Discovering our World

Travel, beauty, fashion, style and lifestyle blog by Ashley Liddle

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is one of the most incredible and evocative American national parks and is one of the natural wonders found in the United States, with its arid and desert landscape that is so surreal that it appears out of this world, with its ancient lakes, now evaporated, which often reflect iridescent rainbows, with its sea of mountains, patterns, shapes and remarkable rock layers.

Death Valley is vast; it is the largest national park in the United States.

Preparations: 4 important things to remember

Death Valley is considered the hottest place in the United States; the highest recorded temperature, measured on July 10, 1913, is 133 degrees Fahrenheit. We went the beginning of April, and, as you can see be,low, my car showed 92F.

Therefore, to be ready for the climate of Death Valley, I highly recommended the following precautions:

  • Does the air conditioning work well?
  • Bring a good supply of water.
  • It’s better fill the tank beforehand. There are only 2 gas stations in Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells.
  • Check the fluids in the car. Excessive heat can mess up your car.

A good season to visit Death Valley is spring, when temperatures are not so high and the wildflowers are in full bloom. The ideal time of year to go on trails that take even 30 minutes to walk is from November to March.

If you want to spend the night inside the park you will have to book well in advance, but you can also find a place to stay (more easily) in the small towns outside the park, which was what we did.

How to get there?

Death Valley is located in California, on the border with Nevada, and Hwy 190 cuts right through the middle of it. The park, as mentioned above, is very large, so when speaking of distances we will use as a reference point the Visitor Center, which is the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, centrally located within Death Valley. This is the main information area of the whole park, located in a small oasis in the desert, with accommodations, a food court, exhibits and a gas station.

From the East (Las Vegas to Death Valley)

The distance from Las Vegas is about 140 miles, which will take just over 2 hours to travel. There are two ways to reach Death Valley from Las Vegas:

  • The shortest road (124 miles): From Las Vegas you must deviate from the main artery (the I-15) to the NV-160 W, a road not far from Red Rock Canyon State Park. At Pahrump turn left towards Bell Vista Ave (follow the brown signs), that leads to Death Valley Junction. From this junction follow the Hwy 190 for 31 miles to Furnace Creek.
  • The fastest road (143 miles): from Las Vegas you go north along the US-95 N to Amargosa Valley. In Amargosa take the NV-373 S to Death Valley Junction, and from there follow the same directions provided above.

From the West (Yosemite to Death Valley)

  • Travel the long stretch on US-395 to Lone Pine. CA-136 E begins here, which soon flows into Hwy 190 and arrives at the park past Panamint Springs and the Stovepipe Wells.

From the North

  • Coming from the north you will access the park from Beatty in Nevada, a northern gateway often designed as an overnight stop for those visiting the park. Follow NV-374 S until the junction with Highway 190. You may decide to take a short detour to the Rhyolite ghost town before continuing on to the actual Death Valley.

From the South (Los Angeles to Death Valley)

The distance from Los Angeles is 267 miles, which can be covered in 4.5 hours.

  • As soon as you leave San Fernando (north of Los Angeles) and get on the I-5 N, take the CA-14 N and follow it all the way (it will become Panamint Road) until the junction with Hwy 190 at Panamint Springs. From there, turn right towards the Visitor Center.

Where do you pay the entrance fee or purchase an America the Beautiful Pass?

Here is where you can pay for either the entrance fee or the America the Beautiful Pass in Death Valley National Park:

  • Furnace Creek Visitor Center
  • Scotty’s Castle Visitor Center (closed until further notice)
  • Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station (the most convenient for those coming from the west)
  • Lone Pine Interagency Visitor Center (as soon as you leave the Eastern Sierra and enter Inyo County)
  • Furnace Creek Campground Kiosk

If you won’t find the rangers in one of these spots there are the vending machines here:

  • Furnace Creek Visitor Center
  • Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station
  • Grapevine Ranger Station
  • Ryan Kiosk
  • Zabriskie Point
  • Badwater
  • Hell’s Gate (Daylight Pass Road)
  • Furnace Creek Campground (April 16 to October 14)
  • Sunset Campground (when open)
  • Texas Springs Campground (when open)
  • Stovepipe Wells Campground (when open)
  • Mesquite Springs Campground

Things to do in Death Valley: 7 beautiful places you must see

First stop by the visitor center to get the map, information and anything else you may need. Driving thru Death Valley, even without a set destination, is already a remarkable experience. However, there are viewpoints and natural wonders you don’t want to miss.

Below we would like to propose those that impressed us the most and that can be visited all in a day.

1. Father Crowley Vista Point

Located near the western park boundary, this vista point offers a stunning view into Rainbow Canyon, a colorfully striped canyon created by ancient volcanic activity. A short ¼ mile (400 m) walk or drive on an unpaved road leads from the vista parking area to Padre Point, overlooking Panamint Valley. 

2.Golden Canyon / Badlands Loop

Golden Canyon Trail has the advantage of taking you right into the badlands of Zabriskie Point, the white and golden ravines that can be seen from the overlook mentioned below. The trailhead is 2 miles from the start of the Badwater Road, and is well marked on the side of the road. There are several sections of the trail, such as the Badlands Loop (2.7 miles in all, but you can turn back after half a mile), which starts at the opposite end of the trail, the Zabriskie Point parking lot. This loop allows you to get right into the heart of the white hills without having to walk the entire canyon (7.8 miles) from Badwater Road.

3. Artist’s Drive / Artist’s Palette

There are some mountains in Death Valley that are so distinctive that it seems that nature itself has begun to paint them, infusing its most extravagant colors on the various rock layers. The result is Artist’s Palette, a very unusual phenomenon. This area was also used by George Lucas as the location for some scenes from the Star Wars saga.

To get there, drive along Artist’s Drive, a scenic road that branches off from Badwater Road. The duration of the loop is about 25 minutes, and in the middle of the road there is an observation point of the “rock painting”. You can also get closer by going on the path that starts at the parking lot of the observation point, but we recommend you do this only when the weather is mild.

4. Devil’s Golf Course

An immense, haunting expanse of petrified salt that gives the impression of being on another planet, especially at sunset. The salt crystals that make up the lumpy terrain of Devil’s Golf Course have peculiar shapes. You can reach it by taking a turn off of Badwater Road, via a short stretch of dirt road in good condition. If you don’t have a 4×4, proceed with caution.

5. Badwater Salt Flats

A depression 282 ft below sea level. As soon as you park your car look high up in the mountains, there is a sign indicating sea level.

The landscape is of surreal and otherworldly beauty. The Badwater Salt Flats, which resembles a lunar landscape, is a place where you will experience a unique atmosphere and a mysterious silence. The parking lot is very close to the observation point, but if you can stand the heat and don’t want to miss the chance to take an incredible photo, you can also go and explore the terrain. This depression is the large bed of the prehistoric lake called Manly Lake, now completely drained. This is the lowest point not only in Death Valley, but in all of North America.

6. Zabriskie Point

This place was the inspiration for the director Antonioni’s famous film of the same title. Park your car in the parking lot at the base of the hill, and take a short walk for a few minutes to admire the beautiful striped mountains of Zabriskie Point.

7. Dante’s View

This is another very impressive viewpoint, especially in the morning, when the Panamint Mountains, illuminated by the rising sun, are emblazoned in pink and gold. Dante’s View is located at 4,900 feet above Death Valley and gives you a quick and fascinating glimpse of Badwater’s saline depression framed by the peaks.