When you think of Death Valley, what is the first thing that comes to mind? A barren desert landscape, crawling with scorpions and rattlesnakes? Yes, you can find that here, but there is so much more to Death Valley National Park than a forbidding desert landscape.
We spent several days touring the park and fell in love with this place. Out of all of the National Parks we have visited, Death Valley is one of our favorite national parks.
The Badlands in Death Valley National Park
When it comes to picking out travel destinations in the US, Death Valley National Park is an overlooked destination. But maybe that’s exactly why you should go. Death Valley is one of the most underrated National Parks we have visited.
If you are looking for a new spot to explore, here are 5 reasons why Death Valley should be on your list.
IMPORTANT: Death Valley National Park sustained flood damage in 2023. As the park recovers, there are numerous road closures throughout the park and some flooding still remains. Get the full details on the National Park Service website.
Why You Should Visit Death Valley
The Mystery of Death Valley
Can you think of a National Park that has a more intriguing name than Death Valley? For some, the name Death Valley may be a turn off. But for more adventurous souls, the name Death Valley can inspire a sense of wonder and mystery. Combine the name “Death Valley” with the forbidding landscape here, and this place has an allure unlike any other National Park.
Why is Death Valley called Death Valley? During the winter of 1849 – 1850, a group of pioneers got lost here. Even though only one of them died, they all thought this would be their grave, so they gave this place the name “Death Valley.”
Adding to the mystery of this place are the intense heat waves that occur here every summer. Death Valley holds the record for the hottest place on earth. A scorching 134°F (57°C) was recorded in Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913.
Death Valley is More than Just a Barren Landscape
The landscape of Death Valley is very unique and diverse. In some places, the landscapes look downright bizarre.
You can visit Badwater Basin, which sits at 282 feet below sea level and is the lowest spot in the United States.
You can also climb Telescope Peak, which reaches a height of 11,043 feet (3,366 meters), the highest mountain in the park.
Go see the mysterious sailing stones at Racetrack Playa, take in the panoramic vistas at Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View, walk on sand dunes, explore the mudstone hills of the badlands, climb down into a caldera, go on scenic drives, and gaze up at the stars at night.
If you are in here during the springtime, you may even get to see Death Valley blanketed with wildflowers.
This diverse landscape has been used in a surprisingly large number of movies, the most famous being Star Wars: A New Hope. Many of the scenes of Tatooine were filmed in Death Valley.
This place can be full of surprises, and it’s never, ever boring.
Feel Like You are in the Middle of Nowhere
Simply driving through Death Valley is a thrill. You can literally see for miles in all directions. And once you head away from Furnace Creek, you can drive for miles without seeing another car.
Death Valley is one of those places where you get the feeling that you are in the middle of nowhere.
Death Valley is a Perfect Winter Destination
We were here at the very end of December. During the day, temperatures got up to 65°F (18°C) and at night, lows were in the mid 40’s (5-8°C). Not exactly warm, but these were very pleasant temperatures for hiking and exploring.
It’s Not as Popular as Other National Parks
While everyone is arriving in bus loads to Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Zion National Parks, Death Valley still remains rather empty. This park does not enjoy the same level of fame as many other national parks in the United States. And that’s a good thing, if you go now. Tourism is picking up here, so if you want to enjoy these desolate landscapes, and really have them feel uninhabited, go now before Death Valley makes the National Park “hot list.”
Does Death Valley look like a place you want to visit? If you have any questions, comment below.
More Information for Your Trip to Death Valley and California
PLACES TO GO IN DEATH VALLEY: Get an overview of the top sights in our article Best Things to Do in Death Valley. Learn how to visit Racetrack Playa, one of the best off the beaten path experiences in the national parks. Mosaic Canyon and the Golden Canyon – Gower Gulch Loops are two hikes to add to your to do list. See all of our articles in our Death Valley Travel Guide.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: Check out our article Best Things to Do in Yosemite for important travel information, sample itineraries, and how to plan your visit.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK: In our article Best Things to Do in Joshua Tree, we cover the top 10 experiences in the park and also provide important planning information. We also have a guide to the Best Hikes in Joshua Tree and a detailed hiking guide for the Hall of Horrors.
NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries.
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