Visiting Death Valley - tips and the best things to do

Visiting Death Valley: tips & the best things to do

Death Valley National Park is the hottest and the lowest point in the USA. What to do when you’re visiting Death Valley? Read all about it now!

About Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is one of the most special places in the United States of America. What makes Death Valley so special? It is the hottest, driest, and lowest point in the USA. It is also one of the largest US National Parks.

Although the name suggests otherwise, there is nothing “dead” about Death Valley. It is a place full of interesting flora and fauna. Death Valley is therefore not to be missed during a road trip in the beautiful Southwest USA.

Tips for visiting Death Valley

What should you know before visiting Death Valley? A few practical Death Valley tips.

How to get to Death Valley National Park?

Visiting Death Valley is actually quite easy if you have a car. There is no public transport going into the park. The park has no clear entrances like other parks, so you don’t have to queue to show your ticket. California Highway 190 runs right through the park and from here you can visit most of the sights. How to get there?

  • Coming from Las Vegas (the east side) you drive to Pahrump. From there you can drive via Death Valley Junction or Shoshone to Death Valley. The drive from Las Vegas to Furnace Creek (here is the visitor center) takes just over 2 hours. …
  • Coming from Los Angeles (the south side) you drive north on highway 395. Then turn right on 178 at Ridgecrest and follow this road until you are on California Highway 190 in Death Valley. The drive from downtown LA takes just over 4.5 hours.
  • From the Northwest: You can also visit Death Valley from the Northwest. This is useful if you are driving from Yosemite National Park or Lone Pine. From Lone Pine, follow 136 south and it will automatically turn into 190.

Please note! GPS systems sometimes go wrong in Death Valley (you might end up at a dead-end street). It is best to enter the address of the post office in Furnace Creek. The address is 328 Greenland Blvd.
Death Valley, CA 92328.

If you don’t have a car, but you still want to Death Valley, you can book a day tour from Las Vegas.

Entrance Death Valley National Park

How much does it cost to enter Death Valley National Park?

A visit to Death Valley costs $30 per vehicle (price in 2022). Your ticket is valid for 7 days. You can buy a ticket at several pay stations in the park, in the visitor center in Furnace Creek, or online.

Check this page for up-to-date fees. Here you will also find the places where you can buy a ticket on the spot.

Tip! Do you plan to visit multiple national parks in the United States? Then it is wise to buy an America the Beautiful annual pass. It costs $80 (which is a really good deal when you consider that most parks cost around $30) and is valid for one year in all national parks and various national monuments in the US.

Death Valley Weather

One of the reasons Death Valley National Park attracts so many visitors is because of its climate. It is one of the hottest and driest places on Earth. In the summer the temperature shoots towards 50 degrees Celsius (the highest temperature ever recorded is 57 degrees Celsius) and it is bizarre to experience that. You no longer feel the sweat, it just evaporates.

It is very dry because there is a huge mountain range to the west of the park (that’s where most of the storms come from) and usually the clouds stay in front of those mountains. It therefore rarely rains in Death Valley. In total there is an average of fewer than 5 centimeters of rain per year in Death Valley. If it does rain, it can cause flash floods.

When is the best time to visit Death Valley?

You can visit Death Valley all year round. Summer (in this case from May to September) is very special because of the bizarrely high temperatures and in winter and autumn, it is warm but pleasant. Those are good times to go hiking in Death Valley.

The best time to visit Death Valley is Spring. The temperatures are pleasant and there is a chance that you will see fields full of wildflowers, especially after a wet winter. This is a spectacular sight.

How much time do you need in Death Valley?

You can visit Death Valley when you’re just driving through from Las Vegas to Lone Pine, but that is very rushed. For Death Valley, you need at least a full day to see the most beautiful sights. Would you also like to do some hiking? Then you need two days.

More Death Valley tips

A few additional Death Valley tips:

  • Bring enough water. There are few shops in the park and you really don’t want to be without water in the heat.
  • In addition to water, also bring drinks with electrolytes, such as Gatorade. You get more energy from this than from just water.
  • Fill up your car before entering the park. Gas in the park is scarce and quite expensive.
  • Are you staying overnight in Death Valley? Outside the summer, the temperature can drop considerably once the sun has set. Nights with temperatures below freezing are common in winter. So bring a warm sweater or jacket.

The best things to do in Death Valley

What to do in Death Valley and what are the most beautiful sights? 10 tips.

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin is one of Death Valley’s greatest attractions. It is a large salt flat and this is the lowest point in the United States of America, being 86 meters below sea level. You can walk on the plain and that is a great experience! Don’t forget to bring water and don’t go too far when it’s hot, because the return trip is endless.

Dante’s View

One of the most spectacular views in Death Valley is from Dante’s View. From the 1700 meter high mountain, you get an idea of how vast the park is. You can see the salt flats of Badwater Basin from this viewpoint.

Tip! Death Valley National Park is an International Dark Sky Park and therefore one of the best places for stargazing. Dante’s View is a spectacular place to visit at night.

Artists Palette

Artists Palette is located on Artists Drive, a scenic route in the middle of Death Valley. Death Valley has a volcanic history and you can clearly see it here. A beautiful spectacle of colored rocks.

Artists Palette in Death Valley - photo via Depositphotos

Ubehebe Crater

In the far north of the park is the Ubehebe Crater. As the name suggests, this is a large volcanic crater. You can see the crater well from the observation deck. Do you want to see the crater from all sides? You can take a nice (short) hike around it.

Zabriskie Point

Coming from Las Vegas, Zabriskie Point was one of my first Death Valley sights and I was so impressed! The dry mountainous landscape is very impressive, it seems as if you are on another planet.

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley

Father Crowley Vista Point

A viewpoint that you can hardly miss is the Father Crowley Vista Point. This is on Highway 190 (which you’ll probably drive over anyway) and from here you have a great view of Rainbow Canyon.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Do you imagine an area filled with sand dunes when you think of a desert landscape? Then you have to go to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, an area full of impressive sand dunes.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley

Devil’s Golf Course

Devil’s Golf Course is also an interesting place in Death Valley. This is a plain north of Badwater Basin full of halite, a mineral. It seems as if the plain is full of stones, an impossible place to play golf. Hence the name Devil’s Golf Course.

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

Do you want to see a piece of history in Death Valley? Long ago there were many mines here and you can still see some of that at Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. These are little stone structures that are in a row next to each other and look a little like a beehive. They were in use until 1879. The road to it is quite long, but offers many beautiful views. Watch out for wild donkeys, they sometimes want to roam around here.

The Racetrack

The Racetrack is again a gorgeous place in Death Valley and for a long time, there was a mystery surrounding it. On this plain lie a number of stones that seem to move in the night. For a long time, it was thought that there were people or animals that did this at night.

Scientists eventually learned that a small layer of ice formed on the plain during the night and that the stones could slide easily when the wind blew. Not very exciting, but it is a very photogenic place to visit.

The Racetrack in Death Valley - photo via Depositphotos

Hiking in Death Valley

When it’s not too hot, Death Valley is a great place to go hiking. What are the most beautiful trails? A few options:

  • Natural bridge: short hike (3.2km) to a natural stone bridge. Difficulty: easy.
  • Darwin Falls: yes, there are waterfalls in Death Valley! The trail to get there (and back) is 3.2 kilometers long with average difficulty. The trail is not marked, but you can just follow the canyon.
  • Fall Canyon: there are several hiking trails to and through canyons in Death Valley and Fall Canyon is one of the most beautiful with red and orange rocks. It is an intermediate to difficult hike of 9.7 kilometers.

Need inspiration and do you like having maps of the hiking trails? Then getting this Death Valley hiking guide is highly recommended.

In addition, you can also find a number of great Death Valley hikes on the official website.

Where to stay in Death Valley

Do you want to take your time when you’re visiting Death Valley? There are several options to stay overnight in Death Valley.

Hotels

The best place to stay in Death Valley is Furnace Creek, which is centrally located in the park. Here are a few hotels:

However, staying inside the park can be quite expensive. If you are looking for a cheaper option, it is wise to look for a hotel just outside the park. Check Booking.com for all accommodations in and around Death Valley National Park.

Camping

Yes, despite the heat you can go camping in Death Valley, both with a tent and with a camper. There are nine campgrounds in the park, most are open fall through spring and do not operate with reservations. So you just have to drive there and see if there is availability.

A few campgrounds are open year-round, including the largest in Furnace Creek. You can make a reservation in advance for a stay between 15 October and 15 April.

Check out an overview of all campsites and more information about camping in Death Valley National Park on the official website.

Book your USA road trip now

These were all my tips for visiting Death Valley. Would you like to go on a road trip in Southwest USA? These are useful websites for booking your trip:

Read more about California

Do you want to discover even more beautiful places in the American state of California and the beautiful Southwest USA? These travel guides are highly recommended:

Moon Death Valley National Park: Hiking, Scenic Drives, Desert Springs & Hidden Oases

Fodor’s California: with the Best Road Trips

I myself have been to the US regularly and that is why you can read a lot about traveling in the USA on this website. For example, check out these articles:

In addition, I regularly share fun travel stories and tips for the most beautiful destinations in my monthly newsletter. Subscribe here.

Hi, and how nice of you to read this disclaimer! As you may understand, maintaining a website like this is not free. That is why some of the links in this article are affiliate links. If you use these links to book or buy anything, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! Support this website.

Co

Hi! I'm Co and a travel addict. On this website, I'll share stories of my travel adventures and share some travel tips. I'll make sure to keep you inspired for your next trip!

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