A lot of people when I said I was travelling here asked me why? Why in the world would you go there… there is nothing there? But to me that was what was so incredible. Death Valley is a place that people have somehow made habitable, to allow people to understand the wonders of the world. The heat here, the history, the natural landscape, it all holds an incredible story.
As one of the hottest places in the world, it also has the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.
Death Valley is a place prone to flash flooding, even though it only gets 1.92 inches of rain a year. It is also a place where the vastness of absolutely nothing will astound you. I was amazed that you would be driving down a road and there would be nothing for miles except for hills in the background.
Of course as it is so incredibly hot in Death Valley here are a few tips on how to survive!
1. Do any hiking in the morning, or afternoon. Save the middle of the day for being up in the mountains.
2. Make sure wherever you go you have plenty of water, if you are hiking be sure to have a few litres on you, and I always kept 4 litres in the car just in case. The blistering heat, you will notice very quickly as there is absolutely no shade…. Anywhere!
3. Tell someone of your plans, I was travelling alone and would message my best friend each morning of my plans and then each night to let her know that I had returned home safely.
What to do in Death Valley
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (left): These sand dunes were amazing, a great spot to explore first thing in the morning (the light is incredible). I felt like I was in the Lion King out in the Badlands. You can park your car and then go for a walk through the sand dunes as far as you like, the highest point is only 100 ft. high and isn’t too far of a walk from the car park. Be sure to take plenty of water with you as this is where I noticed the heat the most, there is no shade!!
Be prepared to get runners filled with sand if you have any holes in your shoes at all. Not sure if I would brave it and go barefoot though, just empty your shoes when you get back to the car.
I went in the middle of the day and got some incredible photos, but the best times apparently are at sunrise and sunset for the amazing colours in the sky.
Ubehebe crater: This is a large volcanic crater in the north area of the park, that is over 1km wide and 237m deep at its lowest point. You can take in the incredible views of the surrounds from the viewpoints, or you can walk down into the crater, or around it. The walk back up is very strenuous and the walk around is hard due to lose footing and an initial climb (1.5 miles round trip).
Dante’s View (below): this is a viewpoint at 1,669 meters providing incredible panoramic views of the Southern Death Valley basin. You can walk around the paths, the further you walk, the better the view. It is a great spot for star viewing and is best to otherwise visit in the early hours of the morning to avoid the heat.
Devils Golf Course: It is a large salt pan on the floor of Death Valley, it has an incredibly rough surface from the salt formations. It was quoted in the guidebook long ago “only a devil could play golf here” which is where the name was formed. Definitely a cool place to check out the salt formations.
Golden Canyon (right): This is a great spot to go for a hike in, and one of the only spots you will find shade (occasionally). You can either hike in and back or take the full loop. The canyon was incredible to see the size of it and the colours in the rocks. It was a nice flat hike, the path isn’t paved, but is pretty level. Have fun walking through the rocks, or climbing some of them like me for a good photo! Here is where I realised how small I was in comparison to nature. I was a little blip in among all this incredible rock and mountains.
You can hike here to Red Cathedral which is 3 miles in and out (4.8km).
Badlands are an area in Death Valley, that links with the Golden Canyon and provides great spots for hiking.
The Badlands loop is a 2.7 mile (4.3km) route that is a moderate hike taking 1.5-2 hours. It starts at Zabriskie Point. The loops wind through the colourful Badlands and you will feel like you are in The Lion King. Make sure to keep an eye out for the signs at intersections.
Artists Drive and Palette: Artists Drive is a small drive off the highway. You can take in the incredible colours of the rocks, and make sure you get out at Artists Palette. The Palette has the most incredible range of colours that have formed on the rocks through oxidisation, and other chemical reactions.
Zabriskie Point (above): is an incredible view point of Death Valley, which is a view of Furnace Creek Lake, where the water dried up over 5 million years ago. So it’s not really a lake anymore. But it is another spot where you can take in incredible views and walk around the outside of it.
Make sure you walk outside at night and have a look at the stars. Walk away from all the lights at your accommodation, maybe a couple of hundred meters and look up. The stars are breathtaking, lie down and just watch them. If not take a drive to the middle of nowhere, or the Mesquite Flat sand dunes and enjoy the stars with no light interference, the whole sky will be full of twinkling lights.
Accommodation: There is a few accommodation options in and around Death Valley.
Stovepipe wells is where I chose to stay and is about 30 minutes from the main town of Furnace Creek, and 2 miles from the sand dunes. The town of Stovepipe wells consists of the hotel, a general store and petrol station. But it is incredibly cute and was a great place to stay. They had a lovely pool to laze by, fantastic staff and a restaurant and saloon (bar). The accommodation was also good, it was well priced and really comfortable. This is an old-school accommodation, set to look like the olden days is very cute, and also has minimal lighting so that when you go outside at night you can take in all the stars in the sky!
You can also stay at Furnace Creek Resort. This is the more expensive place to stay but the resort itself is incredibly lavish. And includes features such as a nice pool, restaurant and top-notch lodging.
Another spot to stay is in Beatty this is closest town to Death Valley. It is much further out, but is also the cheapest.