Death Valley National Park may sound like the most inhospitable place on Earth, but don’t be fooled by the name. This place is not only brimming with diverse forms of life – flora and fauna have evolved to thrive in this harsh environment – but it is also absolutely stunning. Believe it or not, there are so many things you can do under the scorching sun of Death Valley.
If you’re the type that likes offroading, taking great photographs, and trying your luck at witnessing various interesting weather phenomena, then you’ll love what this place has to offer.
And the best part is that everything can be experienced in a day. As a matter of fact, it’s the best way to do so! But let us not get ahead of ourselves. In this article, we’ll go through every relevant thing concerning your one day in Death Valley.
What’s the best time to visit Death Valley?
Death Valley is the hottest place on Earth. It has a desert climate and the temperatures can literally be life-threatening if you visit in the summer months of May through September. The park is open all year round, but you certainly don’t want to visit it during the hottest days, which occur between June and August. The best months to visit the park are November through March. In fact, December is the best month to visit Death Valley National Park, as the temperature is significantly cooler. If you do decide to visit during the hot summer months, try to do your activities in the early mornings or evenings when the sun isn’t too high in the sky.
A few facts about Death Valley
Death Valley has been home to many native people as far as 10,000 years ago. Most of these indigenous people, such as the Timbisha Shoshone, were hunter-gatherers and would make camps on the valley floor in the winter. They would then move on up to the surrounding mountains when the temperatures rose too high.
Death Valley became the scene of the Gold Rush, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when many hopeful prospectors came flocking, looking to get rich off of the precious stones to be found in the valley.
The mining communities thrived, but then declined as soon as the mining boom passed, and the mining towns are now all ghost towns.
President Herbert Hoover declared Death Valley a National Monument in 1933, and it was called Death Valley National Monument for 60 years until the name was changed to Death Valley National Park in 1994 and expanded to include the Eureka and Saline valleys.
But how did this place come to be named Death Valley?
It all started when the Bennet-Arcane Party, also known as the ‘49ers, got lost while westbound during the California Gold Rush. After many torturous weeks, they finally found an exit. Legend has it that, as they left, a woman in the party turned around and uttered the words “goodbye, Death Valley”, and the valley got its name.
One day in Death Valley itinerary:
Death Valley holds a lot of records. It is the hottest place on Earth, the driest and lowest park in the contiguous United States, and 91% of the park is considered to be wilderness. There are numerous attractions that you can easily cover in a day, and here are the most interesting.
Visit Mesquite Flat sand dunes
Mesquite Flat sand dunes are the best-known sand dunes around here, and they are also pretty easy to reach. They can be accessed off Highway 190, just a few kilometers from the village of Stovepipe Wells. The dunes can reach more than 100 feet in height, and the view from up there is just amazing. Enjoy!
Check out Dante’s View
Another incredible chance to enjoy the scenery, Dante’s View lies atop the Black Mountains. From there, you will feel like you have the whole Death Valley in the palm of your hand because you will be surveying it from approximately 5500 feet above sea level. A lovely place for a hike or even a picnic with an absolutely stunning view.
See Badwater Basin
On the other hand, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in all of North America. It can look very different, depending on the time of year when you make your visit, and there’s a sign on the surrounding hills showing you where the sea level actually is.
This is indeed a fascinating place, but be careful – a thin layer of salt is often the only thing separating you from the mud below.
Climb the Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point is a viewpoint that offers panoramic views of the Amargosa Range, a landscape rendered beautiful by the effects of large scale erosion. The area has deep grooves caused by the rain and wind slowly eroding the sediment settled from an ancient lake called Furnace Creek. The grooves are absolutely stunning, and the hills are colored brown and yellow from different forms of sediment that settled there ages ago.
Relax on Natural Bridge
Natural Bridge is an excellent place to hide away from the scorching heat of the valley. It’s a hike that starts rocky but transitions into a trail through a canyon that provides plenty of shade. After about half a mile, the trail abruptly stops at a long dried-out waterfall. This whole journey is just one mile long, so it should be doable for most people.
Take a trip to Devil’s Golf Course
This salt pan has such a rough texture that it was coined ‘Devil’s Golf Course’. After all, who else could play golf there?
The Devil’s Golf Course was once a lake bed. When it dried up, it left salt formations which, over time, got worn away by the weather, creating the rough texture we see today.
Where to stay in Death Valley, California
Longstreet Inn & Casino
4400 South Highway 373, Amargosa Valley, NV 89020
Located about 60 km east of the national park, Longstreet Inn & Casino is a great little place where you can unwind after a long day of sightseeing. The casino is a great place for that, but you can also enjoy a stroll around the duck ponds which even come with a waterfall, plus there’s an outdoor pool and a hot tub available.
Death Valley Inn and RV Park
651 Highway 95 South, Beatty, NV 89003
Coming here with your RV? Then Death Valley Inn and RV Park is a great place to stay. Less than 10 miles (13 km) from the entrance to the park, this place allows you to enjoy some great barbecue and relax in a hot tub or an outdoor pool. All rooms come with a microwave and a coffee machine, plus a private bathroom, of course.
El Portal Motel
420 West Main Street, Beatty, NV 89003
For a comfortable yet affordable stay, choose El Portal Motel. It has a seasonal outdoor pool and rooms with plenty of amenities, from a desk to a fridge and a microwave. Nice, clean, and with friendly staff, this motel will get you your money’s worth and then some!
The Inn at Death Valley
HIGHWAY 190, DEATH VALLEY, Death Valley, CA 92328
If you truly want to pamper yourself, The Inn at Death Valley is just what you need. This five-star establishment is actually inside the national park, with a lovely bar, an outdoor pool, and loads of beautiful greenery all around you. The rooms are perfectly equipped, with private bathrooms and everything elso you need, plus there’s a wellness center here, as well. Amazing!
Extra tips for visiting Death Valley, California
– Make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen, as well as have sand protection while in the valley. The weather here is brutal and can do quite a number on your skin if you’re not careful. Additionally, bring plenty of water with you.
– When enjoying the views, especially from Zabriskie Point, consider going early in the morning or in the late evening. That way, you can take your time as the sun won’t be so hot.
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