Length of stay:1 day
Visited: January 2023
Death Valley National Park is a land of extremes. It’s the lowest point in North America and is considered one of the driest places in the world. It also holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on the surface of the Earth. Only the hardiest of plants and animals can withstand this harsh environment.
On our way back to Las Vegas from our road trip through southern Utah, we decided to spend the last full day of our vacation in Death Valley. It was a bit out of the way, but we figured what better time to visit one of the hottest places in the world than in the middle of winter.
Death Valley is the largest national park in the lower 48 states. As such there are multiple access points. We entered through the east near the Death Valley Junction and headed towards Dante’s View. Here there is an overlook at the crest of the Black Mountains that provides sweeping views above the salt flats.
It was a bit of a drive to get to Dante’s View. From the parking lot, there’s a viewing area along the rim and a series of signs that provided more information about the geology of the area. This is also a short trail along the ridge that leads to another nice viewpoint.
We hopped back in the car and drove to Zabriskie Point. There’s a short trail from the parking lot that leads to a viewpoint overlooking the badlands. Million of years ago this place was once full of water. The golden colours of the badlands were layers of sand and silt that settled to the bottom of an ancient lake. The brown stripes of colour in the rocks came from periodic volcanic eruptions of lava, ash and hot mud that landed into the lake.
We then went to the Devils Golf Course, which required driving on a gravel road. It was in pretty good condition. From the parking lot it’s a choose your own adventure to explore the crystalized salt formations. The rock salts were deposited by ancient salt lakes and have been shaped by the wind and rain. The salt continues to be deposited by recurrent floods through the valley.
Our next stop was at the Natural Bridge Canyon (1.6km round trip, rated moderate). There is a short trail through the wash that leads to a natural bridge between the canyon walls. To get to the trailhead required driving down another gravel road. Except this one was in real rough shape with lots of potholes and large rocks. We contemplated turning around, but were worried that we’d get stuck. There were a few cars in the parking lot, which gave us hope, so we just took it nice and slow.
We then headed to Badwater Basin. At 86m (or 282 feet) below sea level, it is the lowest point in North America. There’s a path along a short boardwalk that then passes through the salt flats to salt polygons. It wasn’t clear where the path ends, so it became another choose your own adventure with people wandering around the salt flats.
This area was once a lake, which eventually evaporated, leaving behind an accumulation of sediment and salt. Today, interesting geometric shapes and patterns form on the salt water as groundwater seeps up through the concentrated salt deposits and evaporates.
On the drive back to the visitor center, we went along Arists Drive, a scenic drive that is 14.5km one-way. The paved road passes colourful hills, many of which looked like different flavours of ice cream like chocolate, vanilla, caramel, strawberry and mint. There were a couple of spots to stop and pull over to get a better view of the landscape. Besides providing nice views of the colourful terrain, the drive itself was quite adventurous with lots of twists and turns in and around the hills.
Next up was Harmony Borax Works. There’s a short path (0.6km loop, rated easy) that passes a historic processing ruins of borax, which was one of the most profitable resources mined in the park. Along the path there’s a series of storyboards that provided more information about borax and the history of Harmony Borax Works, one of Death Valley’s first borax operations which operated from 1883 to 1888.
It was getting late in the day, but we made one last stop at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, which showcases a different habitat in the park. There is no clear path through the sand dunes. We didn’t spend much time here as it was starting to get dark. And we had no interest in getting our hiking boots full of sand.
From there we started the long drive out of the park and headed back towards Las Vegas.
84 thoughts on “Death Valley National Park”
OMG! Death Valley is one of those places you have to see if you are near. You two are so adventurous. I love this bit of description: colourful hills, many of which looked like different flavours of ice cream like chocolate, vanilla, caramel, strawberry and mint. Do you write travel articles for magazines? If not, you should.
You are too kind. We were actually on the fence about whether we should squeeze in a visit to Death Valley as it was a bit out of the way. We have yet to visit California and figured we could just add Death Valley to a future road trip as it’s close to a few other national parks in the state. But in the end we decided to just go for it since we figured what better time to visit than in the middle of January when the temperatures are at their coolest. I’m glad we made the time for it as the landscape is so surreal. The colourful hills along Arists Drive were among some of my favourite views.
Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. The landscape in Death Valley looks like it’s from a different world.
You are most welcome! Yes, your photos really captured that otherworldliness of the place!!
You are too kind. It’s always helps to have a photogenic landscape to work with!
Well, you went to the right place there! 😉
Smart to visit in the winter! I didn’t know it was the lowest point in the US, very interesting.
We’re not a fan of the heat and like to cling to the shadows, so figured we might as well visit the hottest place in the world during the middle of winter. Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in the US and all of North America, is such a fascinating place to visit with all those salt flats.
The definition of a Canadian is one who visits the hottest place in NA during the winter. I would have done the same. We are the ones on the beaches in January or after dark. 😎Looks like a very interesting place to visit and amazing to see how far below sea level it is. Thanks for sharing Linda. Allan
Works for me. I’d rather deal with the cold than the crowds. Besides, the cooler weather is actually better for hiking. Death Valley looks out of this world. But I wasn’t a fan of all these choose your own adventures all over the landscape, mainly because I don’t like having randoms in my pictures. Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda
Very nice! Such interesting landscape!
The landscape in Death Valley looks like it’s from a different planet. It’s wild how extreme the environment is. I’m glad we visited in the middle of winter as I don’t think we can handle the heat.
So interesting as we took a similar route back to Las Vegas airport as you. I remember getting out of the car to take photos and the heat hitting me as we were there in May. Love how you have captured your photos Linda.
Thanks for your lovely comment. I must say, it’s very convenient how Las Vegas is close to so many epic national parks like Zion, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley. We ended up adding an extra day to our trip just to squeeze in a visit to Death Valley. It seemed like the perfect time to go in the middle of January. Except everyone else had the same idea and it was actually quite busy. I can easily see why though. The landscape looks otherworldly.
Badwater and Zabriske Point, in particular, can get super crowded. But you managed to touch on all the iconic places in Death Valley in just a day – and didn’t seem to run into a lot of crowds along the way. Good! 😁 I think winter is the best time to visit but in the last few years mid-summer has been attracting more tourists who are keen to visit Badwater when it’s 125℉ (52℃) in the shade! 🥵
The nice thing about Death Valley is that because it’s so big, it helps spread out the crowds. The thing I didn’t like though was that for many of the main attractions, it was a bit of a choose your own adventure without any clear path, which made taking pictures a bit tricky. It’s wild how some people are trying to visit Death Valley when it’s at its hottest! That’s a hard pass for me. The heat and the sun are no joke.
Thank you for sharing these great photos! I have been there just once years ago, it is truly beautiful! Welcome to Las Vegas! ☺️
Thanks for your kind words. The landscape in Death Valley is so harsh, yet incredibly scenic. I’m glad we managed to squeeze in a visit, even if it was for just a day. We unfortunately didn’t get to spend much time in Nevada though. I have a feeling that we’ll be back someday.
I’m just so amazed at how your trip continues to pack so much in. Just when I thought you were done. 😊
Death Valley looked amazing, in an eerie way, and I loved the way you described the scenery and your beautiful photos. Definitely a good idea to look for other cars in the area to know if you’re ok to go venturing out to explore too! 😆
We clearly don’t know how to take a break while on vacation! We were on the fence about whether to visit Death Valley since it was a bit of a drive from the Grand Canyon, but I’m glad we did as there really is no better time to go to the hottest place in the world than in the middle of winter. The desolate landscape looks like it’s from a different planet. That one gravel road was super sketchy though. It was comforting to know that there were other people around in case we got stuck or a flat tire! Safety in numbers, right?
You made the right call to squeeze it in. It looked spectacular!
And yes, you don’t want a flat tire at Death Valley of all places. 😆
The landscape certainly is unique. It’s not a good spot to get a flat tire though. I don’t think I would want to camp there either as there really isn’t much (or any) shade or privacy.
Love the colors on Artists Drive. Your description of ice cream is so appropriate!
The colourful hills along Arists Drive were quite a feast for the eyes (and my camera). I’m not going lie, I was craving ice cream afterwards.
That landscape is just so dynamic and interesting at every turn! I have not visited this park yet but it is definitely on my list 🙂
Oh I know. It felt like we were exploring a whole different planet. Even though it’s an extremely harsh environment, the landscape still looks beautiful.
You picked the perfect time to visit Death Valley. We visited in September, and it was too hot to enjoy being outside. I enjoyed revisiting through you post.
We were on the fence about whether we should visit Death Valley since it was a bit out of the way. We ended up adding an extra day to our vacation to make it work as we figured visiting in January was really the perfect time in terms of the temperature. I’m so glad we did. It was quite comfortable outside weather-wise, but it was far too busy for our liking.
It’s a desolate and strange landscape. It’s interesting that it’s protected and left that way rather than trying to get something out of it, well, apart from tourism.
Death Valley was actually once used for mining borax and other metals such as gold, silver and copper. These mining operations weren’t overly successful. And once Death Valley became a national monument, there were more protections put in place. Some areas are better left to nature.
The polygonal shapes remind me of Uyuji Salt Flats in Bolivia. Something about the chemistry of salt asnit evaporates I think. Chem classes were a long time ago. Is it called golf course because of the roundish clumps of salt? Maggie
Salt flats are pretty fascinating in terms of how they are created and they are also very picturesque. According to a sign in the park, Devil’s Golf Course gets its name from its rough surface of rock salt that has been eroded into jagged spires that “only the devil could play golf on such rough links”.
Haha loved to see the devil try!! 🤣🤣
Great photos. I have visited Death Valley twice … both times in April … even then you did your exploring in the morning and tried to stay cool in the afternoons.
Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad we managed to visit Death Valley in January when the temperature is much more comfortable for exploring the terrain. I can only imagine how hot it is in the summer. And there is very little shade.
There can be such beauty in desolation. The colours and shapes of the rocks and sand are fascinating. Very interesting post, Linda.
For sure. For such a harsh and extreme environment, there is still a lot of beauty in the landscape. Death Valley is a very fascinating area. I don’t think we would enjoy camping here given the lack of shade though.
Wow! Awesome photos! I can see many shapes…
Thank’s for share Linda.
Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. The landscape in Death Valley is filled with lots of interesting shapes and patterns from the extreme environment. It felt like we were exploring a different planet. Hope you had a wonderful weekend as well.
Wow! Sounds amazing. Thank’s for share Linda. Weekend was si relaxing hope yours as well.
Glad to hear. I’m counting down the days until the next weekend. The weather is finally getting warmer and I’m looking forward to spring.
That’s great! I’m sure you will have am amazing travel. With a lovely weather. Hope spring brings you a lot of blessings. Thank’s Linda.
Just by looking at your photos, I can kind of imagine how hot Death Valley must be in summer. I think it was a wise decision that both of you went there when the temperatures were more bearable. Following your journey across this part of the US really reminds me how vast and expansive the country is.
Oh gosh, I can only imagine what the heat is like in the middle of summer in Death Valley. And there is zero protection from the sun. I’m so glad we went in the middle of winter when the temperatures were at their coldest! It is pretty wild how vast the United States is, especially in the west with all those mountains.
It is wild to think that the area was once under water! Your landscape photos look incredible, and you really get a sense of the texture of the land looking at them. The Artists Drive seems like such a neat area too, it really does resemble ice cream!
Thanks for your lovely comment. The desolate landscape in Death Valley looked much more colourful than we were expecting. The colourful hills along Arists Drive were my favourite and definitely gave me a craving for some ice cream. I’m so glad we visited in the middle of winter as I don’t think we could have survived the heat or the sun.
It almost seems surreal … the snow capped mountains in the distance and then this barren world in the foreground! Devils Golf Course looks like an ankle breaker – astonishing! Oh, and I like the ice-cream coloured mountains. Stunning photos of an amazing place!
Oh I know. It’s such a land of extremes. We noticed a huge difference in the temperature when we were up in the mountains at Dante’s View compared to down in the valley. There were actually a few warning signs at Devils Golf Course as the salt rocks are actually quite sharp. Needless to say, we didn’t stray far from the parking lot. I’m not going lie, I was definitely craving some ice cream after visiting all those colourful hills along Artists Drive.
Viewing time also so lonely and scary rocks , so dry nature and earth wonders 🌹🙏❤️🤔🌹
The landscape in Death Valley is pretty extreme. Despite being quite barren and desolate, it was surprisingly quite colourful. It felt like we were exploring a different planet.
Great photos! Appreciate the insights on the area and traveling there in January.
Thanks for your lovely comment. The landscape in Death Valley looks very otherworldly. I’m glad we went in the middle of winter when the temperature wasn’t as extreme so we could explore some of the terrain and trails.
Awesome! I haven’t been to Death Valley (yet) but every time I read about it, I’m reminded how much I want to go. You guys managed to see a lot in one day!
We definitely underestimated just how huge Death Valley is. It would have been nice to stay an extra day to explore more of the trails and different viewpoints in the park. We made the most of the time we had though. I’m also glad we went in the middle of January when the temperature was much more comfortable.
And now I have to see Death Valley. What an extraordinary place!
The landscape in Death Valley looks so desolate and surreal. It felt like we were exploring a different planet. I can only imagine what it’s like in the middle of summer though when the temperatures are at their hottest. Yikes.
Oh my. I wouldn’t want to brave the summer. Someday, someday I will explore here in the winter!
There just never seems to be enough time (or vacation days)!
Never. Absolutely never enough.
Death Valley’s the epitome of desolate beauty. The Devils Golf Course looks so eerie, you can see how it got its name, and I love the shapes and patterns in the Badwater Basin.
Agreed, for such a harsh and extreme environment, Death Valley sure looks beautiful. The salt flats were fascinating with all those geometric shapes and crystalized salt formations. There were a few warning signs to indicate that the salt rocks were quite sharp. The name Devils Golf Course does seem very fitting.
Even though I have lived in California for years, I haven’t seen Death Valley yet, but I have heard so much about it, especially the history of the borax operations and the internment camps
We ended up extending our trip by an extra day so we could sneak in a visit to Death Valley. We figured what better time to visit the hottest place in the world than in the middle of January. But it turns out a lot of other people had the same idea. It was a bit too crowded for my liking and I wasn’t a fan of how a lot of the viewpoints were a bit of a choose your own adventure with people just wandering around all over the place. I much prefer clearly marked viewing platforms and hiking trails. It is a pretty unique place though and it was interesting to learn more about its history.
How gorgeous! This type of landscape is one of my favourites and like you, I’d rather deal with a bit of cold weather than crowds.
The extreme landscape in Death Valley is fascinating and looks so much like another world. I’m so glad we visited in January when the temperatures were quite pleasant for exploring the terrain. It turns out a lot of other people had the same thinking as it was actually quite busy. I can only imagine what it’s like in the middle of summer though. I have no idea how people even camp here.
Salt flats are fascinating places, sometimes the colouring, though subtle, is fabulous. Love the name “Devil’s Golf Course” for such rough terrain.
Oh for sure. And it’s neat how the salt flats are constantly changing and taking on different shapes and patterns. The salty formations at Devils Golf Course were surprisingly pretty sharp. I wouldn’t want to trip and fall there!
I can’t get over hw beautiful it is, Death Valley is such an amazing landscape – and I agree, less crowds always wins out for us!
For such a barren and inhospitable place, Death Valley sure is fascinating. I was surprised at how diverse and colourful the landscape is. I’m glad we went in the middle of winter when the temperature was quite comfortable to enjoy the trails and terrain.
Very nice write up and you got to see many of the great highlights of the park. Love all your photos and what a great view from Dante’s with the snow capped mountains in the background. Bet that was a really long day worth of driving and I hope you didn’t have to get more gas in the park. Out of your stops, I think I enjoyed both Dante’s View and the Arch hike best when we visited. Although the artists loop was a fun and colorful drive to take in. Agree that the road was kind unexpected with its dips and twists! I’m glad we got to spend several days there which is needed to explore the areas further into the park since you spend so much time driving! I ended up documenting our trip over 4 parts … vast park means vast amounts of photos and video.
Thanks for your lovely comment. It was definitely a long day in the car, especially since we first had to drive three hours just to get there. We seriously underestimated just how far of a drive it is to get to the different sections in the park. Good call on staying for several days. I just looked through your posts again, which makes me want to return to more fully explore the area. Someday. The overlook at Dante’s View was pretty incredible. It was also crazy how much cooler it was there compared to down in the valley.
The other plus to being up so high was it was the only in the park that we got cell service! To hear our phones dinging as we approached the parking area was a surprise.
We didn’t even notice as we had our phones on airplane mode the whole time!
Desolate and beautiful, I love the varied colours and textures in the landscape. Very smart visiting in winter, I’d say. The ice cream comparison is brilliant and quite fitting.
The landscape in Death Valley is fascinating. The nice thing about visiting during the winter was that it was quite comfortable outside. I have no idea how people manage in the summer with the sweltering heat. There is also very little shade. This is one park where I have no interest in camping.
Such wonderful photos. I am so happy for you that you are able to travel a lot!
Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. Even though the landscape in Death Valley is extreme, it’s also extremely beautiful. I must say, it’s been nice being able to travel more easily now that all the public health restrictions around the pandemic have ended.
Great photos, didn’t know about Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America. That’s a cool place to visit.
Thanks for your kind words. Badwater Basin is such a fascinating area with all those salt flats. It was also pretty cool to step foot on the lowest point in North America.
So barren and inhospitable looking. Although the rock layers do have some super cool colours. For you guys it seemed like a lot of driving and not as much hiking as you like to do. Crazy it was crowded in January but I guess people are trying to avoid the heat that could kill. Bernie
Beautiful article! It’s good you visited Death Valley National park in winter and I especially love Dante View, amazing scenery 💯
Thanks for your kind words. We can’t handle the heat, so it seemed fitting to extend our trip by an extra day to check out Death Valley as there isn’t going to be a better time to visit than in the middle of winter. Even though it’s such a harsh environment, the barren landscape looked beautiful.