Spotlight: Death Valley National Park, A Desert Jewel
Hottest, driest and lowest–welcome to Death Valley
What You’ll Find
An unparalleled desert oasis that offers visitors a unique look at both an intensely colorful landscape and a rich history. Diversity thrives in Death Valley National Park—it’s over three million acres of desert and mountains stretch from California into Nevada, where you can walk below sea level on salt flats that can be “the hottest place on Earth” or hike to the summits of frosty Telescope and Wildrose Peaks.
Visitors to Death Valley arrive curious—not sure what to expect—and leave with a healthy respect for the fragile landscape, intense heat, colorful human stories, and wonderful surprises that mother nature affords in this often stark landscape. What was once desert, can be transformed into a vast field of wildflowers with one rare rain storm!
Death Valley National Park is located east of Bakersfield, California, and west of Las Vegas, Nevada. The main road transecting Death Valley National Park from east to west is California Highway 190. Visit the park website for the most direct routes from Las Vegas. From the west, plan on taking US 395 or State Route 14 to connecting highways into the park.
GPS navigation to remote locations like Death Valley is notoriously unreliable. Numerous travelers have been directed to the wrong location or even dead-end or closed roads. Travelers should always carry up-to-date road maps to check the accuracy of GPS directions.
Make Sure You
Join one of the Scotty’s Castle tours. The House Tour takes you through the Castle that some say Death Valley Scotty built with money from his secret gold mine. Others say Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson built it. Regardless of who was responsible, the Castle is a testament to the ingenuity and character of the people involved.
The resulting structure is a beautiful example of Spanish-Mediterranean styling. It’s filled with unique hand-made wrought iron and tile, custom-made furniture, hand-selected tapestries and European antiques.
Other tours include the Lower Vine Ranch Hike where you’ll see Scotty’s rustic home and outbuildings of the Lower Vine Ranch and the Underground Tour, where you’ll walk in the underground, concrete-lined tunnels below the Castle (and see a demonstration of the Pelton Water Wheel once used to provide electricity in the Castle).
Camp under the stars at Furnace Creek Campground. Centrally located near the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, the campground offers reservations for its 136 campsites and accommodates RVs and tent campers. If camping is not your thing, try one of the park lodges.
Experience the wonder of a full moon in Death Valley. Walk with a ranger and discover the powerful silence of moonlit canyons, looming sand dunes, or sparkling salt flats as you are guided through these unique features, spectacular at night.
If you’re prepared and use common sense, a visit to Death Valley during the summer is not out of the question. However, with summer temperatures upwards of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, cooler, more moderate temperatures beckon during the late fall, winter and early spring.
View the captivating images in the Death Valley National Park online gallery. Those images may help you determine your interests while contemplating a visit to the park. Whether it’s the colorful rocks of Artist’s Drive or delicate formations of the salt flats at Badwater Basin, the possibilities of discovery are endless!