Death Valley is one of the newest National Parks of the United States of America. The park, which was created in 1994, is often skipped by visitors because it is thought that there is not much to see in the desert, but with 14,000 square kilometers it is one of the largest National Parks with many different landscapes and views. . Readers of Dream Travel 2 America describe Death Valley as “a great experience to remember”, “a park you won’t get bored of” and “one of my favorite parks”.
Sightseeings & Trails
Given the size of Death Valley, it is not easy to make an exhaustive list of attractions in this National Park. On this page you can find information about the most recommended sights as reported by Dream Travel 2 America readers, as well as an overview of some beautiful walks.
The CA-190 to Death Valley Junction
If you are heading south from Furnace Creek, you should continue to follow the CA-190 main road. On this road you will find Zabriskie Point, one of the most recommended viewpoints in Death Valley.
From Zabriskie Point you have a great view over the “Badlands”, a landscape formed by erosion of channels that wind through the mountain landscape. It is a short walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint, where most tourists turn around – but you can also choose to continue to other hill tops for an even better view. From Zabriskie Point you can also start a hike to Golden Canyon (which ends at Badwater Road) or Gower Gulch.
Zabriskie Point is, according to Dream Travel 2 America readers, the best at sunrise and sunset.
If you drive a little further, you can turn to Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road, where between 1883 and 1889 there were huge carts pulled by 20 mules, with borax from nearby mines.
This road is only a small part of the more than 260 kilometers that the “teams” had to cover in 10 days. However, it was already a dangerous journey back then, where one mistake could cost everyone their lives. Nowadays, the road is fairly easy to drive by car with only a steep descent at the end of the road.
The road is not paved, but may be driven by normal cars (with the exception of campers). The road may only be driven in one direction.
A little further on the CA-190 follows a turn to Dante’s View (via Furnace Creek Wash Road), which is also considered a must-see by some AllesAmerika.com members. The road goes up steeply for almost 21 kilometers until you reach an altitude of around 1670 meters and you arrive at the viewpoint. (Large cars have to park about 1.5 kilometers from the top because the last stretch of road is very steep and winding.)
At Dante’s View you can overlook a large part of the south of Death Valley and enjoy temperatures that are much lower than in the lower part of the National Park. Moreover, you have a beautiful view of large parts of Death Valley, including the low-lying Badwater and Telescope Peak, the highest point in the park.
You have the opportunity to have a picnic near the viewpoint.
If you follow the CA-190 further, you will leave the park to Death Valley Junction; however, you can also turn around and drive back to the Badwater Road junction.
Sights on Badwater Road
After approximately 3 kilometers you can stop at the Golden Canyon Parking Area. You can do two walks here, Golden Canyon Trail and Gower Gulch Loop. Both walks offer you views of beautiful rock walls with different shades of red and yellow.
Golden Canyon Trail is approximately 3 kilometers long when you walk back and forth, with the end point being the naturally formed Red Cathedral amphitheater. However, you can also choose to continue to Zabriskie Point, so that the walk becomes 6.5 kilometers long.
This walk is the busiest walk of Death Valley National Park.
The Gower Gulch Loop starts at the same point as the Golden Canyon Trail, but splits later. At first you head towards Zabriskie Point, but then the trail splits and you descend to the bottom of the Gower Gulch Canyon. The first 800 meters are flat and sandy, but after that the canyon gets narrower and the walls steeper.
During this walk you will come across old (closed) mine tunnels and, if you are lucky, you can find some beautiful crystals. At the end of the canyon, the landscape opens up again and you walk back to the starting point at the foot of the hills. This walk is approximately 6.5 kilometers long and takes 2 hours.
If you follow the road further south, you will come to the end of Artist’s Drive, a one-way street that is discussed below. However, you cannot enter this road here.
Further south you will find an unpaved road that leads to Devil’s Golf Course, a large salt flat eroded by wind and rain full of salt cavities and salt pillars. The plain is so bland in design that only the devil could play golf here. This road is often closed after a rain shower.
According to some readers, Devil’s Golf Course is definitely worth it while others did not find it special. However, it is easy to fit this trip into your travel plans, as the salt flats are just 1.5 kilometers from Badwater Road.
A little further you can turn to a 14.4 kilometer one-way street called Artist’s Drive. Artist’s Drive leads to a viewing point called “Artist’s Palette”, which (together with the road itself) is called “fantastic”, “colorful” and “enjoyment” by Dream Travel 2 America readers.
During your ride on Artist’s Drive you will see rocks in many different unique colors, for example red, yellow, pink, green and purple. These colors come from the oxidation process of different types of metals and give the landscape a special look.
You can stop at different places to take photos or take short walks. The views are, according to various members, the most beautiful during the sunset.
If you continue on Badwater Road for another 6 kilometers from the start of Artist’s Drive, you can turn to a road that leads over 4 kilometers to a parking lot where the Natural Bridge Canyon walk starts. In 15 minutes the walk leads to a natural arched bridge, after which you can choose to continue your walk a little further before it ends and you have to turn around.
You can follow Badwater Road many kilometers further, until it splits with Jubilee Pass Road that leads you to Death Valley in the direction of Las Vegas.
The CA-190 to Stovepipe Wells and beyond
If you follow the CA-190 north, you can explore the western part of Death Valley at Stovepipe Wells, as well as the northern part of the National Park via Scotty’s Castle Road. The route to Stovepipe Wells and further is discussed below.
Just north of Furnace Creek you can make a stop to learn more about the mining history of Death Valley. There you will find the Harmony Borax Works, where you can walk around a small 19th century borax factory and get more information about the miners and the aforementioned “twenty mule teams”.
If you continue for 21 kilometers past the borax factory, you will arrive at Salt Creek. You can take a short, 800 meter long easy walk to the small stream Salt Creek, where there is a unique fish species, the ‘pupfish’, which only occurs in this small stream. These fish have adapted to the circumstances after the large lake in which they swam slowly dried up and salted out and is now only a small, salt stream.
Since the Salt Creek in Death Valley dries up during the summer and the fish are not active in winter, you can do this walk best in the spring. You then have the greatest chance of actually seeing the fish.
As the CA-190 bends west, you will find the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes on your right-hand side, which Dream Travel 2 America readers have designated as recommended. Sand dunes are fairly unusual in deserts and many Death Valley visitors are surprised that they do not see sand dunes everywhere. However, only one percent of the desert actually consists of sand dunes and the Mesquite Flat sand dunes are the most accessible.
There are no official hiking trails, but you can just enter the area. The sand dunes are the best at sunrise or sunset. Some tourists also do night walks in the area, but be warned that you must watch out for the rattlesnakes present.
Other, much less accessible sand dunes are Eureka Dunes, Saline Valley Dunes, Panamint Dunes and Ibex Dunes. Keep in mind that these sand dunes are not accessible via paved roads and often lie deep in Death Valley.
After driving through Stovepipe Wells, you can turn right and follow a dirt road to Mosaic Canyon, where you can take a walk through geologically interesting canyons. These canyons were created millions of years ago due to cracks in the landscape, after which water (originating from the area around Tucki Mountain) slowly but surely scraped the walls of these cracks.
You can take a short (1600 meter) or longer (6.5 kilometer) walk here, depending on your preference. The short walk is a very popular and therefore busy walk. The canyon is so narrow at certain points that no more than one person can pass at a time and you occasionally have to do some climbing.
You can then drive a bit further west, where there are still several interesting sights and attractions, which are not recommended by Dream Travel 2 America for visitors who have not visited Death Valley National Park before. However, for those who have already been there, these attractions are a must, so below is a brief description of them.
Most traffic does not turn off at the exit for Emigrant Canyon (Emigrant Canyon Rd, later Wildrose Road), so the ride is fairly quiet. You can turn to Skidoo and Harrisburg, old abandoned mining villages with little to see, a dirt road to a viewpoint over the Sierra Nevada (only for cars with 4WD), Aguereberry Point (a beautiful viewpoint 3 kilometers above Death Valley, from where you are below more Furnace Creek and Badwater Basin) and the so-called charcoal kilns, stone buildings used by miners to melt silver.
The road starts rolling, but climbs slowly but surely, until you reach more than 2.5 kilometers. You can also do two walks from this area, Wildrose Peak Trail and Telescope Peak Trail. Both are long walks (respectively 14 km to Wildrose Peak and back, and 22 km to Telescope Peak and back) and only suitable for experienced hikers.
Back on the CA-190 you can continue to Panamint Valley, where you will find Panamint Springs Resort. You can hike to Darwin Falls waterfall, unique to the desert, visit the Father Crowley Vista viewpoint, or take a look at the Lee Flat Joshua Trees.
North of the CA-190: Scotty’s Castle, Titus Canyon and Racetrack Playa
If you bend off the CA-190 at Scotty’s Castle Road, you can follow this road for more than 59 kilometers to its end point. Along the way you can stop at Titus Canyon, where you can do a 3 mile walk through beautiful canyons.
If you come from the other side, from the Nevada 374 near the town of Beatty, you can take the Titus Canyon Road (this road is one-way traffic). This 43 kilometer long road will take you around 2 to 3 hours to drive, ending at Scotty’s Castle Road at the end. Dream Travel 2 America readers call this road “a beautiful dirt road”.
You drive slowly but surely up to the highest point, Red Pass, from where you have a beautiful view of Death Valley National Park. Then you will pass Leadfield, a ghost town from the 1920s. You can visit a few huts and mines and even walk in a number of mines (at your own risk).
You then enter Titus Canyon, where the walls tower high around your car. At certain points the road is too narrow for more than one car width; hence this road is only one-way traffic. At Klare Spring you can see bighorn sheep if you are lucky. This is one of the few water sources for these sheep.
The last part of the road is the narrowest, but with 6 meters wide still enough space for your car. After this the road becomes wider again and the part that connects to Scotty’s Castle Road after the parking lot is again two-way traffic.
If you continue to follow Scotty’s Castle Road further north, you can turn left at Ubehebe Crater Road and follow the road for 8 kilometers to Ubehebe Crater. This crater was created some 6,000 years ago, when a volcano exploded and made a hole about 800 meters wide and 150 meters deep.
At Ubehebe Crater you can do different walks. You can walk around the crater via the Ubehebe Crater Trail of approximately 2.5 kilometers, but you can also choose to walk to the bottom of the crater itself. Keep in mind that the descent and climb back up are quite steep. You can also walk to other smaller craters, including the short Little Hebe walk.
From this point you can also continue to Racetrack Playa, which is further away. For this you have to follow the Racetrack Valley Road for about 42 kilometers. This bad road is not paved and is therefore only accessible for SUVs with a “high clearance”. Keep in mind that this ride may take longer than you think – about an hour and a half unless you have a jeep.
At the end of the road you will come to a parking lot from where you can walk to the Grandstand, which gives a good overview of the Racetrack Playa. You can also hike to Ubehebe Peak, a difficult 10-kilometer walk that leads you to the top of the mountain with this name, about 1 kilometer above the floor of Death Valley. You have beautiful views of the surrounding area.
The Racetrack Playa itself is best reached by driving another 3 kilometers to the south from the parking lot and then walking for at least 800 meters. You then have a view of moving rocks that seem to have walked slowly through the desert plain and left a trail.
Nobody knows how the rocks move (and nobody has ever seen this), but a theory is that rainfall makes the sand soft and slippery and strong winds can push the rocks a little.
When driving down this road, as with all less busy and unpaved roads through Deah Valley National Park, it is better to be well prepared on the road. Make sure you have enough water with you (every supermarket sells dozens of bottles for just a few dollars) and in this case, because of the bad road surface, you also have a spare tire and jack in your car.
Back on Scotty’s Castle Road you can continue to the location for which the road is named, Scotty’s Castle. This Spanish style house (the size of a small castle) was built in the 1920s by Albert Johnson, a wealthy millionaire who wanted to use it as a holiday home.
However, his good friend Walter Scott claimed to have financed the house with his mysterious (non-existent) mines in the area. Scotty was an entertainer and a thief who robbed many investors of money with stories about large gold mines in Death Valley – which, however, were never found.
Johnson too fell into Scotty’s stories, but when he came to visit Death Valley in person and was led into the desert by Scotty, he fell in love with the area and, over time, formed a special friendship with Scotty. Johnson did not mind Scotty claiming that he built the house himself and even helped to maintain the myth, because many journalists published stories about them.
Scotty’s Castle was never finished because Johnson discovered in 1931 that he was building his home on US government land. In addition, the Great Depression ensured that he later never continued with the construction of the house.
Today, guided tours of the huge house are given daily; from the morning until the late afternoon, these take place every hour. However, due to the popularity of these tours, you may have to wait a few hours before you can begin the tour. (During your waiting time you can explore the landscape around the house, among other things.) If you know when you are at Scotty’s Castle, you can also make an online reservation in advance.
Scotty’s Castle CLOSED until 2020 :
Flooding in Grapevine Canyon from a severe thunderstorm has destroyed the road to Scotty’s Castle, damaged infrastructure and some out-buildings in the Castle comple
Important tips for your visit to Death Valley
The tips below are partly general warnings and partly tips from Dream Travel 2 America Members who preceded you in a visit to Death Valley. It is highly advisable to read all the tips carefully, as a good preparation for your visit to this park is essential for your good experience.
- The weather is a major attraction of Death Valley, but can also be a danger. However, if you make good preparations, Death Valley is just as safe as other National Parks. A few simple rules of thumb:
- Take enough water with you and keep drinking enough (4 liters per person per day). You can easily take dozens of bottles of water with you as an emergency ration in your car. Every supermarket sells sets of water bottles for just a few dollars. AllAmerika.com members recommend that you bring at least one to two sets of 24 bottles, especially if you plan to visit less crowded parts of the park, go for a walk in the heat, or drive on unpaved roads.
- If you want to walk through the lowlands, do not do this at the hottest times of the day. On higher parts of Death Valley (in the mountains) the temperature is somewhat lower and snow can also lie in winter.
- Do not drive on unpaved roads with your rental car or camper. Your rental company does not allow this anyway; rent a jeep instead if you want to drive on unpaved roads. If your car fails, stay close and keep drinking water until help comes.
- Watch out for signs of overheating: dizziness, nausea and headache. If you feel unwell, get out of the sun and drink plenty of water. Wet towels help you to lower your body temperature.
- Take enough sunscreen on your tour through Death Valley, certainly during the summer. A hat with a wide brim or sun visor is also recommended.
- Strangely enough, the heat is not the main reason that people die in Death Valley. The main cause of death? Car accidents. Make sure you adhere to the speed limits and always keep driving, especially on mountain roads and unpaved roads.
- If you want to prepare unpaved roads and visit more remote parts of Death Valley National Park, consider renting a jeep. You can do this at Farabee’s at Furnace Creek. Farabee’s is closed between mid-May and mid-September because it is not justified to rent jeeps in Death Valley during that period.
- Always inquire about the condition of the road when you are driving on unpaved roads. In addition, do not underestimate the distances – a number of unpaved roads are so bad that it takes much longer than normal before you arrive at your destination. Twenty kilometers may not sound as far as you drive down normal roads, but in Death Valley it can take an hour to cover such a distance – and you are not driving through inhabited areas, but a remote desert area with temperatures that can go far above normal.
- Cell phones don’t work in Death Valley because the area is so remote. So you cannot count on your cell phone in an emergency.
- If you drive your car through the National Park, make sure you have a full tank of gas. Within the park boundaries you can only pump gasoline at Furnace Creek Ranch, Panamint Springs and Stovepipe Wells. Contrary to what some other sources state, gasoline is not available at Scotty’s Castle. Petrol within the boundaries of the park is more expensive than outside.
- Please note that most motorhome rental companies prohibit driving your motorhome through Death Valley during the summer. For Apollo, Moturis and Road Bear this prohibition applies from mid-June to mid-September, for El Monte and Cruise America it applies to the months of July and August. Take this into account and, if possible, ask your landlord for the latest update in this area.
- If you as a motorhome driver still want to visit Death Valley, it is to place your RV in the village of Pahrump near Death Valley on the campsite (Nevada Treasure RV Resort) and then rent a car. There is an Enterprise Rent A Car there that will also deliver your rental car and you will drive back to the campsite afterward.
- At the visitor center in Furnace Creek you can get all information about Death Valley, the weather conditions, the state of the roads and accessibility of attractions, and much more. There is also limited information in the Dutch language here. The visitor center is open daily from morning until late afternoon.
- Most Dream Travel 2 America members recommend that you visit the following attractions for newcomers when you first visit Death Valley: Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Badwater, Artist’s Palette, Devil’s Golf Course and Mesquite Sand Dunes. If you put together a good route, it is possible to visit these attractions in one day.
- An overnight stay in Death Valley is also highly recommended. The sunrises and sunsets are particularly beautiful at certain vantage points and the night sky is beautiful, especially if you drive a few kilometers away from civilization. In addition, the distances between the various attractions are quite large, which makes it difficult to see everything in one day. (Remember: Death Valley National Park covers no less than 14,000 square kilometers!)
- You can print this map of Death Valley (PDF) to plan your route through the park.
- You can expect extra crowds in Death Valley in February (the Death Valley Borax Marathon) and in November (meeting of the Death Valley ’49ers, a historic event about the Gold Rush of 1849).
Travel to Death Valley
Several providers offer group trips and individual round trips to Death Valley. An organized trip offers the advantage that you do not have to worry about anything anymore. If you are interested in a group trip to, feel free to contact us with your wishes, and we will see which options are available for you… Or view below for travel deals and tips
Fly to Death Valley
With more than 100 miles between Death Valley and the closest commercial airlines, the majority of visitors will need to rent a car and prepare for a road trip.
- Las Vegas McCarren International Airport is one of the most common airport destination for guests wishing to visit Death Valley. Located about 130 miles from the gates of Death Valley National Park, visitors may make the trip from McCarren to the park in a few hours.
- Burbank Bob Hope Airport: Located about 160 miles from Death Valley National Park. The Burbank Bob Hope Airport (bobhopeairport.com) is the second largest commercial airport within a feasible driving distance.
- Inyokern County Airport:, Only 70 miles from Death Valley National Park sits the small Inyokern County Airport (inyokernairport.com). This small airport in the Indian Wells Valley of California may be closer in distance, but driving times still estimate over three hours, because no major freeway connects the two points.
- Furnace Creek Airport: In addition to commercial airports, two airports located within the Death Valley provide runways for small, private planes to land. Furnace Creek Airport
If you do not want to compose a trip to Death Valley yourself, take a look at our tips for organized tours with Death Valley on the program.
Looking for a flight to Arches National Park
Spending the Night
Inside Death Valley
There are many options for spending the night in Death Valley, but not all locations are open all year round. Check if the location you want is open before planning a campsite or hotel in Death Valley.
The Dream Travel 2 America members advise you to plan at least one night in Death Valley. The park is too large to see within a day and in this way you can also enjoy the sunrise and sunset, as well as the beautiful clear starry night that you can see when you drive a kilometer from the hotel.
Keep in mind that the temperatures in Death Valley are particularly high in the summer and that it can also be more than 30 degrees at night. Even if you have an air conditioner in your car or camper, it can still happen that it cannot keep up with the great heat.
In terms of hotels and resorts you can choose from Stovepipe Wells Village, Furnace Creek Inn, Furnace Creek Ranch and Panamint Springs Resort. All hotels except the Furnace Creek Inn are open all year round; the Furnace Creek Inn is open from mid-October to Mother’s Day.
The accommodations in Furnace Creek have extensive amenities, including a swimming pool, restaurants, a gas station and even a green (!) Golf course. Stovepipe Wells partly has these facilities but is nevertheless simpler. Some Dream Travel 2 America members note that Furnace Creek is very commercial, while Stovepipe Wells is quieter and more authentic. (Despite the commercial character of Furnace Creek, it is better to plan an overnight stay within the boundaries of the National Park than outside. Stovepipe Wells offers you a less commercial alternative.)
If you want to camp, this is of course also possible. There are no fewer than 9 campsites in Death Valley, four of which are open all year round (Furnace Creek, Mesquite Spring, Emigrant and Wildrose). The other campsites are open between March and November or April and October.
Not all campsites are free; for five campsites you have to pay $ 12 or more per night. Some campsites also have no water or toilet facilities.
Two campsites, Thorndike and Mahogany Flat, are so high that they can only be reached by four-wheel drive cars. The largest and busiest campsites are Sunset (270 places), Stovepipe Wells (190), Furnace Creek (136) and Texas Spring (92). The other campsites are a lot smaller, with 6 to 30 places.
You can only book in advance at Furnace Creek, the other campsites cannot.
Campground Fee Information
Campground fees vary with each campground. Learn more about the fees at each campground.
Outside of Death Valley
If you do not want or cannot spend the night in Death Valley, you might consider staying in Lone Pine( hotels) a two hours west of Death Valley, or a Hotel Las Vegas (almost 200 kilometers away), Death Valley Junction or Beatty. However, as mentioned earlier, most Dream Travel 2 America members recommend that you spend the night within the boundaries of the park.
Directions to Death Valley
Death Valley is located in southern California and a small part extends as far as Nevada. You can reach the National Park from both Nevada (Las Vegas airport is the closest major airport) and California (mainly Los Angeles).
From Las Vegas, the distance to the nearest Death Valley entrance to the east is approximately 3 hours’ drive over approximately 192 kilometers, and from Los Angeles you can drive to Furnace Creek in approximately 5.5 hours about 480 kilometers.
There is only one real Interstate near Death Valley, namely Interstate 15 in the south of Las Vegas to Los Angeles. You can also reach Death Valley via a main road in the west (Highway 395) and a main road in Nevada, east of the park (Highway 95, departing from Las Vegas).
There are several entrances to Death Valley National Park, but the main road through the park is Route 190. You can reach this entrance via Highway 395 in California at Olancha and Lone Pine and via Highway 95 in Nevada at Lathrop Wells / Amargosa Valley (via Route 373) and the more northerly located Beatty (via Route 374).
You can also choose to drive via Ridgecrest via Route 178 to Route 190, or from I-15 at the town of Baker follow Route 127 to the north. Finally, from Highway 95 at Scotty’s Junction in Nevada, you can follow Route 267 to enter Death Valley from the north.
Current Weather Advisory: Closed Roads and Condition Updates
Check out the current conditions/road updates for specific information on any current road closures here
Vehicle Entrance Fee
- $30 for 7 Days, effective June 1st, 2018
- This permit allows all persons traveling with the permit holder in one single private, non-commercial vehicle (car/truck/van) to leave and re-enter the park as many times as they wish during the 7-day period from the date of purchase.
Motorcycle Entrance Fee
- $25 for 7 Days, effective June 1st, 2018
Individual Entrance Fee
- $15 for 7 Days, effective June 1st, 2018
- This permit allows a single individual traveling on foot or bicycle to leave and re-enter the park as many times as they wish during the 7-day period from the date of purchase.
Death Valley Annual Pass
- $55 for one year, effective June 1st, 2018
- Annual pass providing free entrance to Death Valley for 12 months from the date of purchase
America the Beautiful Annual Pass
- $80 for one year
- Annual pass covering entrance and standard amenity fees for national parks and other federal fee areas. This replaces the National Parks Pass and Golden Eagle Pass.
- Buy here online
Weather in Death Valley
Death Valley is famous as the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America. The world record highest air temperature of 134°F (57°C) was recorded at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913. Summer temperatures often top 120°F (49°C) in the shade with overnight lows dipping into the 90s°F (mid-30s°C.) Average rainfall is less than 2 inches (5 cm), a fraction of what most deserts receive. Occasional thunderstorms, especially in late summer, can cause flash floods.
In contrast to the extremes of summertime, winter and spring are very pleasant. Winter daytime temperatures are mild in the low elevations, with cool nights that only occasionally reach freezing. Higher elevations are cooler than the low valley. Temperatures drop 3 to 5°F (2 to 3°C) with every thousand vertical feet (approx. 300m). Sunny skies are the norm in Death Valley, but winter storms and summer monsoons can bring cloud cover and rain. Wind is common in the desert, especially in the spring. Dust storms can suddenly blow up with approaching cold fronts.
If you visit the National Park in the summer, it is very important that you have enough water with you. Certainly for longer walks you should consider 4 liters of water per person per day to prevent dehydration. There is not much water to be found in Death Valley and the water that is there is contaminated with bacteria and therefore not drinkable.
In addition, it is best to wear light clothing and put on a wide-brimmed hat against the sharp sunlight. Also make sure you have sunscreen oil and lubricate well.
If, nevertheless, you feel dizzy or nauseous or suffer from headache, make sure you drink water immediately and end your walk as soon as possible.
Death Valley / Plan Your Visit / Safety