Ultimate Guide To Death Valley National Park
Tucked away in the Mojave Desert of California is America’s lowest, hottest, and driest national park. But don’t let that fool you, Death Valley is one of the most unique and beautiful places in all of America. This park blew us away as each area felt like a completely different world from the last. Making it in our opinion, one of most underrated parks in all of the US, and one you need to have on your bucket list.
Death Valley takes the crown as the largest National Park in the lower 48 states. This means numerous areas to explore and things to consider when planning your trip. We wouldn’t recommend this park as the kind you show and wing it without a plan. The reason being is that phone service is very limited within Death Valley and WiFi isn’t easy to come by. It’s best to have a general idea of where you are going and where you plan to stay BEFORE you arrive at the park. Luckily, you’ve made your way here and we’ll help guide you through all of that below!
Hikes We Recommend
Distance (.6 miles)
Estimated Hiking time (10 minutes to the lookout)
Zabriskie Point is one of the most famous views in the park, there’s a reason photographers from around the world have this spot on their list to shoot the sunrise on the beautiful badlands, mountains, and salt flats in the distance. You can also walk down the lookout here and take one of the many trails to explore further.
Artists Palette/Artist Drive
Distance (.5 miles to lookout but we recommend hiking further in and exploring some)
Estimated Hiking time (30 minutes – 1 hour)
When we first seen pictures of the mountain canyons with colors of blue, pink, and purple we thought for sure this was photoshopped. We were happily proved wrong. Take the scenic Artist Palette drive down a 9-mile one way road to end up at Artist Palette lookout, where we recommend getting out and exploring the colorful area below.
Mesquite Sand Dunes
Distance (3 miles)
Estimated Hiking time (1.5-2 hours)
The most accessible Sand Dunes in the park, located right by Stovepipe Wells village. You could spend hours exploring here in awe of the glow of the sun on the sand. Making this a must do hike in Death Valley.
Distance (1-5 miles depending how far you want to walk out)
Estimated Hiking time (30 minutes-1 hour)
Sitting at the lowest point in North America (-280ft below sea level) Badwater Basin leaves you with miles of salt flats to view in awe. Be sure to stay on the boardwalk at the beginning of the trail as stepping off will damage the delicate area. Once on the crystals try and step on the flat areas as to not damage the boarders.
Devils Golf Course
Distance (1-2 miles)
Estimated Hiking time (1 hour)
This easy hike is worth the stop as it will be sure to leave you amazed. Surrounding you is giant salt crystals that have formed over time to be over knee height. You can view them from the parking lot of get out and explore closer. If you’re quiet enough you can even hear the crystals popping from expanding from the heat.
Distance (2 miles)
Estimated Hiking time (45 minutes)
This easy hike leads you to an amazing natural bridge formation that towers above, giving you a brief history on the geological formations of Death Valley formed over the years.
Other Great Hikes
Eureka Dunes (access from Big Pine, just south of Bishop)
Best Time To Visit Death Valley
The best time to visit Death Valley National Park is from October through April when temperatures are comfortable. Other than these months, Death Valley can be extremely hot, and the summer months make this place the hottest in America.
The most convenient airport, if you’re going to the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley is Bishop Airport (BIH) (192 miles, 3.5 hours away).
The closest major airport to Death Valley is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas (130 miles, 2 hours away).
The second closest major airport is Los Angeles International Airport (270 miles, 4 hours away).
Where To Stay When Visiting
The Ranch at Death Valley
This is an affordable lodging option in the Furnace Creek area. It includes a restaurant, general store, café, pool, golf course, basketball court, tennis court, and a kids playground.
The Inn at Death Valley
This is a luxurious lodging option that is centrally located in the Furnace Creek area, and has it’s own restaurant, pool, exercise room, tennis court, spa, and sauna.
Located 30 minutes west of Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells Village is another good lodging option and is right by the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. It has all the necessities as well as a restaurant, saloon, pool, general store, and campground.
Panamint Springs Resort
Panamint Springs is 1 hour drive west of Furnace Creek, and a good area to stay m for adventures on the western side of the park. It has multiple room/cabin options, a campground, a restaurant, bar, and general store.
Death Valley also has a bunch of campgrounds within the park. Most being seasonal (October 15 – May 15) due to the brutal summer heat, so always double check before going. The most popular are Furnace Creek Campground Furnace Creek Campground (the only one that takes reservations), Sunset Campground (also at Furnace Creek) Stovepipe Wells Campground, and Texas Springs Campground (just outside Furnace Creek).
Staying outside the park
This is an option we wouldn’t recommend with how large Death Valley is, and with the number of options inside the park. If all lodging inside is booked, the best nearby city would be Amaris’s Opera House (located 30 minutes from Furnace Creek Visitor Center)
Things To Know Before Your Trip
To enter Death Valley National Park, you will either need to purchase a $35, 7-day vehicle pass, or $55 annual pass. If you plan on visiting at least 3 National Parks/National Designated area within 1 year, you can purchase an annual America the Beautiful Pass at the entrance station for $80 which will cover 12 months of entrance fees into any National Park in the US.
Leave No Trace when visiting. If you’re not familiar with the principles of leave no trace, please make that a priority to learn. We are all responsible for leaving these beautiful areas exactly how we found them and helping preserve the land for future generations ahead of us.
Nearby Places To Explore If You Have Extra Time