The third US National Park visited on #NgoDangNormalRoadTrip was to Death Valley National Park, in eastern California near the Nevada border.
Death Valley is one of my favorite parks, because it is a land of extremes:
- Largest national park in the contiguous 48 states
- 3.4 million acres across California & Nevada
- Twice the size of Delaware
- Hottest place on Earth
- 134 F degrees on July 10, 1913 at Furnace Creek
- Lowest point in North America
- Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level
- Driest national park
- Storms coming in from the Pacific Ocean pass over a few mountains going east. The moisture falls as rain or snow on the western side of the range, so by the time it reaches the east, Death Valley, all the precipitation has been dropped so all you see is a “rainshadow”. Multiply this effect by 4 different mountain ranges and you get the driest place in the US.
- Avg rainfall is 2 inches annually, with some years with no rain at all!
Death Valley was designated a National Park on October 31, 1994 by President Bill Clinton.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Joshua Tree National Park, we drove 4 hours to Death Valley Junction (eastern side of Death Valley National Park). Once we turned left onto State Road 190, the first left turn you should make should be onto Dantes View Road to see Dante’s View (famed as one of the most extraordinary views in the world).
Zabriskie Point is the next attraction off of SR 190. Although it is a short walk from the parking lot to the viewing area, the summertime heat will blast you and feel much more strenuous than expected. The views of the badlands (aka Mars) are worth it!
Tip: If you can work it out, this would be a great spot for Sunrise or Sunset
FURNACE CREEK VISITOR CENTER
The main visitor center in the park, stop here for the day’s update on road closures and vital info.
DEVIL’S GOLF COURSE
Devil’s Golf Course is a giant “evaporating dish” remnant of a past lake. What used to be one of Death Valley’s most significant lakes is now an area of jagged salt rocks, so serrated and gnarled that it is said “only the devil could play golf on such rough links”.
The lowest point in North America is here at Badwater Basin. This area used to be an extremely briny, 30 foot deep lake, 4x saltier than the ocean! These salt flats are an incredible sight to see, especially with the Black Mountains in the distance.
This scenic drive is 9 miles long on a winding one-way road between rolling hills of all different colors: green, blue, yellow, pink, orange… The Artist’s Palette is so cool, and even better when the afternoon sun has set a bit.
MESQUITE SAND DUNES
My favorite part of Death Valley is the sand dune wonderland near Stovepipe Wells. The dunes reach up to 100 feet and are surrounded by the Cottonwood Mountains.
Tip: Go here for Sunset, then stay after dark for Moonlight Guided Star Walks!
Panamint Springs Resort, on the National Park grounds, is on the western portion of the park. Check in is a bit confusing, as you have to check in at the gas station/convenience store! The lodging is rustic western style, basic, low budget but the darkness of the evening is a beautiful night sky to behold.
On my return to Death Valley I wouldn’t miss:
Titus Canyon- Klare Spring for the Bighorn Sheep
The Racetrack- Playa, dry lakebed with the “strange moving rocks”
Driving a Jeep Wrangler with my bestie, Geo, through Death Valley and eventually through Olancha, California was one of the most scenic drives I’ve ever done! When natural formations make you think twice if it was man-made or God sculpted, to abandoned houses that just call your name to explore. Very fortunate to have a buddy to share this experience with.
Thank you for joining in the Death Valley journey!
All photos taken by Melllypoo via Canon6D.