Who wouldn't want to visit the driest place in the United States? Okay, maybe the desert doesn't call to all, but it's a wild landscape with an eery beauty that's definitely worth a visit. At 288 feet below sea-level, it's also the lowest place in North America, as well as the hottest recorded temperature on earth.
Unless you're coming from nearby Las Vegas only 2.5 hours east, you'll probably be driving a ways to get to Death Valley National Park, making it a great road trip stopover or destination. Some choose to just visit for the day, preferring to get out of the desert to sleep, while others love the special nights the climate and clear skies have to offer for stargazing. Whatever your preference, don't miss a few key places. Just remember, Death Valley is huge at over three million acres of designated wilderness, so plan some time to get around!
Don't miss the lowest point in North America at Badwater Basin, and the vast salt flats. The 9-mile Artists Drive is a scenic loop drive to see multi-colored hills in the area, while Zabriskie Point is a great place to catch the sunrise. Stretch your legs on the 4-mile Mosaic Canyon Trail Loop, or the much longer and more difficult Telescope Peak Trail, amongst many others (check out our popular hikes, below).
And you might be surprised by this one, but Death Valley is one of the most diverse bird-biomes in the National Park System.
Planning on staying a few nights? Choose from various campgrounds within the park. Some are first-come, others are reservable. Get the full details before you go, and take a read of this well thought out Death Valley brochure with plenty of great tips.
When to Go
You can see from the graph on the right that June through September visits plummet, when the park experiences temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Unless you love suffering in the heat, try planning your visit between November and March, especially if you're planning on hiking. Of course people visit year-round, and you can too if you're adequately prepared. Some even run 135 miles across Death Valley in July in what's considered “The World's Toughest Foot Race” during the annual Badwater 135 ultrarun!