Death Valley National Park


My wife and kids couldn’t understand why I wanted to visit Death Valley National Park. It is known as the:
– lowest place in North America (282 ft below sea level)
– driest place in America (average rainfall is less than 2 inches)
– and hottest place in the world (134°F / 57°C is the hottest air temperature recorded)!

Sounds like fun right! 🙂 While we wouldn’t want to visit in Summer, we felt that a visit during winter would be perfect, especially since we all have cabin fever due to Covid lockdowns. In fact, California was on a stay-home order so there weren’t any campsites, food services, or lodging within the park. We stayed in Nevada and just drove in each morning.

Park Entrance Fee: $30/vehicle – see here for discounts and other options. There is a fee station that you can pay by credit card and print your pass which made it very convenient.

Must See Location #1 – Badwater Basin. This is the lowest location in North America at 282 ft below sea level. When you arrive at the parking lot, make sure you look at the hill on the other side of the parking lot to see a plaque indicating sea level. This area received it’s name after a mule refused to drink the spring water – the water was simply very salty. Some plants and animals (one snail in particular that only lives at this location) can actually survive and thrive on this salty water.

Take the approximately 1 mile hike out (2 mile round-trip) onto the basin for incredible views of salt structures.

Must see Location #2 – Artist’s Drive. Drive the 9 mile one-way loop on the way back from Badwater Basin. Just driving the loop is pretty fun with it’s winding road, a few large drops might feel a little like a rollercoaster. The colors are amazing and hiking around the Artist’s Pallette is well worth the time. It seemed a little strange that there weren’t any restrictions to where you could climb, so we enjoyed the freedom and explored the area.

Must see Location #3 – Zabriskie Point. This is one of the quick things to do as you are driving in or out of the park. Climb up the short paved path to an overlook and enjoy the cool geological features and colors. There are trails that connect with Zabriskie Point as well. So if you are ready for a hike you can head on down, but the views from the top are hard to beat.

Must see Location #4 – Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. We hiked out to the furthest and tallest sand dune. My kids brought sleds so hopefully they could sled down the hills. Quick Tip: Round sleds don’t work very well, you would be much better off with long sled, snowboard, or skateboard (without wheels). The deep sand made the hike very slow, and like Artist’s Pallette, you could go anywhere you wanted so there were numerous paths and hills to explore.

Must see Location #5 – Dantes View. We heard that the road to this peak wasn’t passable without a 4×4, due to recent precipitation, so we skipped this one completely.

Must see Location #6-9. We also skipped these sites due to time constraints.

Harmony Borax Works – Borax extracted from mines in Death Valley needed to be transported over 165 miles to get to the Railroad by a twenty-mule teams. However, they couldn’t operate during the summer months (it would have killed the animals), the venture was too costly and didn’t survive. There is a short hike to view the wagon and buildings that remain.

Perhaps the following logo on some borax sold today looks familiar? Now you know where it comes from.

Badlands Loop/Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Loop – This was a great hike with a variety of views and geology. View my trail review here.

Salt Creek Interpretive Trail – Take the wooden boardwalk on the 1 mile roundtrip trail. It is incredible to see a small river in this desert with colorful and strange plants. There are also rare pupfish that live in the spring, but we never saw any. Part of the trail was covered with sand, but you could easily walk over it or take the alternate path.

The ghost town of Rhyolite. This is outside of the national park, but a fun spot to explore. This used to be the happening place, the end of the tracks, a thriving city in search of gold.

We had a wonderful, but extremely short vacation to Death Valley. It served it’s purpose by getting us out of the house for some exercise, beautiful views, and nice weather.

Leave a Reply

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: