I have been to Death Valley more than any other national park. That’s because it is just a few hours from Las Vegas, where I have visited over 25 times. The contrast between the bustle and glitz of Vegas and the relative solitude and emptiness of Death Valley is relaxing.
The best way to see a good a portion of Death Valley in a day is to first drive to Beatty and spend the night. It’s about 120 miles to Beatty from Vegas and then another 40 miles to Death Valley. On the way to Beatty, you can take a break at the Area 51 Alien Center to at least fill up on cheap gas. After this stop, gas is very expensive and especially in Death Valley.
Death Valley’s signature feature is that it has the lowest point in North America. But as you enter the park from Beatty, you cross over a mountain at an elevation for over 4,000 feet.
With about 3.4 million acres, Death Valley is the largest park outside of Alaska and home to the Timbisha Shosone tribe. Fortunately, except for Scotty’s Castle in the north, most of the interesting parts are in the central portion of the park.
One area of Death Valley is the Mesquite sand dunes.
Near the sand dunes is the area known as the Devil’s Cornfield.
This is the road to Mosaic Canyon, where there’s a nice hiking trail which includes a marble canyon.
At one time, borax was mined in Death Valley. You can visit the ruins of the mining operations.
One of the two top scenic views is Zabrieski Point, which highlights the erosion which has affected this area.
If you’re going to Death Valley, you have to take a photo showing just how hot it is. The Furnace Creek Visitor Center is the perfect photo op for this. Remember…it’s a “dry” heat.
The “lowest point” photo op is at Badwater Basin, which is 282 feet below sea level.
You can walk out into the salt flats at Badwater Basin.
The panoramic view in Death Valley is from Dante’s View. It is just under 5, 500 feet elevation. In the twenty or so minutes it takes to drive to it from a turnoff, the temperature drops a good 15 degrees.
I have yet to make it to the Scotty’s Castle area of Death valley. That’s on my list for a future visit.