Dante’s View for sundown

Day 2

  • Mesquite Flat sand dunes for dawn
  • Ubehebe Crater
  • Salt Creek Trail
  • Lunch/Rest
  • Artists Palette (1-2 hours earlier than sundown)
  • Devil’s Golf Course
  • Badwater Basin for sundown

If you could have any additional time, add Desolation Canyon or Rhyolite and Beatty.

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Accommodation in Death Valley

The greatest locations to remain in Death Valley are within the coronary heart of the park at Furnace Creek. Here you might be near common points of interest like Zabriskie Point (simply 10 minutes away), which makes it a lot simpler to be there for dawn and sundown.

There are two resorts right here—The Ranch at Death Valley is extra inexpensive and family-friendly and The Inn at Death Valley could be very costly. Both of them e book up far prematurely although, so we couldn’t get a reservation (reserving three weeks out in winter).

Camping is a finances possibility in Furnace Creek and varied areas inside the park.

Stovepipe Wells is one other place to remain inside the park. Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel isn’t as handy for Zabriskie Point (35 minutes away), however it’s nearer to the Mesquite Flat sand dunes and is extra inexpensive than Furnace Creek.

As we couldn’t get a resort within the park, we rented an Airbnb within the nearest city outdoors the park—Beatty, which is definitely in Nevada.

We cherished the quirky, fashionable home, however the location did really feel additional away than we’d like, and we had a variety of 5.30am begins to see the dawn within the park.

Airbnb, Beatty, near Death Valley
Our Airbnb in Beatty

Although Beatty is a simple 40-minute drive from Furnace Creek, you could have to remember how unfold out the sights are, so we often needed to drive for about an hour.

But if lodging within the park is unavailable or too costly, Beatty is an effective possibility. There are just a few finances motels right here together with Death Valley Inn and Exchange Club Motel.

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Tips for Visiting Death Valley National Park

  • There are not any entrance gates. Pay the $30 price (per automobile) if you arrive on the customer centre or some common spots have ticket machines subsequent to the parking.
  • An America the Beautiful annual nationwide parks go will also be used (show it in your automotive). This is superb worth for those who’ll go to three or extra nationwide parks or monuments in a yr.
  • The greatest time to go to is early spring or winter. It’s excessively sizzling in summer time and shall be harmful to hike.
  • Even in winter, it was hotter than we anticipated—coming from Beatty earlier than dawn the temperature rose from 35ºF to 60ºF as we descended into the park. In the afternoons it reached 90ºF. Be ready with a hat, sun shades, and sunscreen.
  • In winter put on layers for the cool mornings and sizzling afternoons.
  • Bring a cooler with a number of water and meals. There are not any outlets or eating places outdoors Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells.
  • A 4WD automobile is a good suggestion and can can help you discover additional into the park, however it’s not obligatory for the Death Valley prime sights on this checklist. We rented an SUV (with out 4WD) and appreciated the upper clearance, however we noticed sedans on all of the roads we drove. We use Rental Cars to seek for the very best offers.
  • There’s no cell sign in a lot of the park so save Google Maps offline for instructions.
  • The Alltrails app is beneficial for those who plan to hike. We purchased the Pro plan so we might save route maps offline.
  • Fill up with fuel outdoors the park (Beatty is an effective spot) because it’s very costly at Furnace Creek. Stovepipe Wells is barely cheaper however nonetheless properly over common costs.
  • Don’t enter canyons if there’s any signal of rain.
  • Leave no hint—don’t litter or take any rocks or crops with you.

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Map of Death Valley Attractions

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Is Death Valley Worth Visiting?

Yes, Death Valley is totally price visiting! It’s an enormous and numerous nationwide park with a lot to discover.

Just be sure you go to outdoors the summer time to expertise the inhospitable landscapes extra safely and enjoyably. At any time of yr it’s all the time price getting up early for the very best views and most snug temperatures.

I hope this publish has given you some concepts of what to see in Death Valley. Let us know your favorite locations!

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