DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Death Valley is world renowned for it's colorful and complex geology, extreme climate (holding the world record for hottest air temperature ever recorded at 134 degree's), and is the lowest point in the United States. This national park is also America's largest national park outside of Alaska at 3.4 million acres! There are nearly 1000 miles of paved and dirt roads which provide access to popular and remote locations. Because of the sheer size of Death Valley, we recommend careful planning to make the most of your trip.
There are many incredible geological attractions to see here however the location of many park highlights can take some time to travel between. Therefore if you are limited with time make sure you decide what is at the top of your list to see and plan accordingly. The park can be divided into four area's to explore; the Furnace Creek area, Stovepipe Wells, Panamint Springs and Scotty's Castle area.
The Furnace Creek area is where you will first drive through on your way into Death Valley if you are coming from Las Vegas. It is also where you will find most of the facilities in the park including the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center, restaurants, hotels, a campground and even a golf course. Many of Death Valley’s highlights are in this area of the park.
What to see:
Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center
Stovepipe Wells is personally my favorite area of the park to stay at and is situated in the center of the park. From here you can easily explore most area's of Death Valley and afterwards treat yourself to a nice cold beverage at the General Store and unwind on their rocking chairs.
What to see:
Mesquite Sand Dunes
Stovepipe Wells General Store
If you're coming from Los Angeles you will more than likely pass through this area of Death Valley first. If you only have one day to explore the park make sure you start your trip early, especially if you want to hike out to Darwin Falls to ensure you have time left to explore other area's of Death Valley.
What to see:
Father Crowley Vista
Wildrose Charcoal Kilns
The furthest area of the park to reach but well worth visiting is the Scotty's Castle area. Not sure if the area is still called this because the last time we were there, Scotty's Castle was closed due to severe flood damage. For that reason the castle itself has been omitted from the 'must see' list below.
What to see:
Death Valley Guide Books
Best Times To Visit Death Valley
For obvious reasons summer is not the best time of year to visit. The park does get extremely hot and camping at this time of year is not advised. However many visitors from around the world still flock to the park at this time but do remember you will be limited with participating in outdoor activities. Try to avoid being outside at the hottest times of the day.
Spring & Autumn
Spring and Autumn are the best times of year to visit. In spring the weather is warm but not too hot and as an added bonus you have the opportunity to view spring time desert wildflower blooms. The only downside to visiting in spring is that there is a strong possibility of rain and thunderstorms and extreme wind conditions. Autumn is still warm although the nights do begin to cool down.
Winter can be a good time to visit and the park is particularly beautiful with snow-capped peaks in the background. The park does not see as many visitor's at this time of year and you don't need to worry about the unbearable heat however it does get extremely cold so be prepared and bring enough clothing to stay warm.
How To Get To Death Valley
Death Valley National Park is a five hour drive from Los Angeles and a two hour drive from Las Vegas. The closest airport is McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas which is 120 miles away. If you rent a car with Enterprise they will waive the one-way drop off fee between L.A. and Las Vegas.
From Los Angeles
Coming from Los Angeles you can enter the park on California Highway 190 which will take you through the Panamint Springs area. Be sure to stop at the Father Crowley Vista on your way in to see some outstanding views of Death Valley.
From Las Vegas
From Las Vegas you will enter Death Valley also on Highway 190 but heading west. From this direction you can take a quick detour to Dante's View on your way into the park where you get a spectacular overview of Badwater Basin and the desert floor below.
Accommodation in Death Valley
Accommodation inside Death Valley National Park is limited and there are only a handful of lodging options. Alternatively you can stay in Beatty which is the closest town located outside of the park.
Lodging in Death Valley
Stovepipe Wells - The Stovepipe Wells Hotel is centrally located and close to many of the park's popular attractions. The hotel has a western rustic theme and hotel facilities include a swimming pool, restaurant and saloon.
The Inn- An elegant hideaway since 1927, The Inn is close to the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center and Badwater Basin. The lodging here is set among lush date palms with facilities that include a restaurant, large swimming pool and golf course.
The Ranch - The Ranch has access to all the facilities of The Inn, but with a more affordable price on room rates.
Panamint Springs Resort - This resort offers motel style lodging and private cabins. Resort facilities include a restaurant and general store.
Camping in Death Valley
Campgrounds in Death Valley National Park rarely fill up and most campgrounds are first come - first served. There are three privately owned campgrounds and for those you can make reservations in advance. High season is from November through March as well as all holidays from October through May. Below you will find some basic information on Death Valley’s most popular campgrounds. Click on the links for further information or to make a reservation.
Death Valley Campgrounds
Stovepipe Wells Campground - Located adjacent to the Stovepipe Wells General Store, this is our favorite campground! Open Sept 15 to May 10. First come first served. $14 per night.
Furnace Creek Campground - Located at Furnace Creek and open year round. There are 136 campsites with drinking water, picnic tables, flush toilets and dump station. Sites start at $22.
Sunset Campground - This campground is first come, first served and only open from November to May. Camp sites cost $14.
Texas Springs Campground - Open November to May. First come, first served. Sites cost $16.
Mesquite Springs Campground - Closed due to flood damage.
Emigrant Campground - Tent Only. Open year-round. Camp sites are free of charge. First come, first served.
Wildrose Campground - Open year-round. First come, first served and camp sites are free.
Panamint Springs Campground - Open year-round. There are 26 tent sites that cost $10 per night.
RV’s in Death Valley
Stovepipe Wells Village - Stovepipe Wells Village offers 14 full hookup RV sites for $37 per night and is located across the road from the Stovepipe Wells Hotel. The RV fee includes access to the swimming pool and Wi-Fi access in the hotel lobby.
Fiddler's Campground - This campground accommodates RV's, campers and tent camping for $18 per night. It is located at the Oasis and guests can enjoy access to the resort's spring-fed pool, shower facilities and other amenities such as the tennis court.
Panamint Springs Camping & RV - Located in the Panamint Springs area, this RV Park and Campground is open year round and accommodates 35 RV site's. Site's start from $20 per night.
Hiking in Death Valley
Hiking is the best way to experience the natural beauty of this unique national park however the extreme temperatures found here require some careful preparation. Make sure you take plenty of water with you when you are hiking and don't forget to pack sunscreen. You should carry at least a gallon of water with you on moderate trails.
Hiking in the low elevations can be dangerous in summer and even in spring! We have visited the park in March and April and still found temperatures to be almost unbearable. If possible, start your hike early in the morning if you are planning a visit in spring or summer. Avoid the salt flats in extremely hot weather and it is advised not to walk away from your vehicle in temperatures that are above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The best time to hike in Death Valley is from November through March and hiking in the higher elevations is recommended from June to September.