Park Visit: Death Valley

A must-see, Death Valley is the largest national park in the contiguous United States…

Otherworldly and barren, Death Valley National Park is a surprising land of constant discovery. This surreal and natural adult amusement park of sorts, sits on 3.4 million acres, making Death Valley the largest national park in the contiguous United States. The vast and arid land that spans across California and Nevada offers picturesque sand dunes, lively wildlife, lush desert oasises and mountains so gigantic that perspective is easily confused. Death Valley is a must-see for any avid traveler or National Park fan. Check out my guide below:

Where to Stay:

Panamint Springs Resort –– Located on the western end of the park, this homey western-style resort offers weary Death Valley visitors a peaceful and rustic resting place. The small town includes a restaurant and bar, gas station, market, and a family-owned and -operated inn. The resort offers hook-ups for RVs, sites for camping, and charming, clean cabins equipped with a bathroom and shower.

Furnace Creek Resort –– The most popular resort in Death Valley is Furnace Creek. Outfitted with two hotels, four restaurants, a saloon, cocktail lounge, spring-fed swimming pools, tennis courts, a market, and wifi (!!!), Furnace Creek serves as a literal and figurative oasis for tourists. The resort is situated in a lush oasis where palm trees provide needed shade from the unapologetic heat of the Death Valley sun.

Where to Eat:

Forty-Niner Cafe –-: at the Ranch in Furnace Creek offers hearty meals, cold beverages, and a relaxed and casual atmosphere. This family diner serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, specializing in sandwiches, burgers and salads, as well as vegetarian options.

What to See:

EVERYTHING! But because the park is extremely large and scheduling varies per trip, I have put together a list dependent on how many days you have dedicated to exploring.

One full day: 

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes — Seemingly endless, this ever-changing must-see is the largest sand dune in the park. According to the NPS, this spot includes three types of dunes: crescent, linear, and star-shaped.

Badwater Basin — Here, you are standing at the lowest point in North America (-282 feet below sea level). The dried salt lake bed is expansive and bright — a wonderful spot for a photo opp.

Zabriskie Point — The most popular vista in the park, Zabriskie offers intense and photogenic views of the vast park. Arrive early for sunrise to beat the crowds, but also to experience the radiating colors bouncing off of the hills and mountain formations.

Artist’s Drive — This nine-mile drive loops through the captivating volcanic hills doused in colors of green, purple, blue and orange.

Two Days:

The previous four points of interest plus…

Dante’s View — If Zabriskie Point is the most popular, then Dante’s View may be the most underrated. Sitting at almost 5,500 feet, the view presents a grand POV overlooking Badwater Basin and the Panamint Mountains. Fun fact: this is the only place in the park outside of Furnace Creek where I had cell service.

Ubehebe Crater — Created by a forceful volcanic steam explosion, Ubehebe (U-bee-hee-bee) is a half-mile across and 600 feet deep. Though it is a bit of a drive (about an hour from Furnace Creek), I highly recommend this special place.

Devil’s Golf Course — Rock salt that has been eroded by harsh winds and rain makes up this jagged field of spires. Tiny pops can be heard coming from the salt as the mini crystals expand in the heat.

Mosaic Canyon — This easy-to-moderate hike takes you through massive canyons where water once flowed, and the resulting rounded rock formations are smooth to the touch. Near the beginning of the hike small broken off rocks are cemented in canyon walls, resembling a mosaic masterpiece.

 

+ Have a favorite Death Valley adventure to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. My family went on a national park trip a few summers back, and we all agreed after that this park was definitely the one we should have skipped. Just a heads up.

  2. Hi Mia! The NPS says this about bringing your pets: “Yes you can, but we don’t recommend it. It may sound like a good idea to take your pet to a national park but there is little you can do with them while you are here. Pets must always by on a leash or confined. They may not be left unattended in the campgrounds. They must remain on roads or in developed areas, so no hiking with them on trails or cross country. The good news is you can walk them (on leash, of course) on backcountry roads. Interesting ones to try are Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road and Titus Canyon Road into the narrows.” xx, Joanna

  3. Stay at Cynthia’s / China Ranch -you can stay in a tipi on a date farm! There is some awesome hiking right on the property with slot canyons. There is a tiny brewery in Tecopa as well, some basic resturaunts, and some hot springs.
    https://discovercynthias.com/china-ranch-lodging/
    Darwin Falls is another spot to see on Death Valley- yes a waterfall in the desert!

  4. Where to Actually Eat: Timbisha Indian Tacos
    The Timbisha tribe are the original inhabitants of Death Valley and serve delicious frybread tacos and shaved ice. This isn’t a traditional restaurant, because it’s located in the Timbisha Shoshone Tribal Council office. Furnace Creek is essentially low grade bar food. Timbishi Indian Tacos are filling, affordable and are a vegetarian option.

  5. To anyone who might be discouraged by those who’ve said they didn’t like Death Valley as much as other parks:
    Don’t think of this park like you would the other green, lush oases (Yosemite). Think of it as a little taste of Mars. The beauty of this park lies in it’s barren and otherworldly nature. If you hate deserts, you probably won’t like it, but keep an open mind! You never know what might surprise your senses!

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