Death Valley is one of the premiere destinations in the Mojave Desert. Located in southern California near the border with Nevada, it is the hottest, driest, and lowest National Park. A land of extremes, only a few miles seperate Badwater Basin at 282-feet below sea level from the top of Telescope Peak, some 11,043-feet above sea level. Four main valleys and six mountain ranges make for hundreds of square miles of explorable land. If your goal is to get lost in a land unlike any other, look no further than Death Valley and the surrounding area.
Note: Death Valley is a very remote area, with extreme weather. Plan accordingly. Know where you can get fuel and water, and carry extra. If you are travelling alone, be extremely cautious - if you get stuck out here, it could be many days before someone else comes along to help.
Death Valley is one of the better parks as far as providing visitor information. These resources are espeically useful when planning a trip to this region:
- NPS Death Valley National Park Web Site
- Death Valley Rules and Regulations - if I were to highlight just a couple:
- No more than 4 vehicles in a group.
- No pets on trails. In general, they must be within a few feet of a road.
- Death Valley Road Conditions (facebook)
Our Trips to Death Valley
If you've decided Death Valley is for you, here are several places I'd recommend visiting.
Anyone who goes to Death Valley needs to visit Badwater Basin at least once. To be frank, it's probably the reason anyone would make a trip to this special park in the first place, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless. It's the lowest point you can travel in the United States, and that makes it special.
The hoards of tourists can make it overwhelming however, so go once to say you have, and then look for some places a little further from the beaten path. You'll have a better time for it!
At the extreme north end of Death Valley National Park lies Eureka Valley. You'll need to drive on some dirt roads to get there, but the dune field there - aptly named Eureka Dunes - are some of the highest and most pristine in the world. Climbing them is no easy task - for every two steps up, you slip one step back, making the 8-mile trek seem like 12 - but if you reach the top, it'll feel like nothing else you've experienced. And you're likely to have them all to yourself, making the victory that much sweeter.
Saline Valley (and the Warm Springs)
If you are a fan of hot springs, Saline Valley should be on your short list of places to visit in the park. Like Eureka Valley, you must travel on dirt to get here, but the roads are in generally passable condition even for a passenger vehicle. You do however need to go SLOW - the bumpy washboard roads can be extremely hard on a tires and suspension. If you have a more capable rig, consider entering the Saline Valley over Steel Pass from the north, or Lippincott Pass from the east for a bit more excitement!
One of the most beautiful, drivable canyons in the park, Titus Canyon on the eastern border is not to be missed. Depending on road conditions, it's drivable in an AWD vehicle as long as you're careful. The colors here, as well as the geology rising up around you make it a unique experience that will stick with you for a lifetime. It's a one way journey - make sure you travel east-to-west, and check out the ghost town of Ryolite before entering the canyon.
More difficult to get to than some of the other locations, the Racetrack Playa is a mind boggling experience even for those who think they've seen it all. Flat for miles, walking on the playa to check out the Grandstand, or exploring the Sailing Stones - rocks which have moved hundreds of feet across the lake bed, leaving only their trails to tell the story - will leave you always wanting more. Always wondering what you'll discover if you "just keep going." So go, and find out!
If what you're after is a 4WD experience along with a spectacular destination, Butte Valley should be on your short list. You can't get here in a 2WD passenger vehicle, and in most cases high-clearance 4WD is a must. Whether you come from the east or the west, Striped Butte will blow your socks off when you get here. And, once you recover from your initial shock, there's plenty to explore for days on end.
The Entire List
There are way too many places in Death Valley for me to list them all here - or to even visit myself. But, here are the places I've been, in case you're interested in going! Note that some place names have been redacted. I'd ask that if you know where these places are, that you please keep them special.
- ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ - 2019-11
- Artist's Pallet - 2018-01
- ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ - 2019-02, 2019-02
- Badwater Basin - 2018-01
- Badwater Rd - 2019-02, 2019-02, 2019-02
- Ballarat (ghost town) - 2018-04
- Barker Ranch - 2018-01
- Bat Sign - 2018-04
- Big Silver Mine Rd - 2019-11
- Boxcar Cabin - 2018-04
- Butte Valley - 2018-04, 2018-04, 2018-01, 2018-01
- Cave Cabin - 2018-04
- Cerro Gordo Rd - 2019-11
- ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ - 2019-11
- ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ - 2019-11
- Charcoal Kiln Rd - 2018-04
- Charcoal Kilns - 2018-04
- Corkscrew Peak - 2018-01
- Cottonwood Canyon - 2018-01, 2018-01
- Crater Ghost Town - 2019-11
- Crater Mine - 2019-11
- Dedeckera Canyon - 2018-04, 2019-11
- Devil's Golf Course - 2018-01
- El Captan Mine - 2019-11
- Eureka Dunes - 2018-04, 2019-11, 2019-11
- Eureka Valley Rd - 2018-04, 2019-11
- Geologist Cabin - 2018-04, 2018-01, 2018-01
- Goler Wash - 2018-04, 2018-01
- Harry Wade Rd - 2019-02, 2019-02
- Hole in the Wall - 2019-02
- Ibex Hills - 2019-02
- Jubilee Pass Rd - 2019-02, 2019-02
- Kaleidoscope Canyon - 2019-02
- Lead Peak - 2019-11
- Leadfield Ghost Town - 2018-01
- Lee Flat - 2019-11
- Lee Flat Joshua Tree Forest - 2018-04, 2018-01
- Lippincott Mine - 2018-01
- Lippincott Pass - 2018-01
- Lotus Mine - 2018-04
- Mahogany Flat - 2018-04
- Marble Canyon - 2018-01
- Mengle Pass - 2018-04, 2018-01
- Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes - 2018-01, 2018-01
- Mono Lake - 2019-11
- Mt. Whitney - 2019-11
- Natural Bridge - 2018-01
- ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ - 2019-11
- ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ - 2019-11, 2019-11
- Newman Mine - 2018-04, 2018-01
- North Eureka Valley Rd - 2018-04, 2019-11
- Owlshead Mountains - 2019-02
- Panamint Springs - 2018-01
- ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ - 2019-11
- Racetrack Valley Road - 2018-01, 2018-01
- Rhodes Spring - 2019-02, 2019-02
- Room Canyon - 2019-02
- Saline Valley Rd - 2018-04, 2018-01, 2019-11, 2019-11, 2019-11
- Saline Valley Salt Tram - 2019-11, 2019-11
- Saline Valley Warm Springs - 2018-04, 2019-11
- San Lucas Canyon - 2019-11
- Saratoga Springs - 2019-02
- Scotty's Castle Rd. - 2018-01
- Sidewinder Canyon - 2019-02
- Smoke Tree Slot Canyons - 2019-02
- South Eureka Rd - 2018-04
- South Pass - 2018-01, 2019-11
- South Warm Springs Rd - 2018-04
- Steel Pass Rd - 2018-04, 2019-11
- Stella's Cabin - 2018-04
- Stovepipe Wells - 2018-01
- Striped Butte - 2018-04, 2018-04, 2018-01, 2018-01
- Teakettle Junction - 2018-01
- ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ - 2019-11, 2019-11
- The Racetrack - 2018-01
- Titus Canyon - 2018-01
- Ubehebe Crater Rd. - 2018-01
- Warm Spring Mine - 2018-04, 2018-01
- Warm Spring Rd - 2018-04, 2018-01
- West Side Rd - 2018-04
- ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ - 2019-11
- White Mountain Talc Rd - 2019-11, 2019-11
- Wildrose Canyon Rd - 2018-04