Wondering what are the things to do in Death Valley? Well, read on and find out about one of the fascinating places in the world.
Nature is so much alive and happening. We humans are so much dependent on nature to stay alive. It helps us get food, shelter, clothes, medicine, and breathe.
We get to see the beautiful colors of nature in various forms that make our Earth so beautiful to live on.
Viewing the breathtaking blue sky, the moving clouds, those tiny drops of water on the leaf, sunlight reflecting from the water, and such similar things make us feel better emotionally.
The description of the beauty of nature is endless, and we never get tired of it. Nature consists of everything we see around us, from trees, plants, flowers, forests, animals, the sky, mountains, valleys, and much more.
Let us see what beholds us in Death Valley
History of Death Valley
The name Death Valley received its name in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. A few pioneers set out on an early expedition trying to cross the valley on their way to the goldfields.
Even though it is believed that only one of them lost their life, the others also thought that they would never survive their journey. Hence the name Death Valley.
In 1930 the Roosevelt administration laid down the foundation of the Death Valley National Park. In February 1933, President Hoover set aside some acres of land for the formation of the Death Valley National Park Monument.
Finally, in 1994 the Death Valley National Park was signed into law with an additional 1.3 acres of land.
Things To Do In Death Valley
Lying near the California and Nevada border, mostly in Inyo County, Death Valley is covered by four mountain ranges. These mountain ranges block the rainfall from entering the valley, thus giving it such a desert atmosphere.
The valley has an area of nearly 3000 sq mi (7800 sq. km) and is considered to be one of the largest US national parks outside Alaska and the fifth largest US national park.
Most of them who visit Death Valley coming from California enter through Panamint Springs through Highway 190 or from Las Vegas, from where there are a few routing options.
Death Valley National Park is one of the hottest places during summer. In 1913 a scorching heat of 57degrees was recorded at Furnace Creek, which is supposed to be the hottest temperature recorded on the Earth.
Despite being a land of extremes, there are many things to do in Death Valley. It offers a striking contrast of landscapes – from the snow towering its peaks to the lush wildflowers and small oasis.
Watch this award-winning video that also got featured in the National Geographic before you set out to explore and learn about the things to do in Death Valley.
1. Explore Badwater Basin
A depression lying 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is one of the lowest points in North America, making it a big reason to visit Death Valley, National Park!
An unbelievable fact is that behind the vast expanse of salt and high up in the mountains, you can see the sign indicating 282 feet below sea level.
It is said that there was a large bed of a prehistoric lake called Manly Lake that has been completely drained out now.
Try and make sure you read the wooden plaques at the start of Badwater Basin to know more about the fantastic wildlife that has learned to thrive on this amazing landscape.
Get there early, as parking lot space is limited, and walk across the boardwalks to the salt flats. Most of them just take a short walk but to truly experience the scale of the salt flats at Badwater Basin, and it is recommended that you walk the 1.8mile at the Death Valley National Park.
The fascinating landscape with a salt plain at Badwater Basin is a jumble of geometric shapes that looks like inverted cracks on white concrete.
2. Catch Sunrise at Zabriskie Point
The Zabriskie Point is one of the iconic places to visit on your list of things to do in Death Valley. It is one of the best places from where you can watch the early sunrise in the valley.
This place features panoramic views of the valley and its rock formations. The sun makes these colorful rocks look as if they are almost on fire.
Even though the valley cannot be viewed from here, you can still enjoy the stark contrast of colors of the Zabriskie Point rock formations with the background covered by the far away Panamint Mountains.
Zabriskie Point is said to be the inspiration behind director Antonioni’s famous film of the same name. Enjoy your walk from the parking lot at the base of the hill to admire the beautiful striped mountains soaring at more than 4900 feet of Zabriskie Point at Death Valley National Park.
3. Dante’s View
The things to do in Death Valley are full of contrasts. With the lowest point in North America and some of the enormous mountains surrounding it, this place allows you to view these contrasts in elevation.
Standing at about 5400 feet in elevation, this impressive Dante’s View allows you to get glimpses of the valley below through its occasional cloud gaps.
The best time to go up to Dante’s View is early morning to catch the sunlight’s first rays emblazoned in pink and gold hitting the Telescope Peak on the other side of the valley.
While you are here, don’t forget to take a hike. There’s a pretty easy trail in the north with some great lookout spots. As you hike here, you can see the clouds parting and making way for you to view the sunshine.
4. Artist’s Palette
The Artist’s Drive is a narrow, colorful one-way road that loops away and back to Badwater Road. It is fun driving up this road as it goes around sharp curves and up and down small hills.
To watch the colors of the rock formations around you is one of the best things to do in Death Valley. The Artist’s Palette lies along the drive. It is a place well worth a stop as the pink rock swirls and glows in the sunset.
Artist’s Palette is also said to have been used for shooting some scenes of the Star Wars saga.
5. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Near Stovepipe Wells, these quintessential sand dunes covering almost 15 sq. miles of undulating sand dunes are one of the favorite places the things to do in Death Valley.
This is one of the most famous of the 7 different dunes in the park. Even though they do not go on forever, it is still big enough for you to spend some quality time here, well, of course, if you can resist the heat!
The flat mesquite dunes are fun to climb and wrestle and slide down. Enjoy a free for all wrestling match with your friends and family to see who will get to the top of the dune first!
If you are visiting mesquite flat sand dunes during sunset, the long shadows make way for some great photography.
6. Rhyolite Ghost Town
If you stay close to Beatty, you can make a small addition to your things to do in Death Valley.
Rhyolite, an abandoned mining ghost town, has some buildings that are fascinating and spooky as well. Walk around this small town to get a feel of this town which is not like visiting other ghost towns but still there is something strange in its surroundings.
A house at Rhyolite Ghost Town is completely made of glass bottles to amaze you. The Goldwell Open Air Museum is another must-place visitor center that has some beautiful artwork on display.
The one artwork that stands out is that installed by Belgian artist Albert Szukalski. It is a ghostly version of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
7. Devil’s Golf Course
This is an immense expanse of petrified salt that will give you one of those haunting feelings as if you were on another planet, especially at sunset.
The salt crystals that form the lumpy terrain of the Devil’s Golf Course have peculiar shapes. On your things to do in Death Valley, explore and pay attention to the less stable holes and rocks, just as the name Devil’s Golf Course suggests.
8. Natural Bridge
Going to Natural Bridge is one of the good things to do in Death Valley, especially for those who have some time to view the beautiful rock formation unique to the Badwater Basin desert environment.
There is a short stretch of gravel road from the parking lot, and the trial is about 2 miles trip to reach this narrow rock natural bridge lying amidst the walls of a canyon.
Given the length of the trial, which is about 14 miles, be prepared for the heat, and in any case, the natural bridge is a good place if you are visiting Death Valley during the winter season.
9. Golden Canyon
Golden Canyon is one of the best-known hikes in the park because there are so many things to do in Death Valley here. The oppressive heat of the valley may make you want to give up after a short time, but if you plan to visit Death Valley during good weather, then the Golden Canyon Trail is one of the best places.
From here, you have the advantage of going right into the badlands of Zabriskie Point or the white and golden ravines.
The trail is about a 2-mile round trip hike from the start of the Badwater Basin Road and has several sections, such as Badlands Loop. These loops will allow you to walk right into the heart of the white hills without walking the entire canyon of 7.8miles from Badwater Road.
10. Twenty Mule Team Canyon
Twenty Mule Team Canyon is where borax was mined hundreds of years ago. It is a one-way road through yellow and white mudstone hills with zero vegetation.
Twenty Mule Team Canyon is located about 1 mile south of Zabriskie Point and has a short hike of about 35-40minutes. These short hiking trails give you access to the hills from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the desert landscape.
11. Eureka Dunes
The Eureka Dunes is one of the spectacular sand dunes located north of the Ubehebe Crater.
It is a long drive on the gravel-filled dirt road, but one of the things to do in Death Valley that you can enjoy is visiting Eureka Dunes as there are few visitors here, and you can enjoy the sand dunes.
12. Mosaic Canyon
One of the most fun things to do in Death Valley is to hike Mosaic Canyon. There is lots of rock scrambling and sharp rocks to keep your hike interesting here.
The Mosaic Canyon narrows and widens in several places, giving you a wide range of views.
This hike is located near Stovepipe Wells, and you will have to drive about 2 miles on the gravel road to reach the trailhead.
13. Scotty’s Castle
Scotty’s Castle is the dream home built in Grapevine Canyon that is also called Death Valley Ranch. It is believed that this house was built in the 1920s at the top of Death Valley Scotty’s gold mine, but it never got completed.
Taking a tour around this castle will take you back in time and is one of the great merits of your things to do in Death Valley.
But after the 2015 floods in the valley, this castle was closed to the public because of the damage incurred.
14. Racetrack Playa
One of the adventurous-filled things to do in Death Valley is to visit Racetrack Playa. Considered to be one of the bizarre places, Racetrack Playa has some mysterious sailing stones that somehow glide into the dry river bed, leaving a trail print behind them.
If you are planning to visit Racetrack playa, then make sure you use a high clearance vehicle as the trip will be pretty rough with a stretched-out dirt road. Do not drive off the marked trail here, as this place is a little
15. Ubehebe Crater
The Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley’s volcanic crater. It is worth a visit, especially if you have never seen a crater before.
The Ubehebe Crater was once an active volcano, and you can still see charred soil and rock in the surrounding landscape of Ubehebe Crater.
16. Darwin Falls
Located in the Panamint Springs towards the west of Death Valley National Park, Darwin Falls is a year-round waterfall in the valley.
It is a 2-mile round trip, but this hike through an oasis gives you a view of a different landscape of the Death Valley.
17. Telescope Peak
The Telescope peak is the highest peak in the Death Valley national park at nearly 11,043 feet. The view from the top of Telescope peak will give you a beautiful view of the Badwater Basin, which happens to be the lowest point in the US, and the excellent Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain peak in the Continental United States.
18. Harmony Borax Works
The Harmony Borax Works is a historical stop in your list of things in Death Valley. It used to be the center of mining borax, but now you can find only ruins of the abandoned mining town here at Death Valley National Park.
19. Night Sky
The night sky view at Death Valley National Park is something you should not miss out on. Being located far away from the big cities and small towns, the Death Valley makes a fantastic place for night viewing.
The Badwater Basin, Mesquite flat sand dunes, Harmony borax works, and Panamint springs all make great places to enjoy the night sky.
20. Desert Wildflowers
The ephemeral wildflowers at Death Valley National Park are dependent on the amount, timing, and intensity of rains received. During some winters and early spring, the wildflowers remain dominant in the Death Valley.
These super blooms light up the Death Valley making it come alive with the natural beauty. You can see Desert Golds, Violet Poppies, and Western Mariposa at the Death Valley National Park.
Where To Stay And Eat At Death Valley National Park
- The Oasis at Death Valley comprises two units – The Inn which offers luxury rooms, and the world’s lowest elevation golf course. The Ranch offers rooms cheaper than The Inn and has an outdoor swimming pool to cool you off.
- A good budget option at Death Valley National Park is at the Stovepipe Wells. It has everything needed, including a gas station that is a short drive away from several hikes and the Mesquite Flat sand dunes.
- On the west side of the Death Valley National Park is located the Panamint Springs Resort. You can stay in their rooms or camp on their campground too.
- There are a number of places to eat at the Death Valley National Park. Various general stores are located in and around Stovepipe Wells and Panamint Springs.
- The Furnace creek visitor center also serves light refreshments to suppress your hunger bouts.
Death Valley National Park Service
The Furnace Creek Visitor Center is the only known Death Valley National Park Visitor Center. It opens at 8 A.M. and closes at 5 P.M. daily, and has a few incredible exhibits.
You can check out with the park rangers here and find out all you need to know about Death Valley National Park. Entrance fees can be paid here.
For an additional fee, you can even avail their Wi-Fi facilities before you start out exploring Death Valley, National Park.
Even though the name Death Valley may seem disheartening now, you will realize that it is one of the most incredible and evocative American national parks after reading through this post.
One important point to remember is that there is no cellular service here in the valley. So your visit to Death Valley will be a digital detox for you.
Also, because there are no phone services, remember to fill your gas tank frequently because if you run out of gas, you cannot even call for help from a gas station.
From strenuous hikes to leisurely walks to camping and playing on the lowest elevation golf courses on the Earth, there are various things to do in Death Valley to enjoy one of the world’s hottest and driest places.