Death Valley – The Hottest Place in the World!
If you’ve never been to death valley, you definitely need to visit. This alien world of extremes will leave you with memories that will last a life time. Where else can you find sand dunes, salt flats, and a golf course, all in the same place? This guide will give you the basics to help plan your exciting trip to this National Park!
How To Get To Death Valley
There are multiple points of entry into the park. Those coming from Las Vegas or Nevada in general would likely enter from the eastern entrances to the park, while those coming from Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco could enter from the southern, western, or eastern entrances, depending on what portion of the park they plan on visiting.
On the east side of the park are two entrances, only 15 miles apart. One is route 190, and the other is route 178. Close to the 190 entrance to the park is the Father Crowley overlook, which provides an excellent view of a small canyon. A few more miles down the road is Panamint Springs resort, which includes a restaurant, gas station, and RV park. The less visited Panamint dunes are also closest to the western entrances.
The south of the park has one entrance – route 178 near Shoshone. This entrance is the closest to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America.
From the east, there are three total entrances, all connected to route 95. The furthest north is route 267. This entrance is close to the Ubehebe Crater, as well as the Mesquite Spring Campground. Approximately 27 miles to the South is the route 374 entrance, which leads to the mesquite flat sand dunes. 35 miles to the southeast is the other route 190 entrance. This entrance is close to furnace creek and the devil’s golf course.
This National Park Service Page contains information on the camp grounds available at Death Valley. There are nine campgrounds: Emigrant, Texas Springs, Thorndike, Wildrose, Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells, Sunset, Mahogany Flat, and Mesquite Springs. Most of the campgrounds have water, tables, firepits, and toilets, although some of the campgrounds lack a few of these items. Some campgrounds have fees, while others do not. Many of the campgrounds are closed during certain months of the year due to heat issues. Before planning a camping excursion to Death Valley, make sure to visit the link to understand which camping ground would work the best for you.
What To Bring
Visitors to Death Valley should keep in mind that this area is notorious for its high temperatures and dry climate. Because of this, thirst, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are risks. You should bring plenty of water wherever you go, stay hydrated, and wear appropriate clothing to stay cool. Sunscreen is also a must. You should also preferably travel with a group, have a full tank of gasoline, and notify people of where you plan to travel during your visit.
In the dead of winter, at night, it still might be necessary to use a summer sleeping bag. The important thing is to use common sense and decide whether or not using a sleeping bag at night is a good idea, consider the temperature.
There are a multitude of hiking trails and camping grounds in the park. Again, one should take care to stay hydrated and avoid heat exhaustion while partaking in these activities. This great page by hikespeak.com contains information on 19 amazing hiking trails for visitors to Joshua Tree. This includes maps, elevation information, distances, photos, and trail ratings.
Weather.com has details regarding the climate in Death Valley national park. Generally speaking, the temperature ranges from highs in the 70s and lows in the 20s in the winter, to highs in the 120s and lows in the 70s in the summer. Death Valley has the highest recorded temperature on the planet, with temperatures routinely in the triple digits in the summer. The skies tend to be clear and sunny, and precipitation is usually minuscule, although flash floods are known to occur from time to time. Death Valley has a very dry climate.
Food and Restaurants
Death Valley has several restaurants throughout the park (in contrast to Joshua Tree National Park).
Near the Western entrance to the park is Panamint Springs Resort, which includes lodging, a gas station, and a convenience store in addition to a restaurant. The restaurant is open every day from 7 AM to 9 PM. The menu includes continental breakfast, various appetizers, soups, and salads, pizza, steak, and burgers. There is wine and beer available as well. There is outdoor seating for those who want to gaze at the park while having a meal.
Near the middle of the park is Stovepipe Wells, which contains the Toll Road Restaurant. Breakfast is served from 7 AM to 10 AM, while dinner is served from 5:30 PM to 9 PM. Stovepipe Wells also has the Badwater Saloon, which opens at 11:30 AM every day. There is a general store and gift shop as well.
Finally, Furnace Creek, southwest of Stovepipe Wells, contains multiple dining options. The Inn at Death Valley contains a dining room which is open to all visitors (priority, however, is given to inn guests). The dining room is open for breakfast from 7:30 AM to 10:30 AM, for lunch from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM, and dinner from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM (October-April) or 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM (May-September).
The Ranch 1849 Buffet at The Ranch of Death Valley is another dining option at Furnace Creek. Breakfast is available from 6 AM to 11 AM, while lunch/dinner is from 11:30 AM to 10 PM.
Finally, Timbisha Indian Tacos at Furnace Creek provides tacos from 10 AM to 6 PM Tuesday through Saturday.
Numerous critters exist in Death Valley, and often come out at night. The National Park Service has a website which lists all of the animals known to live in the National Park. Some of the larger animals include bighorn sheep, coyote, bobcats, and occasionally mountain lions. Hikers should use common sense and travel in groups to mitigate risk involved with a potential rare encounter with a larger mammal.
Death Valley is a very arid and desolate environment, but nevertheless is filled with various shrubs and bushes. The website dvplants.com contains a list of the various plants that can be found in the park. In years with heavy rains, death valley will have “superblooms” in which flowers will bloom across the park.
Operating Hours and Visitor Centers
According to the National Park Service, Death Valley is open the entire year and at all hours. However, Furnace Creek visitor center is open from 8 AM to 5 PM.
Since Death Valley is located miles away from major metropolitan centers, cell phone access varies from patchy to nonexistent. According to the website whistleout.com, the major carriers largely do not provide coverage in most of death valley. Visitors should understand that they may not be able to make calls or use data while in the park. With this in mind, visitors should let others know of their itinerary and travel plans beforehand as a safety measure.
Points of Interest
Devil’s Golf Course
Located about seven miles northwest of Badwater Basin, the Devil’s Golf Course has a multitude of interesting salt formations that form clumps on the ground. The formations can be sharp, so you should take care to avoid tripping or cutting yourself.
Badwater Basin is famous for being the lowest point in North America. The basin is a giant flat area covered in white salt. The salt eventually begins to form roughly pentagonal structures. Badwater Basin is arguably the most well known and iconic part of Death Valley National Park.
The Race Track
The racetrack is famous for its various rocks which seem to mysteriously move at night. A video was eventually taken with the rocks moving. As it turns out, the rocks move under the right conditions of ice, water, and wind.
Furnace Creek is famous for being the place with the highest recorded temperature in the world, at 134 degrees Fahrenheit. The area also has a resort and even a golf course! This is one of the few places in the park where you can grab a bite to eat.
Artist’s palette is a famous rock formation in death valley with various colors, caused by naturally forming materials.
Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes
The Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes are located near the very center of Death Valley National Park, off of route 190. A parking lot is located by the dunes, allowing for tourists to park and venture onto the sand.
Ubehebe crater is a large volcanic crater located on the northeast side of the park, best accessed by route 267.
What To Visit On The Way
For those entering the west entrances of the park from the north, a notable place to visit on the way is Manzanar. Manzanar was one of the many internment camp where Japanese American citizens were placed during World War II. The location has a visitor’s center and some remaining barracks.
For those entering the west entrances from the south (especially from Los Angeles or San Diego), Red Rock Canyon State Park is on the way.
For those entering from the west from San Francisco, you may even drive past the Cesar Chavez national park and Tomo-Kahni State Historic park while driving to the park. Tomo-Kahni state historic park contains ancient Native American cave paintings.
Alerts and Conditions for Death Valley National Park
Want to learn more about Death Valley National Park? Visit the National Park Service website here!