Death Valley National Park Itinerary

WE WENT in February 2023! The timing of your trip will have a huge influence in your experience, seeing as this is the hottest place on earth -- but it's not always hot here. The weather is way more tolerable in the off-season (Nov-April), cold even, but it comes with its own potential challenges. It's possible it might rain in the winter and even just a little rain here can cause devastation and disruption in this valley, as it did for our specific trip. 

WE STAYED at the Ranch at Death Valley (the cheaper of the two hotels). There is a small civilization down here, including the hotels, gas stations, and a few restaurants. It rained for a few hours the day we got there and this knocked out the power in the entire town for 30 hours -- and apparently this is the norm when it rains. 

Compared to other parks, Death Valley's main sites are very car accessible. Most are just off the road, or at most 0.5 mile walk out. It is a big park though, and you'll want to plan out your day so you're not driving back and forth to Furnace Creek all day. 


Artist's Palette

Take the Artists Drive Scenic Loop to find these colorful hills. The color is created by volcanic deposits. 

You can climb around here but please don't dig up dirt, move rocks, etc. Remember to leave no trace!

Pretty much everything in Death Valley looks best at sunrise & sunset. We were fortunate to have this cloud cover and get to see the colors fully. 

Badwater Basin Salt Flats

You'll continue up Badwater Road to find the salt flats. You will have to walk 20-30 minutes out to find the salt hexagons, so plan accordingly if you're trying to catch sunrise/sunset. 

You'll know you're there when you see this Sea Level sign, which as you can guess, is indicating where sea level is! Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America. 

Make that 30 min walk and you'll find these salt hexagons. As someone who has seen some salts flats or two (I got married at the Bonneville Salt Flats!), I loved seeing the shape of these. I hadn't seen that before. 

We caught sunset here and it was beautiful. 

Day Two

Mesquite Sand Dunes

We woke up early to catch the sunrise at Mesquite Sand Dunes. This was a 30 min drive from Furnace Creek, plus 15-20 minutes to hike out and find a good spot to sit. The sand dunes are right off the road so you don't have to go far, but part of the fun is trekking the dunes!

It was very worth the dramatic light to get here for sunrise. 

Hike Golden Canyon

This hike through the badlands can be done in various ways, looping in Zabriskie Pt etc. We did this version

The sun finally came out & it felt great and even though I never figured out how to properly edit these photos, I loved this hike. Badlands are one of my favorite geographical features of all time and this winds you right through them. 

Zabriskie Point

Maybe you hiked here through Golden Canyon or just took the road pull off, but Zabriskie Point is the most popular spot in all of Death Valley for a reason. This is a quick stop off the road, maybe 20 minutes from Furnace Creek, and we went here twice to catch different lighting and sunsets. 

The badlands here are colorful too with that same volcanic silt.

Zabriskie is known for this distinct black "spine" 

Things we'll go back for:

Mosaic Canyon: the first thing we tried to do but within 20 minutes of rain, the entire trail was washed out. 

Ubehebe Crater: I really wanted to check this out but the road was also washed out 

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