Death Valley National Park – Ultimate Trip Guide
Have you ever wanted to visit Death Valley National Park? If you think it’s only a dry barren valley, think again! This park is so incredibly varied and fascinating. We hope this post convinces you that you should also take a trip here. Watch the video of our two-day visit to Death Valley National Park and all the things that blew us away about this amazing place. Then keep reading to learn about how you can plan to visit, things to do, where to stay, and where to eat!
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In this guide we share all the things you need to know to plan your own trip to Death Valley National Park!
About Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is located mostly in eastern California with a portion in Nevada. It is the lowest point in North America at -282 feet (-85.95 meters). It is the largest national park in the lower 48. Death Valley is also the hottest place on earth with a record temperature of 134 degrees F (57°C)! Not only that but it’s the driest place in North America as well. That’s pretty impressive!
When To Visit Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is popular to visit in the spring. We were there near the end of March and it was already 74 degrees the morning we arrived and got into the mid 80’s. By May it can be quite hot and summer can be excruciating due to the extreme heats Death Valley can reach and may keep you confined to seeing it from your car. Late fall and winter are again more pleasant times to visit the park.
Take care of yourself when visiting the park by bringing lots of water and starting early when you can so you’re off the trails early as well. Don’t attempt hikes when it’s hot.
How To Get To Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is often accessed coming from Las Vegas via Pahrump, NV, or from Beatty, NV. These and multiple other routes can be found on the park directions site.
Plan your trip carefully ahead of time as you’ll find you won’t have connectivity in the park. The only location our phones worked were at the top of Dantes View!
Cost To Visit Death Valley National Park
There is a cost to enter the national park and you can check the park website fee page for current rates for a 7 day period, or you could purchase an annual pass. Various passes will get you in for no additional cost if you do have them such as the American The Beautiful Pass.
It’s also worth mentioning that the cost of fuel at the gas station here will be quiet a bit more than you’ll find outside the park most likely. Fuel up ahead of time if you can and plan your fuel stops accordingly.
Things To Do In Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is full of many varied things to see and do. We recommend you take at least a couple days if not more to see the park. Here are several sights, overlooks, and hikes we would recommend!
Stop by the Visitor Center
The Furnace Creek Visitor Center is a great place to stop to grab a map and talk with rangers about any hikes you want to do and questions you may have. There is a park video and there are exhibits you can check out. If you have kids, pick up Junior Ranger packets for them to do while at the park and learn more about Death Valley.
Even if you don’t head inside, out front is where you’ll find the famous thermometer that tells you what the temperature is. And next to that, you can check out a sign that shows the entire spread of elevation differences you will see throughout the park from Telescope Peak all the way down to Badwater Basin.
Walk Onto the Salt Flats At Badwater Basin
Head to Badwater Basin to reach the lowest point in North America. Here you’ll be at 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level. You can even look up at the cliff face across the road and see the sea level marker above you! But don’t just see this area from the parking lot. You absolutely must take the short walk out onto the salt flats. About a mile out and back will get you a much better view and let you experience the salt flats up close.
The salt flats are almost 200 square miles (518 square km) large. The geometric shapes formed out on the salt flats are really interesting, and we recommend you get a close up view of the salt formations. They are made of sodium chloride (table salt), calcite, gypsum, and borax. Wear sunglasses if you have them as the light reflecting off of the white pathway is pretty intense, and bring plenty of water!
Listen For The Popping Rock Sounds At Devils Golf Course
Devils Golf Course is naturally not a real golf course, but instead a large area of jagged serrated rock formations. They are really neat looking and you can walk out among them, but they are also very sharp so be careful and definitely don’t fall! They reminded us of sharp glass in a way.
What we thought would be a quick peak out of the car ended up with us just walking around and exploring for quite a bit longer than we expected. When the weather is fairly warm, you can hear the pops of the rocks as the crystals inside expand and contract. We found the sound fascinating so make sure you listen closely for it!
Stroll Among Stunning Colors at Artists Palette
Artists Drive is a one way road that detours off of the main road. It is definitely worth the detour because it takes you through some stunning scenery and most notably to Artists Palette. Here you can walk among a rainbow of colors across the hillsides. We found the purple and blues to be most striking. Time of day, amount of sunlight or cloud coverage can all cause the intensity of the colors to vary. We were glad we hadn’t seen all the oversaturated social media pictures that take the colors to a level of absurdity. The natural colors are very impressive, but spare yourself the comparison if you can or you might be in for some disappointment.
See The Badlands At Zabriskie Point
There is a great overlook at Zabriskie Point where you are at 705 feet of elevation looking down into the yellow badlands below. It’s a short walk from the parking lot up to the overlook. From here you can even see the valley far below. This is a great spot for sunrise and sunset especially.
Hike Down Into Golden Canyon
From Zabriskie Point you can also hike down into Golden Canyon. You’ll see people walking down below into the badlands from the overlook. You can complete a full loop back to Zabriskie Point that is 8 miles long, or just go part way. An alternative is to park at the Golden Canyon trailhead and just do this portion of the trail out and back.
Drive Twenty-mule Team Canyon
Twenty-mule Team Canyon is a short one-way unpaved road (2.5 mi/4 km) that winds between and around the badlands and is worth the detour from the main road. Its name commemorates the famous 20 mule teams that hauled wagons of borax from the Harmony Borax Works to the railhead near Mojave, though they don’t appear to have actually used this particular road.
Learn Some History At Harmony Borax Works
Borax was found near Furnace Creek in 1881. Harmony Borax Works was built by William T. Coleman around 1883/1884, and it produced three tons of borax daily. Today you can also walk a short trail at the Harmony Borax Works near Furnace Creek to see a borax mining site, one of the 20-mule team wagons, and learn more!
See The Entire Valley At Dantes View
Dantes View is an amazing place to get a whole overview of the valley. You can see all the places you either plan to visit or have already been. At 5,575 feet (1,699 meters) above Badwater Basin, it’s another great place to see at sunrise or sunset, but is breathtaking anytime. It’s especially neat to look all the way down to the salt flats, and then up across the valley to Telescope Peak and see the huge range of elevation change. Take a short stroll along the ridgeline and enjoy the view!
See A Waterfall Hiking To Darwin Falls
It’s pretty amazing that in Death Valley you can even find a waterfall. Take a 2 mile out and back hike to Darwin Falls and that’s exactly what you’ll find!
Walk On The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
There are no official trails out here but you can walk on the dunes and explore or hike a couple miles out and back to the tallest dune. You can see the mesquite trees that grow out here as well. It’s also one of many great places to see the night sky in this International Dark Sky Park.
See The Volcanic Ubehebe Crater
Ubehebe Crater is the remnants of an explosion pit (maar) volcano. There are other craters in the Ubehebe Crater Field as well but this one is the largest. You can see it from the parking area or take a 1.5 mile hike along the rim.
Where To Stay At Death Valley National Park
There are various options for where you can stay in the area. Since we came with our RV but also needed internet connectivity for work, we didn’t stay inside of the park but rather in a nearby town. We’ll tell you about this and other options below.
The Oasis At Death Valley
The Oasis at Death Valley features multiple property types in which you can stay near Furnace Creek, and to us they all look like great options!
- The Inn is a four diamond resort that says it pampers every guest. It looks very fancy and has an inviting spring fed pool.
- The Ranch is touted as the family-friendly option, with exterior entrance rooms, many amenities also including a pool, and fun town square area.
- Casitas – located at the Inn among the date palms, these offer more privacy and even a personal golf cart to use!
- Cottages – located at the Ranch within walking distance to the Town Square.
- Fiddlers’ Campground – if you’re camping instead, consider this campground next to the Ranch where you’ll also have access to its pools and be near the restaurants.
Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel & Camping
Stovepipe Wells Village is a bit further north compared to lodging at Furnace Creek, and is located by the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. They call themselves “authentically western, rustic yet comfortable” and have a restaurant, pool, and an RV park and camping option as well.
Panamint Springs Resort & Camping
Panamint Springs Resort is on the western edge of Death Valley National Park near Darwin Falls. It is a smaller western style accommodation but also has a store, gas station, restaurant and bar, and campground.
The National Park Service itself runs numerous campgrounds in the park where you can stay:
- Furnace Creek Campground is the only one that takes reservations and also has some full-hookup RV sites.
- Other NPS campgrounds include: Sunset, Texas Springs, Stovepipe Wells, Mesquite Spring, Emigrant, Wildrose, Thorndike, and Mahogany Flat. Some of these have a fee, and some of them are free! Not all of them are open year-round. Some have length restrictions and some require high clearance/4-wheel drive.
In Towns Outside The National Park
There are a few towns that are great options for finding a hotel, Airbnb, or other campgrounds in which to stay and come into the park for day trips.
- Beatty, NV – this is where we stayed on this most recent visit. We found a boondocking spot at Bombo’s Pond where we could stay for free, still get internet connectivity, and not be too far away to make a couple day trips into the park. Beatty is also where you’ll find numerous friendly wild donkeys wandering through and around town.
- Pahrump, NV – we’ve stayed in Pahrump in the past but didn’t make it out to Death Valley on that trip, though it is definitely possible. There are multiple options for lodging here also.
Where To Eat & Drink
There are several options in the park including:
- Stovepipe Wells Toll Road Restaurant & Badwater Saloon
- Panamint Springs Resort Dining & Bar
- The Ranch: The Last Kind Words Saloon, Ice Cream Parlor, & 1849 Restaurant
- The Inn: Dining Room & Pool Café
- 19th Hole at The Furnace Creek Golf Course
We hope this gives you several ideas to add to your list of amazing things to do at Death Valley National Park. Check out some of them and you’re sure to have a great time. Let us know if there’s anything else you would add to your list of things to do at Death Valley National Park!
Ready To Plan Your Trip To Death Valley National Park?
If you’re ready to plan your own trip, download the free Death Valley National Park Trip Planner, with all the things to do, places to stay, and where to eat on one easy to reference page. You can print it out, or save it to your phone for when you’re out and about! It even has a link to this blog post and each item mentioned so you can get all the details on the go!
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If you’d like to read about our RV and other RV adventures, then check out some of our other posts :
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