The big park of beautiful surprises
Trip Cost ($ – $$$): $$
Time to Hit the Highlights: 3 Days
Must See: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Zabriskie Point, Artist’s Palatte Drive
Time of the Year to Visit: Winter (we visited in late December)
Audience: Everyone (short trails, mostly drivable to the highlights)
About Death Valley
In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Yet, each extreme has a striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley (nps.gov).
For more info check out the Death Valley NP website at http://www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm
- Flew into Las Vegas, drove from Las Vegas to Death Valley NP (~5 Hours)
- Car Required; recommend a high clearance vehicle due to off-roading (Racetrack inaccessible for most vehicles)
We stayed at the Furnace Creek Ranch, which was hokey, hilarious and right in the middle of the park. We spent 3 nights at the Ranch, as it is one of the few accommodations in the area.
Alternative places to stay nearby include the Furnace Creek Resort and RV/camping options throughout the park.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
- Just off the main road in the middle of the park
- Gorgeous views from both the hike up and the top of the dunes
- As difficult as you make it – no need to venture far to be surrounded by the dunes
- Just off the main road as you drive in from Las Vegas
- Quick stroll up a paved walkway to a viewpoint
- Supposed to be best with the sun involved – sunrise and sunset
- Hikes surround the viewing area
Artist’s Drive / Artist’s Palette
- Super fun drive on the way to the Badwater Basin
- Picture opportunities abound
- Pull-off for Artist’s Palette
- Tough to come to Death Valley and not see Badwater Basin
- Very short, easy walk onto salt flats
- Great views, but not for those seeking more adventure
- Best to go early in the morning to avoid the rush
- Fun hike through a long canyon, but you’re on a road so watch out for cars!
- Option to drive through the canyon from Beatty
Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail
- Beautiful trail with many routes to take – it’s up to you which way to go!
- Center trail can be crowded, but finding your own canyon to explore is exciting
- Fun drive, and relatively hard hike for this National Park (some elevation gains and drops)
- Beautiful views of the Badwater Basin
Furnace Creek Ranch
- The Corkscrew Saloon has a few options for decent food and drinks, but it’s expensive
- The 49er Cafe has decent food, but again, is expensive for what you get
- The Wrangler Steakhouse is there as well, but we didn’t give it a try
Outside of Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells, there aren’t many options
- Payment is required at the National Park Ranger Station
- Despite being a desert, it was colder than we expected, so bundle up!
- Stock up on food/provisions before entering the park, as it is expensive once you’re there