There are many reasons why Death Valley is a bucket list destination. It's the hottest place in the country and one of the hottest in the world, and it's also the lowest - and driest - of all the deserts in the U.S. The landscape of this desert is quite unusual and not what many people think of prior to their visit, which makes for a truly unique experience.
Those who favor the desert environment might just find that Death Valley - despite its threatening name - may become of their favorite stops. With its close proximity to (only two hours from) Las Vegas, there's no reason why it shouldn't be on anyone's list. In terms of national parks, this is certainly one of the most unique in the entirety of North America. Need more reasons? Here's why visiting Death Valley usually keeps visitors coming back time and time again - if they can handle the heat, that is.
Getting To Death Valley
It would make sense that Death Valley would be entirely desolate and devoid of any roads, but that's actually not the case. It's far closer to Las Vegas than many people even realize and getting there is as easy as driving to the outer city limits. Death Valley National Park is in the southeastern region of California, with the park sitting on the border of it and Nevada. Those within California can reach Death Valley in a 4.5-hour drive from Los Angeles but, obviously, this is a much longer day trip than driving from Las Vegas.
Inside the park, route 190 runs through the entirety of the desert. The road takes visitors through the center of Death Valley so, theoretically, visitors wouldn't even need to get out of the car if they don't choose to. However, the experience is that much more incredible if they do - especially with all there is to see in this gorgeous desert setting.
Landmarks Within The Park
Even though the park has been known to reach temperatures above 130 degrees Fahrenheit, its natural features make it well worth braving the heat for. During the cooler months (as in not the summer), visitors can bike, hike, or drive through the park to reach them. Some of the most popular landmarks include:
- Star Wars film locations
- Devil's Golf Course
- Badwater Basin
- Mustard Canyon
- Artist's Drive
- Harmony Borax Works
When To Visit Death Valley
While many people do visit Death Valley National Park during the summer, it's ill-advised due to the sheer heat index in the desert. Temperatures during the summer consistently break 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's all a visitor can do to stay hydrated while also exploring this desert landscape. So, unless travelers are prepared to bring multiple sources of clean water to drink, it's not advised to visit during the summer - at least, not the first time! Back in 1922, Death Valley broke the record for being the hottest place on earth; so, unless this is a desirable experience, choose another month.
Visiting during the fall and winter will provide a different look at the park and one that's not so hot. Essentially, any months outside of June, July, and August will be manageable and cooler than during the dead heat of the summer. Additionally, visitors should consider their accommodations: if they're within the park or nearby it, then that heat will be practically unbearable without air conditioning. Therefore, anyone considering camping should opt for months that are cooler, lest they only go out during the cooler parts of the day (very early in the morning and at dusk and after).
Facilities Within The Park
Surprisingly, camping is a popular option in Death Valley National Park. It's actually overwhelmingly popular, and there are several campgrounds within the park for visitors to choose from. With such a vast expanse of desert, campers will have no issues finding a place that's quiet and secluded, while still being within close range of the park's main facilities.
- The cost to camp is around $25/night.
- Some sites do include picnic tables, flush toilets, water pumps, and fire pits.
- Campsites for RVs must be reserved in advance and there are limited spots.
- Backcountry camping is free but not without its challenges; those interested should speak to park rangers regarding how to go about it and how to obtain a voluntary permit.
The Park Details
- Admission: $30/vehicle for 7-day privileges, $25 for motorcyclists, $15 for pedestrians and bikers
- Annual Pass: The annual pass includes access to the park through the year for $55; an all-access pass allows entry into every national park for $80