Death Valley National Park gives new meaning to the word extreme. From 282 feet below sea level—the nation’s lowest point the park tops out nearby at an astonishing 11,049 feet. The highest temperatures in the United States are regularly recorded here, as are winter snows and near-zero nighttime temperatures. Hemmed in by nine mountain ranges, Death Valley is cut off from rejuvenating rainfall and cooling Pacific winds, making it one of the driest and hottest places in the world. It sprawls across 3.4 million acres, making Death Valley the largest national park in the contiguous United States. Death Valley has long been prized for its unique wildlife and desert beauty.
The Valley, Furnace Creek to Badwater
Here you’ll encounter fantastic salt formations, colorful views and the lowest place in the western hemisphere. The best stops include:
- A few miles south of the Furnace Creek junction, take a short side trip towards Dry Lake into the foreign landscape of the valley’s salt pan.
- At the Devil’s Golf Course tread lightly and look carefully for delicate salt structures.
- Badwater is the lowest place in western hemisphere. Across the valley, are the Telescope Peak towers 11,039 feet above, twice the depth of the Grand Canyon.
- Artist’s Drive leads to the colorful view called Artist’s Palette, a landscape smudged with pastel colors. The view is especially colorful in late afternoon.
Over a mile above Badwater, Dante’s View gives an aerial view of the valley and its surroundings. This is one of the quietest places in the state.
A living history tour of the Spanish-style home in the desert examines the unusual relationship between Scotty and Mr. Johnson, which resulted in this magnificent structure.
The most easily-accessible sand dunes are just south of Stovepipe Wells. On the short hike from the roadside, look for tracks of the kangaroo rat and other desert creatures. Scramble to the top of a dune and enjoy the view.
Ubehebe means “windy place,” and it is well-named. Formed in a tongue-twisting event called a cryptovolcanic eruption, a violent explosion of superheated groundwater, the 2000-foot deep crater offers photo opportunities and hiking.
Aguereberry Point, high in the Panamint Mountains, delivers a spectacular panorama of all of Death Valley: Furnace Creek and Devil’s Golf course, framed by the snowcapped peaks of the Sierra Nevadas behind them.
A vehicle is highly recommended although during the more temperate seasons such as the fall and spring. The paved roads within the park are well-maintained and accessible to vehicles of all kind.