Death Valley National Park: Hot, dry and wildly beautiful
In April 2017, we were on a road trip in Western United States. Although we didn’t really know what to expect, our route cut right through Death Valley National Park.
Here’s what we did know:
– Hottest ever recorded temperature on Earth at 134°F (56.6°C)
– Lowest place of North-America at -86m
– Big park with locations 20-40 minutes apart
Although distances in Death Valley are vast, you’re always driving in spectacular scenery. Driving is part of your visit here, rather than a must do between two stops. It also helps to have a 4X4 (mostly to visit 20 Mule Team Canyon and the racetrack).
Below are the timings and route we held during our visit, this will give you an idea on how to plan your visit. We did the 20 Mule Team Canyon twice so you should be able to cut that in half. If you want to do a big hike in Badwater Basin, add another hour. As you can see when you add all timings we spent more than 7 Hours in the park, of which more than 3 we were driving.
Las Vegas => 1.5 Hr => Death Valley Jct. => 45 Min. => Dantes View => 0.5 Hr => 20 Mule Team Canyon => 5 Min. => Zabriskie point => 15 Min. => Devil’s Golf Course => 45 min. => Badwater Basin => 20 Min. => Artist’s Palette => 40 Min. => Devil’s Cornfield
– Dantes View: Spent 0.5 Hr.
– Twenty Mule Team Canyon: Spent 0.5 Hr.
– Zabriskie Point: Spent 15 Min.
– Devil’s Golf Course: Spent 45 Min.
– Badwater Basin: Spent 1 Hr.
– Artist’s Palette: 40 Min. drive, including stops
– Devil’s Cornfield: Spent 1 Hr.
First point of interest was Dantes View. A long winding road brings you up to a viewpoint overlooking the whole Badwater Valley This is a salt flat surrounded by mountains. Because of these mountains very few clouds ever reach the area, which makes it so dry and hot. We spent around 30 minutes watching the scenery below. It’s easy to spend more than an hour if you do the different little hikes but we thought this was more than ok.
Twenty Mule Team Canyon and Zabriskie Point
Luckily we brought a 4×4 as this is in fact a (very beautiful) off-road track surrounded by old mine entrances and sand hills in a moon like landscape. Because the drive was so much fun we did it twice. A little bit further down the road is Zabriskie Point. It’s a colorful overlook on some mineral rich hills. As it was started to get pretty hot, we didn’t lose too much time here and were quickly on our way. We only spent 15 minutes including the walk up and down the hill whereas 30 would’ve been appropriate.
Devil’s Golf Course and Badwater Basin
Although both in the same Valley, they’re totally different. At Devil’s Golf Course, salt crystals have formed an extremely weird landscape. An enormous field of strange bulbs of clotted salt has formed as the lakes here dried. Badwater Basin, which we saw from the top earlier this day, is an enormous Salt flat. While it’s still quite a spectacular sight to be walking on the flat, the many tourists do no good to this environment. The crystal shaped cracks in the soil are all destroyed taking away some of the magic. We spent nearly 2 hours exploring both locations. This was ok and we think a longer hike on the flat might be dangerous due to extreme heat.
Artist’s Palette Drive
A spectacular scenic drive along multi-colored hills and dunes. We recommend doing it on the way back from Badwater Basin so you don’t have to do the same road twice. Paved roads so you don’t need a 4×4 here.
As we were going to leave the park via the North, we stopped to watch the sunset at Devil’s Cornfield. We really enjoyed our time in Death Valley National Park. Some of its diverse, one of kind landscapes can be found only here. We hope we can come back some time and spend more time exploring the park.
Also check out our post on Yosemite National Park!