Death Valley – the hottest place on Earth, known for its bizarre, incredible and EXTREME natural landscapes ranging from the largest sand flats in the world, to the lowest point in North America. The mystical ways of Mother Nature seem to congregate in this seemingly morbid-sounding place.
Visiting in Winter was definitely the best idea, avoiding the scorching Summer e.g. highest ever recorded temperature of 56 degrees Celsius… We swapped out our down jackets and thermals (after Yosemite National Park) for shorts and t-shirts for some pleasant hikes through this desert!
NPS is your best friend! Here is the perfect Visitor Map to Death Valley which you can also pick up a copy when you drive through Stovepipe Wells (east) or Furnace Creek (south).
TWO DAYS IN DEATH VALLEY ITINERARY
DAY 1 – Death Valley (Stovepipe Wells)
Ubehebe Crater: Try pronouncing this name (it’s a lot of fun haha) The winds here are insane and the thought of plummeting 237 metres to the bottom is not so enticing, so wearing a windproof jacket if you choose to hike around the entire crater is a good idea. Spanning 100 metres wide, Ubehebe Crater was formed by the volcanic steam and magma, thousands of years old. Hiking to the bottom and looking up is pretty incredible.
Mesquite Sand Dunes: Despite Death Valley being a desert, only 1% of the entire park is covered in sand! The most famous sand dunes, covering a vast area and reaching up to 30 metres (100 feet) high, are the Mesquite Sand Dunes. Hike out as far as you want – it’s quite tiring, but wait for the sunset. Watching the seemingly endless waves of sand gradually change through a gradient of colours and shades as the sun disappears behind you is spectacular.
This is also one of the many famous Star Wars filming locations in Death Valley! Doesn’t this look like the Tatooine sand dunes that R2D2, C3PO and Luke walk across? The NPS website even has a page just DEDICATED to Star Wars locations (Star Wars in Death Valley)
DAY 2 – Death Valley (Furnace Creek)
Rather than staying in Furnace Creek ($$$$), staying overnight in Beatty is a good idea so you’re not ripped off by the resort prices – it also means you can drive past the largest ghost town, Ryanolite on the way!
Zabriskie Point: Zabriskie Point is definitely the best point for sunrise, with artistically-sculpted cliffs (badlands) undulating into the distance, the combination of dawn sunlight with shadows from the random patches of cloud up above make the colours over Zabriskie point really stunning. Interestingly formed earlier than Death Valley itself when the 9 million year old lake dried up 5 million years ago! What a true piece of archaeological history.
Make a quite stop to Devil’s Golf Course on the way to Badwater Basin!
Badwater Basin: The lowest point in North America, 86 metres (282 feet) below sea level – consisting a massive, expanse of salt flats with cool hexagonal patterns in the ground, we spent ages here taking pics and walking down this unique landscape.
Badwater Basin has the funniest backstory as to how it got its name. An explorer’s horse was thirsty and didn’t like the water due to its high salt content, and so he wrote down this lake as having “badwater” in his journal, so the name stuck!
Artist’s Palette: An incredible 20 minute drive on the way back from Badwater Basin to Furnace Creek – it’s all in its name! Pink, purple, white, green – so many colours splattered onto these rocks just like an Artist’s Palette!
Dante’s View: Looped back from Furnace creek, driving through Twenty Mule Team Canyon drive, to reach Dante’s View. A beautiful hike/view point almost 1700 metres (5400 feet) above sea level – this is the last stop of Dante’s journey through the 9 rings of hell, to reach a final Elysium-like panoramic view of the entire Death Valley. A very fitting last stop before you leave 🙂