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.
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
Sure, it would be beautiful to see Yosemite or Bryce Canyon with a fresh layer of snow. But if you are looking to escape the cold winter temps, Death Valley is a good place to go.
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
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP: Go on a road trip from Las Vegas to San Diego, visiting Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks, as well as Anza-Borrego Desert and the Mojave National Preserve.
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.
If this is part of a bigger road trip through the USA, visit our United States Travel Guide and our California Travel Guide for more inspiration and travel planning tips.
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Where are the entrance signs? We will be driving in from Las Vegas, will there be one of the big signs that says Death Valley National Park coming from that way?
The Death Valley sign is just before the pay station on route 190. Here are the GPS coordinates: 36.375388, -116.684937.
We have a Spring Break trip planned to spend 1.5 days at the Grand Canyon and 1.5 days in Death Valley with 2 teens (13 and 17). What are your recommendations for lodging in or around Death Valley? We want to rent a Jeep at Farabee’s, so it seems The Ranch is the best option, but it seems pricey for just 1 night.
We stayed at Stovepipe Wells and it was fine. It’s very basic, there was extremely limited wifi and no cellular service, but it has a great location. If you can, I recommend staying within the park to minimize driving time.
Another well thought out itinerary. Did this during the winter break. We did Death Valley only for a day but couldn’t do the Mesquite Sand dunes as we started the day a bit late (were at Dante’s view around 9.30 am). We agree with your assessment on Natural bridge, too much hike for nothing. We should have used the time for getting to Mesquite Sand dunes instead. Also, the hike in the Badwater basin was longer than we thought it would be. Our itinerary was 1 day in Death Valley, 2 days in Grand Canyon (south rim) and 2 days in Vegas. It was snowing in Grand Canyon for 1 day so we didn’t have great views of the canyon (too foggy) the first day but it cleared up the second day and what a sight it was!! Snow in the canyon has a beauty of its own. We were planning for Egypt this winter break but couldn’t pull it through. Now that you guys are there, I am looking forward to your itinerary blog about it. Looks very cool! Happy New Year to you all.. this is a great blog!
Hello! I’m glad you like our website! Snow at the Grand Canyon…that is a sight to see! In January and February I will be writing lots about Egypt. It has been such a great experience and I highly recommend it. Winter Break is a nice time to be here. The weather is perfect, but crowds will be a little bigger because of the holidays, but it’s still very, very nice. However, if you don’t have to take your trip around Christmas and New Years, I think that January would be a great month to visit Egypt. Cheers, Julie
If you have one day trip from las vegas, will you pick Death Valley or Valley of Fire? (visiting in December)
By the way, love you blogs!
That’s a tough question. The Valley of Fire will be less driving, and you can see it quicker, so you will have some extra time that day for Vegas. The sights are great, however, I think that I would pick Death Valley. It’s one of my personal favorite national parks. You can do it in one big day from Vegas (check out our 2 day itinerary and just do day 1 but try to also get to the Mesquite Sand Dunes because those are really neat). The landscapes are unreal. Just get a very early start because of the short daylight in December. Cheers, Julie
OK… another great post with excellent information and pictures! We’re doing Southern California for 11 days and 10 nights starting September 26, 2019. We’re staying at Ranch at Death Valley for two nights. Our base after that is Desert Springs and we will do a one full day visit to Joshua Tree National Park. I don’t see that covered by you? I’m sure it’s coming soon.
No, no Joshua Tree yet. We almost went there this past December (but the Grand Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands won). It’s on our list…it looks amazing. Cheers, Julie
Great Blog. I traveled to Death Valley in Feb. and it was fantastic. I didn’t get to go to the Racetrack but I did take the long, rough road out to Eureka Dunes. I was in a Jeep and I wouldn’t recommend doing it any other way. As you say it is very beautiful, and a dream for a landscape photographer.
Nice! Death Valley is awesome, isn’t it? Cheers, Julie
We plan on going at the end of feb. I have two teen girls. Where do you suggest we stay in Death Valley. We love camping but decided to find a cabin/ hotel instead.
We recommend Stovepipe Wells. Good location in Death Valley, with a restaurant, gas station, and a general store. Check out this post with lots more info on what to do. Cheers, Julie
We are moving to California this summer and I cannot wait to explore a whole new world with my boys! Thanks for this post. My husband and I have been (pre kids) and your description of the remoteness is spot on!
Death Valley is one of our new favorite spots. In fact, the entire American Southwest is an adventurer’s dream. Lots of great places for families to explore. Enjoy California! Cheers, Julie