When you hear about Death Valley, you automatically think of a flat, dry wasteland. Why would anyone want to visit? Well I could not be more wrong! It is surrounded by breathtaking landscape and the perfect weekend getaway from the buzzing LA life!
February is the best time to visit Death Valley, as temperatures can become unbearable and unsafe. It was in the lower to mid 70’s, and yet with the dryness it felt more like the 80’s. When traveling here, please do your research, download maps, directions ahead of time (no service) and bring LOTS of water to stay hydrated. Also, don’t drive in a nice car- it will get dirty and damaged.
Below I have listed our path from LA– Death Valley. There are a couple spots we stopped by before we got to Death Valley National Park that I highly recommend. If I missed any must see places, leave a comment below and let me know! Xoxo, Soph
Death Valley Entrance Fee: $30 for 7 days per vehicle ( please pay it… there is no check point, but be an honest person. It funds the maintenance of these parks!
Where to Stay: Everywhere inside Death Valley National Park is EXPENSIVE, averaging from $500ish/night. To me, it’s just not worth it. We found an awesome deal on the outskirts of the park in Beatty, Nevada. Death Valley Inn was only $85/ night on V-Day weekend (AAA cardholders get a discount) The hotel was surprisingly decent: huge comfy bed and a clean bathroom.. That’s all you really need! The moment you walk in, it smells like Fabulosa (at least that shows they are cleaning the room… haha) We looked everywhere and that was the best hotel we could find that was decent enough to stay in… To be completely honest, for our travels we have a hard time bumming it and staying at a budget hotel.
Download an offline google map
Easy directions for all the stops you want to make. There is no service in the park.
Pack water and snacks
Limited food/ restaurants inside the national park. You will most likely spend an entire day there so pack fruits, protein bars, and plenty of liquids to stay hydrated.
Start your day early
Best lighting and temperature is in the morning. You will also avoid crowds the earlier you start.
Fill your car up with gas BEFOREHAND
Before you enter the national park, fill your car up all the way. Gas prices inside are insanely expensive!
Wear sunscreen and bring a hat
The weather is extreme so protect your skin & avoid sun damage.
Wear good quality shoes
Don’t make this mistake… Unlike me, I only wore my birkenstocks. Not ideal for hiking, exploration, and the freezing sand temperature for sunrise. Pack sandals for the car and comfortable hiking/walking shoes.
Death Valley has the HIGHEST recorded temperature: 134 Fahrenheit
It is the hottest and driest place in the country.
Death Valley has the country’s lowest point: Badwater Basin sits 282 ft below sea level
8am Departure– approx 2 hour drive to Red Rock Canyon State Park
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Located in the northern Mojave Desert- right off the 14N freeway. We hopped out to see the popular rock formation, Turk’s Turban. We spent about 30-45 minutes exploring and shooting some photos.
From Red Rock, it was about a 1 hour 15 minute drive. You will spend the last 20 minutes driving on unpaved rocky roads. Because of this stop, I suggest taking a car that can withstand offroading.. Very glad we didn’t take my Lexus. Take your time on the rocky road so you don’t pop a tire in the middle of nowhere.
This location is filled with 500 Tufa Spires The pinnacles vary from sizes and shapes composed of calcium carbonate. Many movies, commercials are filmed here- Disney’s Dinosaur, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek etc!
We shot from the top of the hill: I ran down to the bottom of the road, while David stayed at the top to capture this shot. The whole area was completely empty and we loved having it all to ourselves.
DEATH VALLEY SPOTS (alphabetical order)
Artist’s Drive/ Palette
The colors of the mountain are produced by the oxidation of metals/ elements found in the ground, which is why you see purple, blue, green tones.
Artist’s Drive: It’s a beautiful 9 mile scenic drive that takes you through the canyons. It’s a one way road filled with curves and fun dips through the mountain! Reminds me of the Disney amusement park ride, Cars.
Artist’s Palette: It is a look out point where you can hike, explore, and where most of the photos you see on IG are taken from. When you make a right turn off the main road, there is a small parking lot. Head down the path and you can start your exploration from there.
Getting There: located off Badwater Road: the start/entrance is clearly marked. Artist’s Palette is about 5 miles from the start. You can stop and pull off to the side of the road to explore!
Explore the lowest point in North America! It is a bizarre salt flat that sits about 300ft below sea level. From the parking lot, it’s a quarter mile walk to get to the wider salt flat. The farther you walk, you will start to see geometric salt flats in the shape of polygons.
Getting There: Located right off Badwater Road. Parking lot is quite small. From there, head down some steps that will lead you to a trail.
Devil’s Golf Course
Walk over large salt pans- rough in texture from the large halite salt crystal formations. This place got its nickname after someone stated that only the devil could play golf there!! Ha!
Getting There: About a 2 minute drive off the main road. You will reach a dead end with a sign. That’s where you can park your car and hop out to look at these weird looking formations.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
This place is a must… It’s as if you’ve transported yourself to Dubai… These insane sand dunes go on for miles as if you’re in the middle of the desert. You can freely wander the dunes, although, it’s a rough 2 miles walk in the sand if you want to get to a spot with less footprints. The warm morning light bounces off the sand dunes in such a beautiful golden way- I highly suggest getting there at least 20 minutes BEFORE sunrise. If you are heading there for sunrise, bring a jacket, hot tea/coffee in a thermal, and a blanket to lay down on.
Getting There: Parking lot is right off the main road. These sand dunes are huge- you can’t miss it!
Sediments from Furnace Creek Lake that dried up 5 million years ago. To me, it wasn’t as breathtaking compared to the other sites. We only drove through to enjoy the view and didn’t stop to take photos.
Getting There: Parking lot is more spacious than all the other spots. It is located at the bottom and requires you to hike up a small hill to get to the lookout point.
Amargosa Pit Stop
A bit of history about this one block town. When you pull up, it’s a completely run down Spanish Colonial Revival architecture style adobe building. It gives off an eerily vibe and feels like an empty ghost town. Originally, it was built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company– years later, a Broadway ballet dancer named Marta Becket moved there and transformed the whole town. It took her 6 years to paint the walls and ceilings of the renaissance audience. The whole Death Valley junction and town is a non profit and this remote desert location is a must.
There is only one restaurant connected to the Amargosa hotel, and a random opera house. When we stopped by, I had no idea the history behind this place and wish I knew! The cafe had spectacular breakfast items and I read that lunch is just as delicious. The coffee there could be comparable to those hip LA cafes.
Amargosa Hotel: there is a myth that the halls in the hotel are “haunted” with a ghost…. Don’t know if I’m brave enough to stay there, but if you’re all about that, go give it a try and stay the night! 😉
Places we missed and want to go for next time:
Wildrose Charcoal Kilns
The Race Track
Mosaic Canyon Trail
Rhyolite Ghost Town