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18 Top Attractions & Places to Visit in Death Valley, CA

Written by Lana Law Updated May 3, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Author Lana Law has visited Death Valley many times and in different seasons to enjoy photography, hikes, and to see the wildflowers in bloom.

Despite the forbidding name, Death Valley is a beautiful area of desert wonders and one of the best national parks in the United States . Sand dunes, salt flats, mountains, craters, and the lowest lake in North America make for some of the most spectacular scenery in the Southwest.

Death Valley

The valley, protected as a national park, covers 3,000 square miles and is known for being the hottest, driest, and lowest point in North America . Roadside lookouts offer stunning panoramas, and hiking trails allow easy access to the terrain.

Many people visit the park on a day trip from Las Vegas . The centrally located Furnace Creek is the main service center in the park and is about a two-hour drive from Las Vegas. This is also where you'll find the park visitor center, campgrounds, restaurants, a store, a gas station, and The Ranch at Death Valley .

On the west side of the park, is Panamint Springs , with a restaurant, gas station, and some limited accommodation. This is a convenient stop if you are entering the park from the west side and a good lunch option if you are visiting Father Crowley Point and Darwin Falls, the two main tourist attractions on this side of the valley.

Determine what you want to see with this list of attractions and places to visit in Death Valley .

Note: Death Valley's roads, trails, and some attractions were badly damaged in August and September by torrential rains. Work is ongoing, and most things should be back up and running by mid-2023.

Also on This Page:

1. sand dunes near stovepipe wells, 2. badwater basin, 3. the racetrack, 4. zabriskie point, 5. dantes view, 6. artist's drive and artist's palette, 7. devil's golf course and artist's drive, 8. harmony borax works and the sand dunes near stove pipe wells, 9. twenty mule team canyon, 10. keane wonder mine, 11. father crowley point, 12. ubehebe crater, 13. rhyolite ghost town, 14. natural bridge, 15. spring wildflowers, 16. devil's cornfield, 17. darwin falls, 18. wild rose charcoal kilns, map of attractions & things to do in death valley, ca, driving routes through death valley national park.

  • Organized Tour of Death Valley

Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells

One of the most beautiful sites and most photographed landscapes in Death Valley is the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes , just east of Stovepipe Wells . In the morning and late afternoon, when the sun hits the sculpted dunes, creating long curving shadows, the views are fantastic. Mountains rise up on the horizon providing the perfect backdrop. For photographers, it's pure magic.

You can walk in the dunes, climb to the highest points, or set up a lawn chair and soak up the desert scenery. On busy days in the spring, there is rarely a dune without a person climbing up or running down, but on quiet days, particularly in January or February, you will likely have the dunes to yourself. If you arrive at the dunes after a windy spell, they will be untracked.

Badwater Basin

At the south end of Death Valley National Park, Badwater Basin is the lowest point of land in the western hemisphere , at 277 feet below sea level. Needless to say, this area is very hot, even in the winter.

Badwater Lake is a shallow lake surrounded by mountains and rimmed with salt, but you may not always see water here. Depending on the conditions or the time of year, Badwater may be quite full or have very little water. In either case, the area is interesting and there are a number of things to do.

When there is almost no visible water from the shore, you can walk out, seemingly endlessly, across the white salt flat. When there is water, and if the air is still, which it often is in the morning and early evening, the mountains across the valley reflect in the water, and the scene is stunning. This can be a wonderful area for photography. If there is enough water, it's even possible to paddle out on the lake.

The Racetrack

With a four-wheel-drive vehicle , you can take a rugged road that leads to one of Death Valley's most mysterious sights, known as The Racetrack. This area is a huge dried mud bed, where stones of various sizes can be seen with long tracks trailing behind them, as if they have been pushed through the mud.

Speculation existed for years about how the stones were moved. Many thought the stones were pushed along by the wind after rains. However, more recently, with the help of time-lapse photography, it is thought that the stones are actually moved by floating ice pushing the rocks. Regardless of the method, the result is a most interesting sight.

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point looks out over a surreal landscape of undulating, hard-packed ridges of gold, orange, and brown earth. Sweeping views from the lookout extend over this unique formation and beyond to the valley behind and the Panamint Mountains in the distance. The colors are particularly spectacular in the morning or late afternoon.

You can drive to the lookout at Zabriskie Point. A 7.8-mile hiking trail leads out from Zabriskie point, but if you want to get out on the ridges and immerse yourself in the scenery without undertaking a long hike, just wander out a short distance and return on the same track.

You can reach Zabriskie Point by heading east from Furnace Creek on highway 190 for four miles. If you are coming into the park from Las Vegas on the route described above, this is one of the stops on your way to Furnace Creek.

Dantes View

Dante's View offers one of the best overall perspectives of Death Valley. The view from the top looks out over the valley floor, as far as the eye can see, and across to the mountains that line the far side of the valley.

This lookout is a little out of the way but worth the effort. From Zabriskie Point head east on Highway 190 to the sign-posted turn for Dante's View. From the highway, it is a 16-mile drive along a twisty, paved road to the top , which stands at 5,478 feet above sea level. Vehicles on this road must be less than 25 feet in length.

The temperature up here is much cooler than on the valley floor, which can be a refreshing treat on hot days.

Artist's Drive and Artist's Palette

Artist's Palette is an area located along Artist's Drive, a short scenic road that takes you up close to a section of the Black Mountains. Artist's Palette is a colorful section of hillside, with shades that range from orange, pink, and brown to green and turquoise, created by metals in the rock.

Artist's Drive is a one-way, nine-mile paved loop , accessible to vehicles under 25 feet in length. This is a worthwhile side trip and a popular thing to do on the way from Furnace Creek to Badwater, located right off Badwater Road. If possible, try to do this drive in the late afternoon, when the colors are at their best.

Devil's Golf Course and Artist's Drive

Devil's Golf Course is a flat expanse of sharp salt crystals that form a huge field of jagged salt boulders . It may seem like there isn't much to see here, but the vastness, solitude, and quietness, along with the unusual sight, create a unique experience.

Located south of Furnace Creek, just off the main road heading towards Badwater (Badwater Road) this is an easy stop. From the parking area, you can walk right out onto the field, if you choose.

Harmony Borax Works and the Sand Dunes near Stove Pipe Wells

Aaron Winters found borax in Death Valley in 1881. He soon sold his claims to William T. Coleman, builder of the Harmony Borax Works, where borate-bearing muds were refined until 1888. The site of the former operation is located just north of Furnace Creek.

You can wander around the crumbling adobe walls and see the old broiler and some of the vats. Also located here are wagons once used for transporting goods out of the valley. Closed in 1888, this was the first successful borax works in the history of borax mining in Death Valley.

Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Twenty Mule Team Canyon is a 2.7-mile one-way dirt road that runs through some fantastic scenery. The road is bounded in some areas by rock walls on either side, barren flats, and colorful hills, similar to those found just down the road at Zabriskie Point. The terrain here is different from other parts of the park and reveals the ruggedness of the region.

During the borax days, twenty mule teams were used to haul the borax-filled wagons out of Death Valley, and this road offers some perspective on the type of landscape these vehicles were forced to contend with in the 1880s. However, there is no indication that this specific route was used in this fashion.

Aerial Tram of the Keane Wonder Mine

The remains of this historic gold mine can be difficult to get to but worth the effort if you are interested in this type of attraction. You can see the old aerial tramway , which is still intact, along with other structures. The mine is set on a hillside, and views extend across the valley.

Getting to the site involves a drive down a rough dirt road, which is usually passable in a regular vehicle, and a short but moderately strenuous hike from the parking area. The road is just under three miles, and the hike is a quarter of a mile to the lowest section of the tram.

Father Crowley Point

Father Crowley Point is a high lookout on the west side of the park that offers a different perspective than viewing areas on the busier east side of the park. If you are entering Death Valley from the west, Father Crowley Point should be your first stop before the long descent towards Panamint Springs.

There are two parking areas: one right at the overlook and another further back, closer to the highway. The first parking lot is easily accessed right off the main highway, and many people choose to walk the short distance out to the lookout point. The road to the lookout is not paved, quite bumpy, and may require high clearance.

Ubehebe Crater

The Ubehebe Crater measures about a half-mile wide and 400 feet deep, and it is the only crater in the area that resulted from a volcanic explosion . It is located at the north end of Death Valley, in the general vicinity of Scotty's Castle, which is closed due to flooding.

The landscape here is different from other areas of the park. The ground is dark, with lava flows and cinders. If you are feeling up for a walk, trails lead down into the crater.

Rhyolite Ghost Town

Rhyolite is an abandoned mining town, with remnants of its glory days visible in the crumbling and decaying old buildings. One of the highlights of this ghost town is a unique art installation of ghostly figures erected on the edge of the town. One large piece, standing before a vast expanse of desert, displays ghosts arranged in the form of The Last Supper .

Other pieces are also found here, in what is now called the Goldwell Open Air Museum , including a giant pink lady made of blocks, called "Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada."

Rhyolite is a good stop on your way out of the park. It is located off Daylight Pass Road (highway 374) just outside the park boundary, on the way to Beatty.

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge is, as the name suggests, a large natural bridge set in a canyon, not far from Badwater.

An easy two-mile round-trip hike leads to the end of the canyon, but if you only want to see the bridge, it is located about half a mile from the parking area . In the midday heat, this can still feel like quite a journey, and it may be something you want to tackle earlier in the day. The parking area is located 1.5 miles along a dirt road off Badwater Road.

Spring Wildflowers

One of the park's biggest attractions is the spring wildflower bloom, which usually peaks in March . Depending on the year, the conditions, and the extent of the bloom, this event can draw thousands of people to the park. To anyone unfamiliar with deserts, it might seem amazing that anything can grow in these hot dry conditions.

On weekends during the bloom, it's not uncommon to see people pulled off to the side of the road all over the park, picnicking on the bare ground, meditating among the flowers, or walking through the fields. Despite the fact that people do this, you should not walk out in the fields and trample the flowers.

One of the best places to visit to see this beautiful display is in the south part of the park around Badwater and up towards Furnace Creek , where a carpet of yellow spreads across the valley floor. Areas further north also see a good display of flowers, usually with a mix of colors that range from white and yellow to orange and purple.

The park visitor center can point you in the right direction and offer information on what is blooming while you are in the park.

Devil's Cornfield

Compared to the rest of the sights in Death Valley, Devil's Cornfield is not necessarily worth going out of your way to see, but it's a sight you will pass if you are driving from the east to Stovepipe Wells and the sand dunes.

Clumps of vegetation that look like tumbleweeds dot the landscape as it stretches out to the distant hills and mountains. Depending on the time of year, the shrubs may be green or dried out to an amber color. Photographers can have some fun in this area, particularly in the late afternoon.

Darwin Falls

After your trip, when you tell your friends about your experiences in Death Valley and include the fact that you visited a waterfall, they may think you are trying to play a joke on them. However, break out the photos and show them that this amazing natural wonder actually exists.

The trail is 1.9 miles long and with an elevation gain of only 275 feet , most people consider it fairly easy and suitable for all abilities. You'll start out at a valley entrance and as the trail progresses, it gets increasingly narrow. You'll hear the falls before you see them. Although not overly high, the flowing water with a pool below is a very welcome sight in the desert.

Note the trail was damaged during the August 2022 floods. It is still passable but caution is advised.

Wild Rose Charcoal Kilns

An off-the-beaten-track attraction that, if you have the right vehicle, is worth visiting is the Wild Rose Charcoal Kilns. These beehive-shaped stone structures are in remarkably good shape considering that they were used back to make charcoal when the park area was a mining hot spot at the turn of the 20th century.

The Wild Rose Charcoal Kilns have doors that are open, and you can wander freely in and out of the structures. It's more than likely that you'll have this remote spot to yourself — the road is notoriously bad and suitable for high-clearance 4WD vehicles , only.

Driving through Death Valley National Park

Most visitors come either from California, entering from the west off Highway 395 onto Highway 190, through Panamint Springs, or from Las Vegas, where there are a couple of routing options.

From Las Vegas: You can easily visit Death Valley on a day trip from Las Vegas . The best way to do this is to head out on Highway 160 (leaving from the south end of Las Vegas) to Death Valley Junction, where the road becomes Highway 190, entering the park. This road runs past the turnoff for Dante's View , Twenty Mule Canyon, and Zabriskie Point, and on to Furnace Creek with a park visitor center and some amenities.

From Furnace Creek you can head south to Badwater , passing the pullouts for Desolation Canyon, Artist's Drive (Artist's Palette), Devil's Golf Course , and Natural Bridge . When you have visited Badwater, backtrack via Furnace Creek and beyond to the Harmony Borax Interpretive Trail, Mustard Canyon, and the Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells .

If you started early in the day and still have plenty of time, you may want to continue on. It's a little over a half-hour to Panamint Springs and another 20 minutes to Father Crowley Point . After this, you can turn around and head back to Stovepipe Wells, and out of the park on the Daylight Pass Road (374) that leads to Beatty.

Before getting to Beatty, stop at the Rhyolite ghost town to see the ruins of this old mining town and some creative art installations. From Beatty take Highway 95 back to Las Vegas.

If you have time for a second day in Death Valley , you can spend the night in the park or in Beatty. With two days, you'll be able to add on a visit to the Race Track and a few more stops for hiking and sightseeing.

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The Planet D: Adventure Travel Blog

21 Best Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Written By: The Planet D

United States

Updated On: June 11, 2024

Planning to visit Death Valley? Get ready! Death Valley is the largest US national park outside of Alaska . It is the hottest and driest place in North America, and Badwater Basin is the lowest spot on the continent. Whew, Death Valley National Park has a lot going on, but that’s not all! Located in both California and Nevada, Death Valley National Park was established in 1994 after holding the title of Death Valley National Monument for five decades. And in 2013, it was fittingly designated as a Dark Sky Preserve.

Top things to do in Death Valley National Park

It is easily one of the most memorable places to visit for unique scenery. And as an added bonus, there are many amazing things to do in Death Valley National Park.

Table of Contents

Top things to do in Death Valley National Park

Note: The area has been dealing with extreme weather conditions and some roads are closed in Death Valley due to flood damage. At the time of publishing, many roads are closed including CA 190 west of Stovepipe and Badwater Road and Daylight Pass and Towne Pass are closed. See the National Parks Services Website for up-to-date information.

Things to do in Death Valley National Park heat

This guide will focus on the best things to do in Death Valley National Park. We’ll cover everything from Natural Bridge to hiking trails along the valley floor. Prepare yourself for some inspiring, exciting things to do in this  California  national park. If you are doing a self-drive through Death Valley, pick up this GPS driving tour . It highlights many of the top Death Valley attractions.

  • make sure to have an ample supply of water before visiting
  • stay on paved roads, and let people know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • If you plan on visiting any remote places in Death Valley, consider conveying with two or more vehicles should a breakdown occur.
  • Make sure you have a full tank of gas and carry a paper map along with your GPS and cell phone.

1. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

things to do in Death Valley Mesquite Flats

If you are looking for fun things to do in Death Valley National Park, sandboarding at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is easily one of the best. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are Death Valley’s most popular and easily accessible sand dunes, and some dunes tower as high as 100 feet. Even if you don’t fancy sandboarding, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are a great place to release your inner child and attempt to run down the sandy slopes.

Mesquite Sand Dunes are easily reached off the 190, and a reasonably large parking lot is just off the roadside. We suggest getting there early, so the sand dunes are still cool underfoot. There is no sandboarding rentals in the park, so you need to bring your own equipment.

2. Artist’s Palette

Things to do in Death Valley National Park Artists Palette

Artist’s Palette is a stunning viewpoint overlooking a collection of pastel-hued hills. The hills turned their unique color after millions of years of oxidation and weathering, and now visitors flock to come to view the phenomenon. The viewpoint gets its name, the ‘Artist’s Palette,’ from the blend of colors.

Artist’s Palette is located on Artist’s Drive loop located, just off Badwater Road. There is a tiny trail from the parking and toilet facilities to the viewpoint itself, and it is very easily reached if you are short on time. The attraction sits along the 9-mile Artist’s Drive loop, which is an attraction in its own right. It is worth allowing extra time to enjoy driving Artist’s Drive at leisure.

Check out this highly rated tour departs from Las Vegas in the early hours of the morning to reach the desert for stargazing and sunrise.

3. Natural Bridge

things to do in death valley national park Natural Bridge

If you can’t make it to the sandstone arches of Arches National Park ; Natural Bridge is a vast, jagged arch that towers 35 feet above the canyon floor. Natural Bridge was formed by a rare series of flash floods over thousands of years. Visitors can hike to the bridge to walk underneath and admire the geological formation in all its glory. Visiting Natural Bridge is one of the most impressive things to do in Death Valley.

You have to hike to Natural Bridge, but the route is only a 2-mile round trip. It is the perfect hike if you don’t want to walk long distances in the heat, are in a rush, or traveling as a family. You also get a beautiful view of the salt flats on the return hike, sure to keep your spirits up.

Natural Bridge Trailhead is accessed via a dirt road off Badwater Road. You’ll find plenty of parking at the end but beware that the dirt road conditions can be rough. It is worth checking the road conditions on the National Park Service website before you attempt it. It is best suited to 4WD because of the likelihood of deep potholes.

This photography tour lets you explore Death Valley by day and night. Besides visiting its sand dunes, canyons, and wildlife, you’ll watch the sunset and stay into the starry night to enjoy the dark sky preserve. Details here

4. Devil’s Golf Course

Devils Golf Course Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Devil’s Golf Course’s name might have you stumped about what it could be. The attraction is a salt pan, but the floor is so jagged and uneven that an old National Park Service guidebook quipped that ‘only the Devil could play golf there’. The salt pan floor is a far cry from its smooth salt flat neighbor Badwater Basin (which we’ll look at in more detail later), and you’ll find endless stalagmites. Some salt spikes are two feet high, so you’ll be carefully picking your way around a boardwalk rather than walking across the salt pan itself.

The Devil’s Golf Course was once covered by a lake, which evaporated and left behind a thick layer of salt and minerals – creating the natural phenomenon you see today. We highly suggest bringing a camera for this attraction, as it is easily one of the most striking things to do in Death Valley.

This full-day explorer tour by Trekker can be booked from Las Vegas where you hop aboard a custom-built Tour Trekker vehicle with stops including  Furnace Creek, Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater, Zabriskie Point, and more

5. Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Twenty Mule Team Canyon is one of the most scenic dirt tracks you’ll see in your life. The short 2.5-mile road takes you through a range of stunning badlands, which are full of pastel colors and uniquely shaped by erosion. The drive may be short, but you’ll want to stop for photographs, so allow at least half an hour to experience it.

Twenty Mule Team Canyon isn’t just famous amongst tourists either. Movie directors have flocked to use the site for major productions, including Return of the Jedi. Star Wars fans should prioritize visiting Twenty Mule Team Canyon when they visit Death Valley.

The scenic drive is easy to reach, and you turn off the 190 onto 20 Mule Team Road before quickly reaching the dirt track turnoff. Twenty Mule Team Canyon is just half an hour’s drive from Furnace Creek Visitor Center. It is well-combined with a visit to nearby Zabriskie Point and Harmony Borax Works.

6. Golden Canyon

Things to do in Death Valley National Park Golden Canyon

Are you ready for an incredible hike? Golden Canyon Trail is a stunning route through a honey-colored ravine on a clearly marked trail. You’ll want your camera for this one; Golden Canyon’s good looks have attracted the likes of Star Wars movie producers.

The trail is a 2-mile round trip with a short 3-foot rock scramble. The scramble is untechnical and suitable for anybody with good fitness and reliable footwear, so overall, the hike is easy to tackle in Death Valley National Park. Most hikers hike to Red Cathedral as an endpoint, although you can choose to go further if you want an extra challenge.

Golden Canyon is also located just outside of Furnace Creek. The trailhead is just a 7-minute drive from Furnace Creek Visitor Center – making it an easy addition to a busy itinerary. You’ll find a large parking lot and restrooms at the Golden Canyon Trailhead, accessed on a turnoff from Badwater Road.

This highly rated tour offers a full day from Vegas with a private guide and a custom itinerary. And the best part? You’ll have a professional photographer with you taking photos of the entire adventure.

7. Zabriskie Point

Things to do in Death Valley National Park Zabriskie Point

Visiting Zabriskie Point is one of the most beautiful things to do in Death Valley National Park. The viewpoint overlooks hilly, wrinkled badlands tinged in pastel, sandy colors. If you want a sunrise or sunset spot – Zabriskie Point is the one for you.

Zabriskie Point was formed when Furnace Creek Lake dried up around 5 million years ago. The sediments left behind formed the stunning hills, and erosion over the years shaped the landscape into what it is today.

Zabriskie Point is practically on the roadside. You drive on the 190 from Furnace Creek towards Death Valley Junction, turning off into Zabriskie Point Parking Lot to hike the short trail to the viewpoint. It is easy to access and is an excellent place to start your day, conveniently nearby Furnace Creek and the Visitor Center.

8. Badwater Basin

Things to do in Death Valley National Park Badwater Basin

Visiting Badwater Basin is one of the most fascinating things to do in Death Valley. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, at 282 feet below sea level. Badwater Basin has around 200 square miles of salt flats to explore – the largest protected salt flats in the world.

After it rains, Badwater Basin can appear mirror-like as the water reflects off the salt crystals. Badwater Basin looks like snow when it is dry, and the salt flats are arranged in small circular patterns along the valley floor.

Badwater Basin is accessible via a short trail off Badwater Road. You’ll find a toilet block and parking area near its trailhead. Badwater Basin is located extremely close to the Devil’s Golf Course and Dante’s View. Consider combining these three attractions if you drive down Badwater Road to reach Badwater Basin.

9. Scotty’s Castle

Things to do in Death Valley National Park Scottys Castle

Death Valley isn’t all geology and hiking trails, and Scotty’s Castle is proof of that. The ‘castle’ is not so much a castle but an enormous mansion, and its story is a blend of history and local culture. Visitors can book guided tours of the building today and discover the story in person, but we’ll give you a quick rundown here.

The mansion was built by Albert Mussey Johnson for himself and his wife to use as a luxurious vacation home. However, Walter Scott brazenly convinced the community that he had built it by making money through secret mines in Death Valley. The mansion coined the name Scotty’s Castle, and a cloud of mystery about the mansion’s ‘real story’ is kept alive by local legends.

Either way, the mansion is incredible to tour – whisking visitors back to the roaring 20s and 30s. You can admire extensive woodwork furnishings and details, and sadly also witness the impact of the 2015 floods, which damaged the house extensively in some areas.

10. Darwin Falls

things to do in Death Valley National Park

Waterfalls aren’t the most common sight in Death Valley. In fact, Darwin Falls is quite a rare year-round waterfall, as there is only a handful in the national park. The falls are surrounded by life – from flora, including aquatic vegetation, to animals like tree frogs and even bighorn sheep. Darwin Falls is somewhat of a desert oasis, and lifeforms flock to the waters for survival.

Darwin Falls is a stunning sight, and the waterfall drops 18 feet in a pretty cascade. Darwin Falls is accessed by a two-mile round trip hike, which takes around two hours to complete and has an elevation gain of 450 feet. The general advice is to avoid hiking after 10 am in hotter months. You can’t swim to cool off, so aim to hike in the early morning when it is nice and cool.

The trailhead is located off of Old Toll Road on a long dirt track, and there is a large parking lot to use right next to the beginning of the trail. It is worth noting that the track is pretty rough and requires a 4WD vehicle. You may wish to check with a ranger or website for updates on the road conditions.

11. Rhyolite Ghost Town

Rhyolite Ghost town Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Rhyolite Ghost Town is located just on the outskirts of Death Valley, on the eastern side of the park across the Nevada border. Rhyolite is an old, abandoned mining town, and light and power were turned off for the town in 1916 following the closures of mines and banks. However, nowadays, there is still so much left behind to explore.

The old bank is (just about) still standing, as is the train depot and Tom Kelly’s Bottle House. It is also worth stopping by Goldwell Open Air Museum for an outdoor sculpture garden. Rhyolite is the perfect spot for those interested in history and visiting abandoned sites.

Rhyolite Ghost Town is quite a drive, just over an hour from Furnace Creek. We suggest breaking the drive up by stopping at Hell’s Gate on the way. Hells Gate is a scenic stop to admire Daylight Pass Road’s stunning surroundings and visit the Death Valley National Park Information Area.

12. Eureka Dunes

Eureka Dunes Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Eureka Dunes are a great attraction for your itinerary. In short, the dunes are massive. They are the largest in California, and some controversially claim they are the tallest in North America. Some dunes rise over 680 feet – don’t be getting ideas about sandboarding, though. Eureka Dunes are closed to sandboarding, sand skiing, and sledding to protect sensitive flora. And who can blame the National Park Service? Eureka Dunes are one of the most impressive natural attractions in the US.

Even though you can’t enjoy sand sports, you can still hike the dunes. Listen carefully while you do, as you may hear the ‘singing sand’. Something about the sand grains moving together creates a beautiful sound, which sounds like an organ bass note. Keep your eyes peeled for desert flora, too, as the dunes are covered in plant life like Eureka Dunes Evening Primrose and Shining Milkvetch.

13. Saline Valley Dunes

Saline Valley Dunes Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Visiting Saline Valley Dunes is one of the lesser-known things to do in Death Valley National Park. These sand dunes are much lower than the others in Death Valley, and although sandboarding is permitted, the dunes are also much more suited to hiking.

Death Valley’s sand dunes cause quite the stir, despite only covering 1% of the national park. Saline Valley Dunes and Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are the only dunes that allow activities like sandboarding. Choose one of these sand dunes if you want to try sand sports . Saline Valley is ideal for those who want to get further off the beaten track and prefer attractions with fewer crowds. The dunes have the stunning 10,000 feet high Inyo Mountains as a scenic backdrop.

Getting to the dunes requires a fun, but demanding drive down a rough road, often inaccessible due to flash floods and snow. The road is located off Saline Valley Road and requires a vehicle with high clearance and 4WD. The adventure begins before you even reach the parking lot.

14. Telescope Peak

We have covered the lowest point in Death Valley (Badwater Basin), but what about the highest point? Well, that would be Telescope Peak. Telescope Peak is the tallest mountain in Death Valley and the perfect challenge for hiking and climbing enthusiasts.

Hiking the mountain is no mean feat, and you’ll tackle 3,000 feet of elevation in a 14-mile, 7-hour round trip. The trailhead is located at Mahogany Flat Campground, and reaching it is an adventurous mission. You need a 4WD to access the campground and parking area, and you’ll get a taste of rough (almost off-road) track driving before you even begin your hike. We recommend staying at Mahogany Flat Campground the night before and after your walk to maximize your daylight and energy levels.

While technically a single-day hike, we recommend setting aside at least one evening to camp overnight at the campground. Still, Telescope Peak is easily added to your itinerary. It is also right next to the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns – a brilliant attraction to combine with your hike.

15. Harmony Borax Works

Harmony Borax Works Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Have you heard of the Harmony Borax Works before? The borax plant was once a thriving business, with 40 employed workers and three tons of borax produced daily. The company was located in Furnace Creek and massively contributed to the town’s popularity and growth in the late 19th century. Nowadays, you can walk around the site on a paved 0.4-mile loop – stopping to read informative panels and view displays along the way.

Visiting Harmony Borax Works is one of the most historical things to do in Death Valley National Park. And while the site is small, it is officially held on the National Register of Historical Places and is a well-known tourist attraction. The wagons from Harmony Borax Works coined the name ’20 mule teams’ because they used large groups of mules to transport all the borax. You may recognize the phrase from Twenty Mule Team Canyon.

16. Manzanar National Historic Site

things to do in Death Valley Manzanar Historic site

Manzanar is another incredible attraction located just outside the national park boundaries. If you are staying on the outskirts or taking a California road trip , it is well worth stopping by Manzanar. The site was one of ten sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II. It is a fascinating, often harrowing place to discover a part of history that isn’t as widely covered.

You can visit anytime between sunrise and sunset, perhaps booking a guided tour if you want a more informative, interactive experience. If you were planning on climbing Mt Inyo, the site is also en route to the trailhead, so don’t rule out Manzanar straight away based on distance.

17. Mosaic Canyon

Things to do in Death Valley National Park Mosaic Canyon

Ready for another beautiful canyon? Mosiac Canyon is a deep ravine formed by flash floods over millions of years. It gets its name from its unique walls, where flood waters full of grit have polished the marble walls, and tiny fragments have become locked in natural cement.

The route is by no means easy. It is rated as a moderate to difficult hike and requires a lot of boulder scrambling and an adventurous spirit to pass certain sections. However, where there is a will, there is a way, and you’ll just need a decent fitness level and good shoes to complete this trail. The trail is around 4 miles out and back; you should allow three hours to complete it.

18. Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns Death Valley National Park

Do you remember us mentioning that Wildrose Charcoal Kilns were near Telescope Peak? Well, the kilns are attractions in their own right. The kilns look like bizarrely shaped houses and have a large hole at the front where you can enter inside. They were built in 1877 to create charcoal for local mines, but they have long since been retired. Now, Wildrose Charcoal Kilns are empty – apart from when a tourist like yourself stops to poke their head in and take a look.

There are ten kilns, all structured in a single line and about 25 feet high. The kilns are in excellent condition, which makes them fantastic for tourists and has kept them firmly marked as worthy attractions in Death Valley. If you’d like to learn more about the early mining industry, Wildrose Charcoal Kilns are a great way to do so.

19. Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Ubehebe Crater should be at the top of your to-do list if you’ve never seen a volcanic crater. Ubehebe Crater is enormous. It is quite the sight, 600 feet deep and half a mile wide. Ubehebe Crater is still an ashy, dark gray color, which adds to the dramatic appeal.

If you want, you can hike down to the bottom of the main crater. However, you should remember that hiking back up is exhausting and highly strenuous. Walking around the crater rim is a lot easier. However, it is still classed as a moderate hike because of the uneven footing. Take your time on the Ubehebe Crater Rim Trail, and plan lots of breaks to prevent slipping and injury. The 2-mile loop may not be long, but it pays to take your time – plus, you’ll have stunning views while you rest.

20. Racetrack Playa

Racetrack Playa Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Have you ever wished that you could walk on the moon? If so, Racetrack Playa is one of the best things to do in Death Valley National Park. The dry lake is a scene from the moon landing and is a dramatic, lunar-like landscape to explore and get fantastic pictures of.

Racetrack Playa gets its name from its sailing stones, which are enormous rocks moved by a combination of rain, making the ground slippery and wind pushing the rocks along. The tracks that the sailing stones leave look like race tracks – giving Racetrack Playa its name. It is widely believed that nobody has ever seen the rocks moving, but who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky.

21. Dante’s View

Things to do in Death Valley National Park Dantes View

Dante’s View is a scenic viewpoint that towers 5,575 feet above Badwater Basin and sits on a ridge of the Black Mountains. Surrounded by mountains and perfectly fanned by the light breeze, you can enjoy spectacular views over the landscape and dramatic salt flats below. Visiting Dante’s View is about enjoying a different perspective, and viewing Badwater Basin from above is truly humbling.

Dante’s View is popular at all times of the day. Sunrise and sunset are understandably sought-after times, and the salt flats look stunning illuminated by first and last light. However, you can also visit at night for incredible night sky views. In case you didn’t know, Death Valley is an International Dark Sky Park famous for its stunning night sky. Head to Dante’s View after a busy day of sightseeing to relax and unwind under bright constellations and shooting stars.

Death Valley FAQs

FAQ Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Now that we’ve covered all the best things to do in Death Valley National Park let’s look at some essential information. These are the most common Death Valley FAQs; let’s dive straight in.

How to get to Death Valley

Things to do in Death Valley National Park How to get there

First off, let’s establish Death Valley’s location. The national park straddles the California/Nevada border, although most of the park falls in California.

Because of Death Valley’s inland location, the easiest way to reach the national park is to fly into Las Vegas. Those wanting the quickest way to Death Valley should fly into Las Vegas Airport, hire a car to drive to Death Valley, or book a guided tour.

Things to do in Death Valley National Park Driving

Of course, if you aren’t on a time limit, you could get your adventure on and take a  California   road trip, perhaps exploring Northern California along the way. If you are really up for an adventure, you could extend your trip and finish in Las Vegas – where you can fly home. Death Valley is ideally located for a road trip; if you have the time, this is the most fun way to get to the national park.

Getting around Death Valley

Things to do in Death Valley National Park Getting Around

As the largest national park, Death Valley’s public transport system leaves much to be desired. You won’t find any public buses or shuttles, so your only option is to purchase a guided tour or rent a car to drive around.

Allow a day to get around Death Valley and see your top few attractions. And, if you don’t want to drive for so many hours in a single day, it is worth finding overnight accommodation to maximize your experience.

Things to do in Death Valley National Park attractions

Before you set off driving or on your tour, it is always worth checking for road closure and trail updates in Death Valley online. The desert landscape might be beautiful, but you don’t want to drive the length of Daylight Pass Road before realizing you’ve got to turn around. Remember that gas stations are also limited in Death Valley. If you pass Furnace Creek, top up at the Furnace Creek Gas Station – one of the most centrally located options and accessible gas stations to combine with sightseeing.

Where to stay in Death Valley

Things to do in Death Valley National Park accommodation

So, where should you stay in Death Valley? These are our top recommendations that you could choose from.

Budget: Panamint Springs Resort

Panamint Springs Resort  is a budget traveler’s ideal spot in Death Valley. The resort is family-run and offers an impressively flexible range of accommodation choices, including a campsite, a selection of cabins, and standard hotel rooms.

The resort has its own gas station, general store, and shower facilities for campers. Plus, there is a breakfast buffet served daily. It is the perfect place to base yourself if you want budget-friendly accommodation within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park. 

Mid-Range: Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Delight’s Hot Springs Resort  sits just outside Death Valley and is the perfect base for easy access to the national park. The resort has four spring water swimming pools – two indoor and two outdoor to which guests have 24-hour access. There is also a free parking area and a 24-hour reception desk.

Delight’s Hot Springs Resort has a perfect balance of affordable luxury, attentive hospitality, and a convenient location.

Luxury: The Inn at Death Valley

The Inn at Death Valley  might be listed as a three-star property but don’t be fooled; this is the best luxury option in the national park. The location is dreamy, and you’ll be in the center of Death Valley, just outside Furnace Creek. The property offers a range of rooms, suites, and a bungalow, so you can always splash out for a bit of extra luxury.

Guests receive access to a sauna, a fully equipped gym, two spring-fed pools, a golf course, and tennis courts. Death Valley isn’t known for its urban amenities, so having a hotel with plenty of recreational activities is a huge bonus.

The best time to visit Death Valley

When to visit Death Valley National Park

Death Valley makes a great destination in early spring. The temperatures are cool, the wildflowers are out, and it is the best time to comfortably enjoy all the things to do in Death Valley National Park. It can get a little busy, as this is the most popular time to visit Death Valley, but it is worth the crowds for the beautiful conditions. Late March and April are the best months in spring.

October is your month if you have your heart set on avoiding crowds. You won’t get the wildflowers. However, autumn brings cooler weather that is perfect for exploring the valley floor. Visiting Death Valley in October is a pleasant, quieter experience.

When should you avoid Death Valley? Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the summer is not the best time to visit Death Valley. In summer, the California desert is unhospitable and unpleasantly hot. Stick to visiting in March or April if you don’t mind the crowds and October or November if you don’t mind missing the spring bloom.

Final Thoughts

best Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Once you’ve visited Death Valley, you should definitely return for a second visit. There are so many things to do in Death Valley National Park, and even visiting Death Valley in different seasons can drastically change your experience. The national park has some of the  best hikes in California . It is also within driving distance of other fantastic national parks like  Yosemite .

We hope you have a fantastic time in Death Valley. Take our advice and experience as many of its attractions as possible. These Death Valley ‘things to do’ are sure to guarantee you a memorable trip.

Plan Your Next Vacation to California With These Resources

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15 Best Things to Do in Death Valley

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Death Valley National Park is a place of records. It’s the largest national park in the continental US, with over 3.4 million acres. It’s also home to the lowest point in the contiguous US, Badwater Basin. And as of July 1913, it holds the record as the hottest place on Earth, as it reached a whopping 134°F. 

When you think of Death Valley, you might imagine a wasteland devoid of life. After all, what could survive in such extreme temperatures?

But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only will you find unique wildlife in Death Valley, including its famous (though non-native) burros, but throughout the year, you’ll find blossoming flora, hot springs, waterfalls, and much more that you’d never picture would be located in such a desert. 

Visiting the hottest place on Earth and don’t know where to start? We’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Death Valley – from incredible, can’t-miss vista points to uniquely colorful canyons. Stick to this Death Valley bucket list, and you’re bound to have an amazing time in this one-of-a-kind destination!

Disclaimer: USA Explored works with affiliate partners. If you make a purchase or booking through our links we may earn a commission (at no extra cost to you).

1. Take in the Sights from Dante’s View

Unique Things to do in Death Valley: Dante’s View

Death Valley is filled with scenic views you can’t see anywhere else. And there are few better places to take in the sights than Dante’s View . If you are looking for something ultra-special, enjoying either the sunrise or sunset from Dante’s View is easily one of the best things to do in Death Valley.

Standing tall at 5,575 feet above the lowest point in Death Valley, Badwater Basin, Dante’s View lets you take in the white salt flats of the national park below you and the Panamint Range of mountains to the west. To get to Dante’s View, you’ll take an out-and-back trail that runs about a mile, which isn’t too difficult for most hikers. 

Best Things to do in Death Valley: Dante’s View

Aim to arrive at the top at least 30 minutes before sunrise or sunset. That way, you’ll get to see as the sky comes alive with color and light dancing on the mountains. If you choose to arrive at sunset, stick around after the sun goes down for some stargazing.

2. Cruise Down Artists Drive

Must do things in Death Valley: Artists Drive

Speaking of color, Artists Drive offers one of the coolest Death Valley activities, thanks to the explosions of color that dot your drive. What’s so special about this trail? Along the nine-mile, one-way drive, you’ll spot multicolored hills that were formed by volcanic deposits. The deposits created an array of colors, with swirls of red, orange, yellow, blue, pink, and green on the eroded hills.

Although you’ll see these colors throughout your trek down Artists Drive, the biggest highlight of the trail is the Artists Palette , where these colors are most apparent. Also during the drive, you’ll get scenic looks at the Black Mountains and the white salt flats. 

Death Valley Bucket List: Artists Drive

Artists Drive does not have any trails for you to walk along, but there are several pullouts along the journey where you can stop and get a closer look at the Artists Palette and other amazing vista points. The afternoon tends to be the best time to really see the colors, as you want the sun to be high to illuminate the hills.

3. Listen Closely at Devils Golf Course

What to do in Death Valley: Devils Golf Course

Hear that? No, it’s not the sound of people hitting golf balls in the desert. Devils Golf Course isn’t a golf course at all. Instead, it got its name from a 1934 National Park Service guidebook that claimed that “only the devil could play golf on such rough links.”

One of the most unique Death Valley attractions, the “golf course” is actually a vast area of rock salt that’s been eroded by the wind and rain, causing it to take strange jagged shapes. You can choose to hike to get to the golf course, or you can simply take your vehicle along a half-mile dirt road that most cars shouldn’t have trouble with. From there, you’ll come across a stretch of serrated ground that would indeed make for a difficult day of golf. 

Death Valley Things to do: Devils Golf Course

As you approach, listen carefully. You’ll hear little popping sounds, which are billions of salt crystals bursting, thanks to the heat causing them to expand and contract.

4. Experience Badwater Basin

Cool Things to do in Death Valley: Badwater Basin

Like Devils Golf Course, exploring Badwater Basin is a rather surreal place to visit and is one of the most unique things to do in Death Valley. It’s one of the hottest points in Death Valley. And, standing at 282 feet below sea level, it’s not only the lowest point in Death Valley but in the entire continental US. 

Once an ancient lake known as Lake Manly, Badwater Basin is now an expanse of salt flats covering nearly 200 square miles. The lake had no outlet, which led to sediment and salt increasing over time. When Lake Manly evaporated tens of thousands of years ago, it left beyond the salt deposits.

Unique Things to do in Death Valley: Badwater Basin

From the parking lot off Badwater Road, you can take in the view there, or you can trek along the boardwalk. You’ll need to take a two-mile round-trip walk if you want to reach the best views. From there, you’ll get up close to the salt flats and see the Black Mountains beyond, creating an incredible contrast you’ll want your camera for!

5. Hike the Golden Canyon

Death Valley Bucket List: Golden Canyon

As the name suggests, the Golden Canyon is a colorful place to hike that definitely belongs on your Death Valley bucket list! The out-and-back trail for this canyon runs about three miles. 

However, there are several trails that run through the Golden Canyon, and you can include many other highlights of Death Valley during your time exploring the canyon. One of the biggest highlights is the Red Cathedral. 

Fun Things to do in Death Valley: Golden Canyon

Though the Golden Canyon is known for its rolling yellow hills, the Red Cathedral soars above it with beautiful red rock, creating a breathtaking contrast. If you’re going to hike through Golden Canyon, be sure the Red Cathedral is on your itinerary.

6. Enjoy the View from Zabriskie Point

Death Valley Things to do: Zabriskie Point

For another great vista point, you’ll want to visit Zabriskie Point because sightseeing here is one of the best Death Valley activities. 

Particularly ideal for seeing the sunrise or sunset, Zabriskie Point is a perfect place to start or end the day. It was named in honor of Christian Zabriskie, a prominent figure in the heyday of the Pacific Coast Borax Company. As you exit the parking lot for this vista point, you’ll walk along a fairly easy quarter-mile paved trail to reach Zabriskie Point. 

What to do in Death Valley: Zabriskie Point

At the top, you’ll see the badlands below, with the uneven hills dotting the landscape. Beyond the badlands, you’ll also see views of Death Valley’s iconic salt flats, as well as the Panamint Mountains off in the distance towering over everything. Keep your eyes peeled for the Manly Beacon, a massive structure that reaches 823 feet and is known for being particularly beautiful during sunrise and sunset. 

7. Explore the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Cool Things to do in Death Valley: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Nearby Stovepipe Wells, you’ll find the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes . Walking around these dunes is one of the best things to do in Death Valley, especially if you’re visiting early or late in the day.

These sand dunes are named for the mesquite trees that grow in abundance here. Throughout the massive dunes, you can see the brown trunks of the trees twisting their way out of the sand and reaching toward the sky. In the spring, these trees often bloom with yellow flowers.

Best Things to do in Death Valley: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

There are several dunes throughout the area, but the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are truly one of the most unique Death Valley attractions. The eroding mountains in the north create the sand, while the mountains in the south create a barrier to prevent the sand from being blown away. The result is a range of enormous sand dunes you could easily spend hours walking around if it wasn’t for the intense heat, which may cut your visit short. 

There are no trails at these sand dunes, so you’re free to explore on your own. But keep in mind that many animals, including sidewinder rattlesnakes, call the dunes home, so be careful to watch where you step.

8. Marvel at Mosaic Canyon

Must do things in Death Valley: Mosaic Canyon

Visiting Mosaic Canyon is one of the most unique things to do in Death Valley. From the parking area, which is nearby Stovepipe Wells Village and the western entrance of Death Valley, you’ll go up and into the canyon, where smooth marble walls will surround you, formed by years of flash flooding. As you venture further, you’ll find outcroppings of the canyon’s namesake formation: the Mosaic Canyon Breccia.

The Mosaic Breccia is composed of many different kinds of parent rock, which form colorful mosaics. A natural cement holds the fragments together, which is what gives it the appearance of a tile mosaic. 

Fun Things to do in Death Valley: Mosaic Canyon

While some portions of the trail may be difficult for inexperienced hikers, those who wish to continue will enjoy the sight of more breccia hidden within canyon bends. Less experienced hikers should stick to the lower section of the canyon.

9. See Darwin Falls

Death Valley Things to do: Darwin Falls

When you imagine the hottest place on Earth, you likely don’t picture there being water there, let alone a year-round waterfall. But that’s exactly what Darwin Falls , one of the best Death Valley attractions, is! 

The route to Darwin Falls is one of the most beloved in Death Valley, despite there technically not being a marked trail at all. The two-mile, out-and-back trail is rocky and gravely, but it’s worth the trek.

What to do in Death Valley: Darwin Falls

Keep in mind that when you get to the falls, swimming is not allowed, so you, unfortunately, won’t be able to cool off from the hot hike. Stick to traveling this trail when it’s not the hottest part of the day, as it is one of the warmer walks in Death Valley. 

Once you reach Darwin Falls, you’ll be greeted by beautiful lush vegetation, thanks to the spring-fed waterfall. You don’t expect to see much greenery in Death Valley, but in nearby Darwin Falls, you’ll see thriving trees, aquatic vegetation, and ferns, as well as wildlife that depend on the water’s flow. If you visit in the spring, you’ll also likely see wildflowers growing along the trail.

10. Take a Dip in the Saline Hot Springs

Looking to go a little off the beaten path? The Saline Hot Springs in the Saline Valley make for one of the most fun things to do in Death Valley, provided you’re able to get there. These clothing-optional hot springs are a true hidden gem. 

The Saline Hot Springs are three pools that offer incredible views while you relax in the warm water. The middle and lower hot springs are concrete soaking tubs lined with stones, while the upper pool has been left undeveloped. Temperatures vary with the season, but they can reach upwards of 105°F.  

Getting to the hot springs requires a bit of a trek. You’ll ideally need a vehicle with four-wheel drive and high clearance. Even with such a vehicle, you should expect to be driving for upwards of two hours before you hit the springs. And that’s assuming the road conditions are good. Keep in mind that there is also no cell reception or Wi-Fi, so be sure you have all the necessary supplies before you begin your journey.

11. Tour Rhyolite

Best Things to do in Death Valley: Rhyolite

Just outside of Death Valley National Park is one of the best-preserved ghost towns in America, Rhyolite . Visiting this once-bustling town is one of the coolest things to do in Death Valley, especially if you’re a history buff.

In 1904, Shorty Harris and E. L. Cross were prospecting the area and discovered high-grade gold ore. A rush began, with several camps setting up to mine the gold. A townsite was set up nearby, dubbed Rhyolite in honor of the silica-rich volcanic rock that surrounded it.

Rhyolite blossomed quickly, with hotels, stores, schools, hospitals, and much more. The citizens had active lives. They played baseball games, attended dances, listened to the symphony, spent Saturday nights at the opera house taking in variety shows, and continued to help Rhyolite thrive. 

Cool Things to do in Death Valley: Rhyolite

It continued to thrive until 1907, when a nationwide financial panic took its toll on the community. The mines began to close, banks failed, newspapers went out of business, and the number of residents dwindled. In 1916, the light and power in the town were turned off for good. 

Today, you can find many pieces of buildings still remaining in the once-busy town, like parts of the bank building and the old jail. The train depot is still fully standing. You can also see the famous Bottle House, once built by a miner out of 50,000 beer and liquor bottles. It was fully restored by Paramount Pictures in 1925 and left for visitors to see today. 

12. Pay a Visit to Scotty’s Castle

Must do things in Death Valley: Scotty’s Castle

Technically called the Death Valley Ranch, Scotty’s Castle offers one of the most unique things to do in Death Valley. And it all started with a man who wasn’t Scotty at all.

Albert Mussey Johnson was a well-respected insurance magnate, while Walter Scott was, well, less than trustworthy. Scotty convinced Johnson to invest in his gold mine, which never quite panned out.

Eventually, Johnson decided to come to Death Valley himself to see what was going on. Scotty thought Johnson would want to get out of the desert as quickly as he arrived, but he didn’t expect that Johnson would fall in love with what he saw.

Though Johnson was most likely being swindled, he came to like Scotty almost as much as he loved Death Valley. He returned to Death Valley year after year with his wife Bessie and eventually decided to build what would become Scotty’s Castle, with its lavish style and beautiful Spanish-Mediterranean features. 

Fun Things to do in Death Valley: Scotty’s Castle

Scotty told everyone that he was the one building the $2 million home from his gold-mining profits. Though far from the truth, Johnson backed him up, saying that he was simply Scotty’s banker. Construction stopped in 1931 when Johnson realized he was building on federal land. Scotty’s Castle remains incomplete today. 

Sadly, Scotty’s Castle is currently closed due to unprecedented flooding that took place back in 2015. Though the storm only did minor damage to the main house, many other buildings and facilities, including the Visitor Center and Historic Bridge, were heavily damaged. 

These repairs remain underway, but there’s no timeline for when they’ll be completed. In the meantime, Scotty’s Castle’s collection of 139,000 artifacts has been moved to a temporary location outside of Death Valley for safety, but you can take a Flood Recovery Tour to see the castle itself with a ranger to guide you.

13. Question Everything at the Racetrack Playa

Death Valley Things to do: Racetrack Playa

The Racetrack Playa , also known simply as the Racetrack, is one of the strangest and best sights in Death Valley. The playa is a large, dry lakebed characterized by its mud hexagons. But the thing that makes the Racetrack so unique is the existence of the “sailing stones.” 

When you visit the Racetrack, you’ll see rocks that have trails behind them, as if they’ve been moving on their own through the mud. Though there were many theories as to how such a thing could happen, the mystery was solved by a group of researchers in 2014. 

When it rains, the Racetrack becomes a shallow lake, which freezes at night in the winter, trapping the rocks in ice. When the lake warms up, the ice breaks and the wind blows the rock over the still-wet surface. As a result, when it’s hot and the water is gone, it looks like the stones have moved all on their own.

What to do in Death Valley: Racetrack Playa

Like the Saline Hot Springs, the Racetrack Playa is in a remote part of Death Valley and requires a vehicle with four-wheel drive and a high clearance. There is no cell service or Wi-Fi in this area of the park, so be sure you have all the supplies you need before you start the drive over. 

Expect that you may be driving for upwards of three hours to reach the Racetrack. Also, be prepared that you may have to do some searching to find the real sailing stones, as some visitors create faux trails. 

14. Visit the Ubehebe Crater

Cool Things to do in Death Valley: Ubehebe Crater

The Ubehebe Crater is a massive volcanic crater that you can visit on your way to the Racetrack. It’s 600 feet deep and a half-mile across. This crater is actually known as a maar. It was created when hot magma rose up to reach groundwater. Steam then expanded until the pressure was too great and caused a huge explosion. 

When you visit the Ubehebe Crater, you’ll be able to look down and see beautiful stripes of color mixed in with black tar, making for a striking sight. While you can view the crater from the parking area, you can also hike around or into it.

Unique Things to do in Death Valley: Ubehebe Crater

The Ubehebe Crater is just one of about a dozen craters in the Ubehebe volcanic field, but it is the largest. However, many visitors also recommend checking out its little sibling, Little Hebe, which some say is more astonishing than the larger Ubehebe Crater.

15. Go Stargazing

Must do things in Death Valley: Stargazing

Stargazing belongs on every Death Valley bucket list. This national park is one of the best places in the world to view the night sky. In fact, it’s ranked at Gold Tier by the International Dark-Sky Association, the highest level. 

While you can see constellations anywhere in Death Valley as long as you’re away from campgrounds, hotels, and other areas with more light pollution, there are a few spots that are known for their particularly good stargazing. Top stargazing locations include the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Ubehebe Crater, Harmony Borax Works, and Badwater Basin. 

Death Valley Bucket List: Stargazing

Pick a night when the sky will be darkest, like during a new moon, and be sure to bring a night sky almanac so you know what you’re looking at. You’ll also likely want to bring along a telescope or a simple pair of binoculars. 

You can also attend the annual Dark Sky Festival , where you’ll watch the night sky during ranger-led expeditions, listen to scientists’ lectures while exploring Death Valley, learn to take night sky photos, and participate in various hands-on activities that are fun for the whole family. 

There you have it—the 15 best things to do in Death Valley. What’s your favorite thing to do in Death Valley? Drop us a note and let us know!

About the author.

Jacqueline Gualtieri

Jacqueline is a writer and editor pursuing the freelance life to explore the world. Born and raised in New Jersey, she spent her college years in Boston before settling down with her partner and puppy in Monterey, California. When she’s not writing, you can often find her planning her next trip. Road trips are her favorite, whether it’s driving across the country or simply exploring a new city in her own backyard. She loves uncovering the history of every new place she goes. Jacqueline has a restless passion for learning and makes it a goal to pick up a new skill every year. She’s picked up embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and cross-stitching, but she’s hoping to master more languages to help her in her travels. She’s also a published author, with short stories and poetry appearing in several anthologies.

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22 Things to do in Death Valley National Park | Ultimate Bucket List

* This article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you.

TL;DR: With so many options, the best things to do in Death Valley National Park are visiting viewpoints like Dante’s View, renting Jeeps to see the magical moving rocks at Racetrack Playa, and searching for adorable wild burros. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, and Artist’s Palette offer iconic scenery and views in the park.
  • When temperatures soar, head to higher elevations at Dante’s View, Scotty’s Castle, or the Racetrack Playa to find relief from the heat.
  • Spotting wild burros, dining at The Ranch restaurant, staying at the historic Inn, and stargazing are beloved local activities.

I’ve been exploring the California national parks for several years now and Death Valley is one of my favorites due to its unique nature and otherworldly landscapes. 

Although it might just look like an extreme desert wasteland at first glance, there are tons of things to do in Death Valley National Park. 

The largest national park of the lower 48 offers a lot of variety. 

Of course, you shouldn’t miss the top must-sees, but have you ever explored an old ghost town where miners used to live? 

Or what about hiking at 11,000 feet in cool weather while looking down at one of the hottest places on earth?

From the best hikes in Death Valley to the most unusual things to do at the park, get ready to plan the desert trip of a lifetime with this post. 

Note: this article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.

what to do in death valley national park

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Map of Things to do in Death Valley National Park

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Best Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Stroll across badwater basin.

Stroll Across Badwater Basin

Among the top things to do in Death Valley National Park is Badwater Basin. At 282 feet below sea level, this is the lowest point in North America. 

Badwater Basin is so low because a fault line runs through Death Valley that makes the valley floor drop. 

And it’s a place that’s true to its name; the “bad water” that comes out of the ground here is full of minerals and contains more salt than the ocean. 

It goes without saying, but drinking the water at Badwater Basin is not one of the recommended activities in Death Valley National Park. 

When you visit Badwater Basin, turn around and look at the rock wall behind you; the National Park Service has a sign that shows where the sea level is located, far above your head. 

Before you leave, walk over the salt flats and bask in the heat of the valley floor. 

The salt flats are also where you can experience the juxtaposition of looking across the warm valley to Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley that’s often covered in snow .  

Hike to a Natural Bridge

Hike to a Natural Bridge

Just up the road from Badwater Basin, there’s a turn-off to a dirt road on the right that leads to a parking area at the foot of the mountains.

From the parking area, you can go for a short hike into the canyon. After only half a mile of easy hiking in the wash, you’ll get to a natural bridge that spans the narrow canyon. 

Yes, it’s completely natural! The Natural Bridge was carved out of the rock by water and wind. It “just” took thousands of years, but the result is stunning.

From there, you can either turn around and return to the parking lot or keep hiking up the canyon as far as you like.

Play at the Devils Golf Course

Play at the Devils Golf Course

Okay, so this isn’t an actual golf course but another part of the salt flats that make up Badwater Basin. 

Here, the salt and minerals create different shapes than at the main Badwater Basin area. 

At Devils Golf Course, you’re still 277 feet below sea level (aka almost at the same elevation as the lowest point of Death Valley National Park). 

Explore the razor-sharp edges of the salt formations and see for yourself why the first explorers gave this place the name they did.

I mean, can you imagine taking a wagon across these salt flats?

Visiting this place is one of the best things to do in Death Valley that never gets boring. Once you start looking closer, you’ll notice how every salt formation is slightly different from the one next to it. 

Additionally, throughout the day the light changes its angle and the look of Devils Golf Course with it. 

The road from Badwater Road to Devils Golf Course is unpaved but passable for all types of cars unless it just rained.

Admire the Artist’s Palette

Admire the Artist’s Palette

If you continue your road trip from Badwater Basin to the north of the park, you’ll come to a small road that leads to Artist’s Drive. 

This road is paved and accessible year-round and leads to several parking areas where you can walk to the nearby Artist’s Palette. 

This accumulation of sedimentary rocks contains so many different colors it resembles an actual artist’s palette. 

Take your time to enjoy the area’s various viewpoints and stop at any of the parking lots along Artist’s Drive to wander around.

By the way, if you like road biking in unusual places, you should bring your bike and add the Artist’s Drive to your bucket list. 

Since it’s a winding one-way road with a low speed limit, you can take your time here and enjoy a bike ride without cars zipping by at high speeds.

Not to mention, the Artist’s Drive was freshly paved not too long ago which makes the ride smooth and enjoyable.

Local tip: The Artist’s Drive is a one-way road, so make sure you’re following the signs. 

Enjoy a True Oasis at Furnace Creek

Enjoy a True Oasis at Furnace Creek

Furnace Creek is a true oasis in the valley. The village wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the small amount of water that comes out of the ground in the area. 

The village of Furnace Creek is the main hub and one of the top things to see in Death Valley National Park, just don’t expect a big city – you’re still in the remote desert. 

One of my favorite things to do there is to take a short stroll into the hills above the village and watch the sunset from higher up. 

Sometimes you can even watch coyotes roaming the area below. 

Off to the south of Furnace Creek is a small reservation where the members of the Timbisha Shoshone tribe have lived for many generations. 

See One of the World’s Most Famous Thermometers

Death Valley Thermometer

Yes, I’m really sending you to the Death Valley National Park visitor center to check out a thermometer . 

Before you skip this section, hear me out: this is the thermometer, where the world’s highest temperatures get recorded every summer. 

If you’re looking for things to do in Death Valley in summer, you should visit the thermometer to have a look at how the scorching heat gets displayed in numbers. 

Fun fact: Did you know that shoe soles can melt during summer in Death Valley National Park? If it’s really hot, you can see for yourself.

Go Back in Time at Harmony Borax Works

Harmony Borax Works

Borax was just one of many minerals that were mined in Death Valley National Park, long before it became a national park. 

The Harmony Borax Works is conveniently located just north of Furnace Creek and well worth a visit. 

One of the highlights at Harmony Borax Works is the wagon of the Twenty Mule Team. 

Many years ago, miners used to transport the borax via wagons to the town of Mojave, where the nearest train station was located. 

Instead of using horses, they bred donkeys with horses to create mules since they have much better footing in rugged terrain.

Today, one of these double-wagons is reconstructed and on display at the Harmony Borax Works. 

To this day, there is a borax brand called “ Twenty Mule Team ,” which you can find at national brand name stores like Target and Walmart. 

Local tip : If you stay at Furnace Creek and have a bike, take the new bike trail from the village to the borax works. 

Revive Your Inner Child at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

When you follow Highway 190 from Furnace Creek towards Lone Pine and US Highway 395, you’ll pass sand dunes on your left, just a few miles before reaching Stovepipe Wells.

These are the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. 

Leave your car at the designated parking lot (you won’t believe how many people think they can drive onto the sand). 

From there, wander into the surreal landscape made entirely of sand. 

Run in the sand, slide down the steep side of the sand dunes, or simply sit on top and enjoy the views of the huge valley below you. 

By the way, this is a wonderful spot for sunset or sunrise, just make sure you bring a headlamp so you don’t get lost in the dark.

Enjoy the Views at Zabriskie Point

Enjoy the Views at Zabriskie Point

Not far from Furnace Creek, you’ll find Zabriskie Point. This viewpoint is either accessible by walking 0.6 miles from the top or via a short 1.7-mile hike through Golden Canyon. 

If you decide to take the hike, you’ll pass through a fairly narrow canyon with golden walls on your way up to the Zabriskie Point. 

Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the colorful rock formations in front of you. 

Enjoy Even More Majestic Views at Dante’s View

Views at Dante’s View

Taking a drive up to Dante’s View and spending time admiring the scenery from the top is one of my favorite things to do in Death Valley.

If you’re entering the national park on Highway 190 from the direction of Las Vegas, this could be one of your first stops. 

You’ll find a turn-off on your left that leads to Dante’s View, just note that the last 5.5 miles of the 21-mile journey are steep and increasingly winding. 

In the end, it’s worth the hassle when you stand at Dante’s View, towering almost 6,000 feet above Badwater Basin. 

And due to its elevation, Dante’s View is still a great place to visit in Death Valley during the hottest time of the year. 

Take a Hike in Mosaic Canyon

hike in Mosaic Canyon

Among all the hikes in Death Valley, this is one of my favorites. 

Access the Mosaic Canyon via a dirt road that starts near Stovepipe Wells. Usually, the road is pretty passable and you don’t need a high clearance vehicle. 

Once you reach the parking area, walk into the canyon that opens up in front of you. 

You can go up to 2.3 miles one way before an impassable cliff stops you from going further (at least without technical climbing gear). 

Initially, the route is moderate but it gets increasingly difficult as you have to bypass a boulder jam and some dry falls on the last half mile. 

The National Park Service offers a GPX-file online , which you can download and import into a map app on your phone. 

I just recommend wearing sturdy hiking boots , as the canyon is full of rocks that are just waiting to twist your ankle. 

Add Scotty’s Castle to your Bucket List

Add Scotty’s Castle to your Death Valley Bucket List

Located in the mountains to the east of Ubehebe Crater, you’ll find Scotty’s Castle.

This villa was formerly owned by Albert Mussey Johnson, a very wealthy man who wanted a personal desert retreat. Today, it’s a Death Valley must-see. 

Unfortunately, a flash flood in 2015 took out most of the road in the canyon and flooded the villa with mud. 

Since then, repairs have been ongoing and the opening date keeps getting delayed year after year, so it’s an attraction to add to your bucket list for a future visit. 

You can check on the NPS website for current updates about Scotty’s Castle . 

Unique Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Experience real heat.

There aren’t many things to do in Death Valley in summer but experiencing the park’s extreme heat is one of them.

Furnace Creek once broke the world record for the hottest place on earth when the thermometer reached 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913. 

On summer days, the mercury often climbs to 125 degrees or even higher.

After experiencing that kind of heat, you won’t be complaining about temperatures in the 90s. They’ll feel chilly compared to Death Valley in the summer.

Local tip: If you’re visiting Death Valley during its warmest months, make sure to stay cool and hydrated – heatstroke is a very real and dangerous thing! It’s best to not leave your car for more than a few minutes at a time and hikes aren’t recommended. 

Wander Along the Rim of Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater

Taking a hike on a volcanic crater is another one of the more unusual things to do in Death Valley. 

Not far from Mesquite Sand Dunes, you’ll see Ubehebe Crater from many miles across the valley floor as you drive there. 

From the parking area, you’ll have a couple of choices for your hike: you can either take a moderate 1.5-mile loop around the rim or descend straight into the pit of Ubehebe Crater. 

The latter hike is just a quarter-mile short but very steep – just don’t forget that you have to go back up it to exit the crater.

You can also take a short side trail from the rim hike to visit Little Hebe Crater, a mini volcano right next to the bigger one.

Visit the Mysterious Rocks at Racetrack Playa

Visit the Mysterious Rocks at Racetrack Playa

You’ve probably heard of the mysterious rocks at Death Valley that move, seemingly all by themselves, leaving a trail in the dry mud. 

Racetrack Playa is where you can see this weird phenomenon for yourself. 

It takes a high clearance vehicle to get there, but don’t worry if you don’t have one. You can rent Jeeps next to Death Valley National Park’s visitor center. 

If you visit, bring a lot of water, this is one of the most remote locations in the national park. 

Although there are still unsolved questions about why these rocks move across Racetrack Playa, scientists have concluded that the whole process is natural. 

Sorry, fans of Area 51, the aliens didn’t make a short trip over here. Yet…

Another reason to visit Racetrack Playa is that it reaches 4,000 feet in elevation. When it’s too hot to have fun in Death Valley proper, you’ll find some lower temperatures here.

Spot Some Wild Burros

Spot Some Wild Burros in Death Valley National Park

Have you ever seen cute donkeys in the wild? These feral animals are one of my favorite parts of Death Valley National Park. 

To the miners back in the day, the horses were seen as useful animals for riding, but the donkeys just wasted room in corrals. This is why they started letting the donkeys roam free.

Quickly, a few donkeys here and there turned into several herds that became spread all over what is now the national park.

Today, the donkeys are part of the local “wildlife” and can be seen around several areas, such as Wildrose Canyon or near the sand dunes in Panamint Valley. 

But please don’t feed or pet them! The wilderness provides them with plenty of food and I’ve watched several burros chase visitors who got too close for comfort. 

Hike to a Waterfall in the Desert

hike to darwin falls

If you have a little extra time or you’re staying in Panamint Springs, you shouldn’t miss out on one of the best things to do near Death Valley. 

Although still in the national park, Darwin Falls is in the second mountain range away from Death Valley. 

The road to get to the falls is unpaved but short and usually accessible in any type of car. Hike a mile up the canyon to a waterfall that flows all year long. 

Just please don’t swim in the pool at Darwin Falls. I’ve been tempted before and understand the need to cool off but this is a very fragile ecosystem that deserves our protection.

For the hike to Darwin Falls, I recommend sturdy shoes and hiking poles for making your way through shrubs and vegetation.

Enjoy the Desert’s Silence at the Panamint Dunes

Even though the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are more famous, they’re not the only ones in Death Valley National Park. 

Panamint Valley is another location where you can find beautiful sand dunes and it’s much less visited. 

To get to the Panamint Dunes, take the only road that leads north of the highway in Panamint Valley and drive until you reach a small parking lot. 

Hike to any place around or in the dunes. There’s no marked hiking trail , just walk around the few shrubs that can withstand the climate. 

Sit on top of the dunes, take in the view of the valley and the oasis of Panamint Springs, and enjoy the complete silence. 

Visit Star Wars Filming Locations

Visit Star Wars Filming Locations, golden canyon

Several scenes in the Star Wars movies, including A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, were filmed in Death Valley National Park. 

It all started on Tatooine, which is conveniently located in Death Valley in real life. The little Jawas in the movie run across hills that are just west of Artist’s Drive. 

From the Artist’s Palette parking lot, turn the opposite way and start hiking up the hill. This is where students of Death Valley Elementary School once played the Jawas. 

That nameless wash where R2D2 was captured is now nicknamed R2’s Arroyo.

Just north of Artist’s Drive, you’ll find Desolation Canyon where all the scenes with the Bantha and its Tusken Raiders were filmed. 

The film crew brought a real elephant from San Francisco and clad her in a Bantha costume for the scenes, which she understandably didn’t like.

You can also take a drive through Twenty Mule Team Canyon to the location where Jabba the Hut had his palace.

If you download the NPS app , you’ll find a lot of descriptions of Star Wars filming locations in Death Valley National Park, along with specific routes. 

Star Gaze at the Dark Night Sky

Star Gaze at the Dark Night Sky in Death Valley

Have you ever wondered about things to do in Death Valley at night? This national park is known for its dark skies and is the country’s third International Dark Sky Park . 

It’s well worth staying one or more nights in Death Valley just to have a look at the stars. 

From Death Valley, you can usually see the Milky Way in its full glory. The stars are especially visible when the moon isn’t too bright. 

And thanks to the dry desert climate, clouds hardly ever ruin the view. 

Local tip : if you want to keep your night vision and need light for walking, use a red light. It doesn’t make the pupils contract and you won’t have to wait several minutes for your night vision to return. 

Alternatively, if you don’t feel comfortable being in the desert by yourself at night, no problem. 

You can book a night sky tour with experienced guides who will explain everything from the moon to the most remote stars.

Play Golf at the Lowest Golf Course on Earth

Play Golf at the Lowest Golf Course on Earth, furnace creek golf course

Furnace Creek is not just an oasis in the desert, it’s also an oasis with a golf course. 

It even boasts the typical lush golf course lawn that gets manicured to perfection (probably using a ton of water in the process).

I’ve visited Death Valley a lot, yet it always surprises me to see so much greenery here.

Even better, it’s located at 214 feet below sea level, making it the lowest golf course in the world . 

Learn More About the Park by Earning a Junior Ranger Badge

The Junior Ranger program of the National Park Service was originally designed for kids. However, throughout the years it has become more and more popular with adults as well. 

So whether you’re traveling with kids or not, stop by the visitor center and ask for the Junior Ranger book at the front desk. 

The ranger or volunteer in charge will give you a booklet and tell you to complete all the activities in it, like an educational scavenger hunt! 

This book is a great companion for your visit because it makes you think more in-depth about the surreal landscape, dunes, salt, the unforgiving desert climate, and more. 

When you’re finished, just bring it back to the visitor center or mail it in after your visit. You’ll be rewarded with a Junior Ranger badge and brownie points. 

Where to Eat & Drink in Death Valley National Park

Where to Eat and Drink in Death Valley National Park

Furnace Creek

  • The Inn at Death Valley
  • The Ranch 1849 Buffet
  • Last Kind Words Saloon
  • Coffee and Cream
  • General Store
  • Visitor Center (they have packaged sandwiches and non-alcoholic drinks)

Timbisha Shoshone Village

  • Indian Tacos and Shaved Ice

Stovepipe Wells

  • Badwater Saloon
  • Toll Road Restaurant (only open during winter)

Panamint Springs

  • Dining & Bar

Where to Stay in Death Valley National Park

Where to Stay in Death Valley - The Inn at Death Valley

  • The Ranch at Death Valley
  • Stovepipe Wells Village
  • Panamint Springs Resort

There are no Airbnbs within Death Valley National Park. The nearest communities are all at least a 30-minute drive from any of the places to visit in Death Valley. 

However, these are some of my favorite Airbnbs near Death Valley: 

  • The Bottle Cottage in Tecopa, CA is a cute earth house with a bunch of old bottles built into the walls. These create a mystical look and fill the room with colors when the sun shines through the glass. Tecopa is about halfway between Furnace Creek and Las Vegas.
  • At the Feather Hut , you can stay in a Tiny House in Beatty, NV. Even though the whole house is the size of a room, it has everything, including the kitchen sink. 
  • The Camp Container in Pahrump sounds more rugged than it is. While the fully-equipped tiny house is located inside a shipping container, there is outdoor furniture and a fire pit as well. The highlight is the extra outdoor bed for stargazing. 

Campgrounds

Camping in RVs or tents is the most versatile option for staying in Death Valley National Park.

There are several campgrounds to choose from, including: 

  • Furnace Creek – open all year but reservations are recommended during the winter.
  • Sunset – at Furnace Creek, open late fall to spring, no reservations.
  • Texas Springs – at Furnace Creek, open late fall to spring, no reservations.
  • Stovepipe Wells : open late fall to spring, no reservations.
  • Mesquite Spring : open all year, no reservations.
  • Emigrant : primitive campground near Stovepipe Wells, open year-round, no reservations.
  • Wildrose : primitive campground, open all year, but roads can be snowy and icy in winter, no vehicles longer than 25 ft are allowed.
  • Thorndike : primitive campground, open in summer but a high clearance vehicle is needed.
  • Mahogany Flat : primitive campground, open in summer but a high clearance vehicle is needed.
  • Panamint Springs : privately owned campground, open year-round, reservations are recommended during peak season.

Best Time to Visit Death Valley National Park

Best Time to Visit Death Valley National Park

November through April is the best season to visit Death Valley Park, although some people choose to visit Death Valley during summer to experience the surreal heat. 

In general, if you want to see more Death Valley attractions than the thermometer at Furnace Creek and the interior of your car, you should not visit during summer. 

Most of the fun things to do in Death Valley are in the hot areas just above or below sea level, so summer is probably not the best time to visit if it’s your first time at the park. 

How to Get Around Death Valley National Park

How to Get Around Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is a very remote destination at just under five hours from Los Angeles or a little over two hours from Las Vegas. 

This means that it’s one of the national parks that requires you to have your own vehicle to get around. There’s not even public transit to get to the park. 

Guided Tours

Otherwise, if you’d like to do some Death Valley sightseeing without needing to do all the driving yourself, you can easily book one of many tours starting in Las Vegas . 

Tips for Visiting Death Valley National Park

Tips for visiting Death Valley National Park

  • Dogs are not allowed off-pavement – Dogs are banned from all hiking trails and other attractions like the salt flats in Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park. But honestly, this national park is not a good place for a hike with Fido anyway. Heat and dry climates are challenging for little bodies, and the sharp rocks and salt can hurt their paws.
  • When it’s hot, go early or late – Even in winter, it can get pretty hot here. If you want to enjoy your Death Valley hikes, it’s best to go in the morning before the sun reaches its peak or just before sunset.
  • Cell service? What is that? – Most of Death Valley National Park doesn’t have any cell service. Depending on your provider, you might have some luck at Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells, and Panamint Springs. However, some carriers are known to have zero reception at the park.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes – Trust me, I’ve had cacti stab my toes before. You don’t want to feel that. Always wear comfortable closed-toe shoes when you’re walking around the park to keep your feet protected from the extreme desert landscape. 
  • How good is your car? – In summer, it’s not just humans who suffer from the heat. Cars do too. Keep in mind that all roads leading out of the park climb at least 3,000 feet uphill. Many radiators die a steamy death there.
  • Do you have enough gas? – There are only three gas stations in Death Valley National Park. One each in Furnace Creek, in Stovepipe Wells, and Panamint Springs. This is not the right place to wait for the light by the gauge to come on.

What to Pack for Death Valley National Park

Water, water, and more water! You’re in the driest of all the US national parks. The humidity can be as low as 2% here.

This means that you don’t feel it when you get sweaty because the sweat immediately evaporates off your skin. In other words: you don’t notice when you’re dehydrating. 

It’s best to bring a large container with several gallons of water in the car and then bottles or bladders for hiking . The National Park Service recommends a half gallon for a short winter hike to several gallons for long hikes and warmer seasons.

Another thing you don’t want to be missing on your trip to Death Valley is sun protection. Wear a hat with a wide brim and use sunscreen on any exposed skin. This is the desert where cloudy days are a rare occasion. 

Also, don’t forget to bring your national park passport , just for fun!

FAQs About Death Valley National Park

How many days should i spend in death valley.

In summer, half a day is more than enough to drive to the famous thermometer at the visitor center of Furnace Creek, take a selfie, and then escape before your car’s air conditioning gets overwhelmed. 

During the more pleasant times of the year, your Death Valley National Park itinerary should include between two to four days, depending on how many hikes you want to do and attractions you want to see.

What Should I Not Miss at Death Valley National Park?

Badwater Basin, of course. The lowest point of North America is the Death Valley must-see.

What is Death Valley Known For?

  • Relentless heat in summer
  • Sand dunes 
  • Funky rock formations
  • Salt flats 

Practical Info

Entrance Fee : $30, valid for seven days and payable at self-service kiosks. If you’d like to buy an America the Beautiful Pass for year-long entry to all national parks, you can either do so online or at the visitor center in Furnace Creek. 

Death Valley National Park Hours & Phone Numbers: 

  • Furnace Creek Visitor Center: Open 8 AM to 5 PM every day.
  • Phone: (760) 786-3200

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

tourist attractions death valley

Sabine McCarthy

Looking for more California parks travel inspiration? Check out my related posts below!

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Palm Springs to Joshua Tree National Park

Epic California National Parks Road Trip

100+ Things to do in California

California State Parks List (Every Park Organized by County)

Things to do in Yosemite National Park

2 Days in Yosemite Itinerary

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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.

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20 Incredible Things to do in Death Valley National Park

Ready to discover epic things to do in Death Valley National Park? Incredible sunrises, salt flats and scenic drives await. 

Death Valley National Park is a straight-up epic destination. No if, no buts, no quibbles.

If you’re planning on visiting Death Valley for the first time, let me tell you, you’re in for a ride. 

The name might sound a little grim, but the reality is a series of landscapes that are out of this world – from watching a kaleidoscopic sunrise light up the valley basin to hiking into the midst of multilayered canyons – Death Valley is packed with amazing landscapes for you to explore. 

It’s one of my favourite destinations in California – a slice of Martian terrain plopped in the state’s far eastern reaches.

That’s enough about me though. Let’s help you plan your trip to Death Valley. 

This guide takes a deep dive into the must-see sights in the park – from better-known places like Badwater Basin to hidden gems like the Charcoal Kilns. I also cover a series of practical tips to help you with planning your own visit at the end of the article. 

Ready to delve into all the incredible attractions that bring visitors back to this formidable piece of the planet year after year? Of course you are. Let’s go.

Although the park has reopened, many of the roads and attractions in Death Valley are closed after the flooding in summer 2023. Check the National Park’s website for up-to-date information before you go.

Best Things to Do in Death Valley National Park 

Catch the sunrise at dante’s view.

cropped-Dantes-View-Death-Valley-National-Park-6.jpg

If you only have time to take in one EPIC viewpoint in Death Valley, make it Dante’s View. 

The views alone guarantee Dante’s View a spot in any guide to the top spots in Death Valley National Park, but when you throw a spectacular sunrise into the mix and it’s almost unbelievable. 

What’s the draw? Trundle up in the car to the viewpoint’s lofty 1,670 metres, to look down over the breadth of Death Valley…  all the way across the Badwater Basin to the mountains on the far side. 

It’s a little out-of-the-way to get to, but the view alone is worth it. The browns and oranges of the mountain rock contrast the silky whites and purples of the Basin, making it seem like you’re gazing upon a winding river of milk. Stunning! 

I’ll warn you – it is freezing at sunrise (seriously, I thought my ears were going to fall off) so wrap up warm and bring a hot drink – you’ll want to be up here for hours. 

Hang Out At America’s Lowest Point: Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin Death Valley National Park

When it comes to Death Valley attractions, Badwater Basin is always going to be high on the list. 

At 86 metres (282 feet) below sea level, Badwater is the lowest point in North America. 

That’s not all though – Badwater Basin just so happens to be a vast salt flat. Hundreds of intricate geometric shapes tessellate like sunlight on the bottom of a pool – all in all, it’s a  fascinating sight that looks more like it belongs in Bolivia than in good ol’ California. 

Its unique geography not only paves the way for some weird views, it also means that Badwater has a few tricks up its sleeve – for example some of the hottest temperatures on Earth have been recorded here, with highs of 56℃ (134℉). 

Most people just take a few steps beyond the boardwalk. But if you’re like me, you’ll want to walk the 1.8-mile path into the heart of the basin to fully ensconce yourself in the shimmering, salty vista. 

It’s super easy to get to, but the parking lot fills up fast, so get there early. 

Visiting Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park’s Spectacular Salt Flats 

Marvel at the Views from Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point Death Valley National Park

Zabriskie Point is another of Death Valley’s epic attractions. Just a short hike from the parking lot, it boasts one of the park’s most glorious vistas. 

Can you conjure up images of jutting multi-hued stone carved by wind and water? Zabriskie Point overdelivers – with a dramatic panoramic view of the valley that is, quite frankly, obscenely pretty.

Sure, it’s pretty, but what are you actually looking at? The remains of Furnace Creek Lake, a lake that dried up millions of years ago, leaving a tableau of gullies and ridges in its lake. 

It’s popular, so prepare yourself for crowds if you come during peak season. 

You may also want to bring a warm jacket, as it’s at a much higher elevation than the floor of the valley, so it can get chilly depending on the season.

Hike Over The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Mesquite Sand Dunes Death Valley National Park-3

Although Death Valley is actually home to five dune fields, the Mesquite Flats are the most popular. 

With majestic purple mountains in the distant background and golden dunes before you, it’s a photographer’s dream come true.

Strike out onto the dunes from the parking lot as far as you like, but – be warned – walking in loose sand, particularly in the heat, is no easy task, so save some energy for the return trek. 

That said, the further out you get, the more solitude and better views you get… isn’t that always the way.

The heat and the sun are no joke – ensure you’re well protected from the sun and have plenty of water. Don’t venture further than you can safely return.

See the Volcanic Remains at Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater Death Valley

Ube-what-now? It’s pronounced “oo-beh-heh-bee ” and looks like a meteor’s strike zone, but Ubehebe is a volcanic crater in the valley. 

It’s a maar volcano crater – in other words a crater created by a steam explosion as magma rises towards the earth’s surface and meets groundwater, building in pressure until it explodes, leaving a crater in its wake.  

You can hike around the rim (a mere 1.5 miles), trek down to the crater, or admire the view from the parking lot. Be warned, it can be tempting to descend into the crater, but the ascent can be tough – make sure you’re prepared with lots of water and sturdy shoes. 

Although Ubehebe is the most iconic of the craters in Death Valley, there are others in the park too – including nearby Little Hebe, which was created by the same process.

The crater was closed on my most recent trip to Death Valley in November 2022 due to flash floods on the road to the crater. Check with the NPS if it’s open before attempting to go.

Walk in the Footsteps of History in Death Valley’s Ghost Towns 

Rhyolite Ghost town

Were it not for the smattering of so-called “ghost towns” spread across the park, it would be hard to believe that these inhospitable plains were once home to small communities of people drawn in by the gold, copper and other precious minerals that were mined in the region. 

Visiting the ghost towns is a fascinating experience, pulling you into the remains of history, relics of the area’s Boom and Bust era. 

Rhyolite is the best-known ghost town which is funny given that it’s not even in Death Valley and actually sits across the state line in Nevada. At its peak, the town had a population of 5,000 and even had its own Opera House before the gold ore ran out and people moved elsewhere. 

Others like Ballarat, Leadfield, Chloride City and Skidoo are smaller in comparison, but no less interesting. 

PS. Think you’ve heard the name Ballarat before? It’s famous for being the place where Charles Manson hid out in the 1960s.

What You Need to Know About Death Valley’s Ghost Towns

Check Out the Devil’s Golf Course

Devils Golf Course Death Valley National Park

Imagine a landscape maintained by the worst groundskeeper ever and you’ll come close to conjuring up an image of the Devil’s Golf Course. 

Looking like the divets of a thousand golfers pockmark the earth, it’s actually a lumpy salt (not-so) flat that forms part of Badwater Basin. 

You’re not allowed to actually walk on the Golf Course – probably down to the sharp salt crystals on many of the mounds and the fact that doing so damages the unique ecosystem. 

Nonetheless, it’s worth a quick visit as you can see the area from the path leading from the parking lot to Badwater Basin. 

Tackle The Mosaic Canyon Hike

Mosaic Canyon Death Valley National Park

Newsflash! There are tonnes of hikes in Death Valley and tackling as many as you physically can is one of the most fun things you can do during your visit. 

Don’t stress though – many of the hikes, including Mosaic Canyon are relatively easy and big enough on the wow factor to keep you distracted during the uphill stretches. 

This moderate 4-mile hike takes around 2-3 hours, with plentiful snapshots of shiny slickrock and gleaming marble that give the canyon its name. 

Kick things off by delving into the narrow canyon, which twists and turns before opening up into a wider plain. Safe to say that this hike isn’t short on different views and perspectives, and there’s just enough rock scrambling to keep things interesting. 

See the Lee Flat Joshua Tree Forest

Lee Flat Joshua Tree Forest

That’s right, folks — Joshua Tree National Park isn’t the only place to spot the weird and wonderful specimens of flora that are Joshua Trees. 

Death Valley has its own Joshua Tree forests, the largest of which is the Lee flat Joshua Tree Forest. It’s near the western entrance to the park and sits at a higher elevation than the valley floor. 

This means it has an almost completely different climate to what you find at Badwater Basin — a difference of 20°C or more in temperature between the two isn’t uncommon. 

Visit at sunset, when the golden hues sweep over the brush and trees from across the purple mountains.

Set Off on the Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Hike

Golden Canyon Death Valley National Park

The Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch Hike is a relatively easy hike at 4.4 miles long and is a must if you’re visiting Death Valley for the first time. It’s one of my favourite easy out-and-backs in the park. 

There’s only a little elevation and a bit of scrambling at the end – expect for it to take 2-3 hours in total – more if you stop to gawp at the fantastic views of the valley as I did. 

The hike is named after the golden mudstone that makes up the beautiful formations that surround you during the larger part of the hike. I’m willing to bet that you’ve never seen as many shades of red and orange fanned out across one landscape. 

Continue on towards Manly Beacon for the most exciting (and difficult) part of the trail, which comes with stunning views  — they even rival even the grandeur of Zabriskie Point with their multicoloured formations.

Visit the Harmony Borax Works

Harmony Borax Works in Death Valley

Any history buffs here? Death Valley might be best-known for its eye-popping landscapes, but dig deeper and you’ll find a rich seam of historical sights and the tales that go with them. 

The Harmony Borax Works are one such place. By the late 19th century, Borax had come to be known as the “white gold of the desert” thanks to the fact that it was used in an increasing number of important products. This, in turn, kicked off a wave of prospecting in some of the country’s harshest locations – including (you guessed it) Death Valley. 

Aaron Winters found borax on this site in 1881 and sold his claim to William T. Coleman, who built the Works where they refined borate-bearing mud until 1888. Although Borax was still in high demand, the difficult logistics of the site led to the works’ closure at that time. 

Take a stroll around the site, taking in crumbly adobe walls, the old broiler and a couple of old wagons that have lasted the test of time, the last witnesses to a bygone era. 

Cruise Along Artist’s Drive & Artist’s Palette

Artist's Palette Death Valley

Another one of my highlights in Death Valley, Artist’s Drive is a 9-mile-long drive through some of the park’s most unique and scenic landscapes.  

Although it offers plenty of spots for opportune photo-taking, stopping at Artist’s Palette is one of the best things to do in Death Valley by a long shot. 

The hills change from brown and orange to a mix of pink, aqua, purple and white – the result of the oxidation of different metals in the soil. There’s a parking lot nearby, so you can ogle the gorgeous site up close.

Artist’s Drive runs from south to north and is one-way. The drive takes about half an hour without stops but factor in more time to be able to get out and explore. 

Hike to Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge

Make time to hike out to Natural Bridge – one of the many unique geological features within the park. It’s not far from Badwater Basin and is only about half a mile from the parking area. 

The hike is fairly easy and takes about an hour. I won’t lie, as the actual hike goes, it’s not one of the most exciting in the park, but it’s worth it to see the Natural Bridge. 

This isn’t a hike to tackle midday, though — early morning or late in the afternoon is better to avoid being in direct sun for the entire trek.

Getting There

Head south on Badwater Road from Furnace Creek. The well-marked turnoff to the trailhead on Natural Bridge Road is about 13 miles along. The bridge is 0.5 miles along an easy path from the trailhead.

Take the Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road Scenic Drive

Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road Scenic Drive

A one-way road through white and yellow mudstone hills, you might think a 30-45 minute drive through Twenty Mule Team Canyon could be a bore. 

But the landscapes it offers are incredible! No desert brush obscures the gorgeous rock formations here. 

Many small hiking trails splinter off the road, so you can park up and tackle those you fancy for even more epic views of the wind-carved mudstone from the top.

Go Stargazing

Zabriskie point, death valley, california, usa

Death Valley has been designated as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park, meaning it’s one of the top places for stargazing, not only in the United States , but in the world. 

It’s no secret how much I love watching the wonder of the night skies and the nights I spent stargazing in the park were unforgettable. 

You can’t really go wrong with locations – if you can see a large stretch of sky, chances are it will be a good place. That said, Badwater Basin, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and the Harmony Borax Works are all great choices. Bring your camera for epic nighttime Milky Way photography.

The park often hosts star parties during the winter months, where rangers and astronomers guide visitors through the wonders of the night sky via telescope viewings, guided walks and talks. Check the park’s calendar for upcoming events.

See Darwin Falls

Darwin Falls, Waterfall in Death Valley National Park

Believe it or not, Death Valley National Park, one of the hottest places on Earth, has a year-round waterfall, Darwin Falls. 

That fact alone makes Darwin Falls a must-see spot. Sure, you’ll have to hike along a trail to find it… one so dry that you might doubt that it exists at all, but eventually, you’ll see a small creek complete with dragonflies and frogs croaking. 

That’s the first sign of what’s to come – an unlikely waterfall surrounded by greenery that wouldn’t look out of place in the Amazon. Unsurprisingly, it’s a hub of biodiversity in the park, with plants and animals not found elsewhere in Death Valley, surrounded by willows and cottonwoods. 

While most visitors make it to the Lower Falls and leave it at that, you can also hike to the Upper Falls. It’s a bit more challenging but is also a lot more secluded. 

It’s an easy 2-mile (3.2km) round trip hike from the Darwin Falls parking area. Wear sturdy footwear as the trail is quite rocky.

Take a Trip to The Eureka Dunes

tourist attractions death valley

I know I talked about the Mesquite Flat Sand dunes earlier in this guide, but you should also make time to see their quieter counterparts, The Eureka Dunes. 

The Eureka Dunes are more remote, but IMHO they’re the most beautiful dune field in Death Valley. 

Located at an elevation of 914-metres, they’re the tallest dunes in California, framed by the stunning backdrop of the Last Chance Mountains. 

The most curious thing about them though? They sing. 

Yes. The dunes sing . It may not be the latest Taylor Swift hit, but under the right conditions, they sound out with a bass reverberation similar to a pipe organ emanating from under your feet. Who wouldn’t want to experience this baffling phenomenon that has scientists scratching their heads? 

Prepare yourself for some challenging climbing when you visit Eureka Dunes – they’re tall and climbing them is a mean task. Bring lots of water, wear a hat and pile on the sunscreen.

See the Skidding Stones at Racetrack Playa

Racetrack Playa

I think that by now we’ve established that Death Valley has more than its fair share of slightly… bizarre places, but Dunetrack Playa is up there with the best. 

Perhaps you’ve heard of them — the mysterious large rocks that seem to glide across a dry lakebed, leaving enigmatic trails behind them though no one ever sees them move. 

They’re called the sailing stones and how they manage to move was kind of a mystery. Scientists have been studying them since the early 1900s to figure out this phenomenon, and it seems that in 2014 they finally sorted it out, attributing the movement of the stones to a unique interplay between ice, water and wind. 

Driving the 27 miles over the unpaved road in a high-clearance 4×4 is a small price to pay to see the Racetrack and its slow-motion racers.

The playa surface is fragile, so stick to the roads and don’t touch the stones. Also, bring a spare tyre or two just in case — that road can be brutal.

Do the Grotto Canyon Hike

The Grotto Canyon hike is a 2 – 4 mile round trip hike that you should try if you like a challenge. 

It’s a quiet trail that navigates through narrow canyons and will have you scrambling over difficult obstacles. The first half of the hike sees you through a canyon, climbing over some tricky rock sections. 

About halfway, you’ll hit a 2.4-metre chimney — it’s the “ oh hell no ” point of return for many hikers. But if your legs are up to the climb, give it a go and complete the hike. 

See The Charcoal Kilns

Charcoal Kilns in Death Valley in California

One of the more unusual things to do in Death Valley is to visit the charcoal kilns. 

The kilns’ interesting conical beehive appearance with bits of dry scrub surrounding them gives off the vibe of a quirky abandoned village. They were in use back when the park was a mining hotspot to create charcoal.

You can find the Charcoal Kilns in the Wildrose section of Death Valley, but beware: the road to the kilns is bad, so a high-clearance or a 4WD vehicle is necessary to reach them.

Head Out to the The Ibex Dunes

Ibex Dunes in Death Valley National Park

The Ibex Dunes are pretty remote, making them ideal for photography enthusiasts. It helps that they’re naturally superbly photogenic, too. 

There’s an abandoned mine on the far side of the dunes by the mountain, an eerie reminder of days gone past and a great photo spot. 

Heading out on the high-clearance road to explore the isolated dunes is one of the cool things to do in Death Valley, but do it early in the day. Even in winter, it gets hot quickly out there, and you wouldn’t want to end up in a dangerous situation. 

Practical Tips for Your Death Valley Trip

Badwater Basin Death Valley National Park

 A standard entrance pass for a car to the park is $30 and is valid for a seven day period. Passes can be purchased from several locations in the park, including the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

More than other places in the US, a little bit of planning goes a long way in Death Valley National Park. 

The park’s main hotel, the Inn at Death Valley, books up well in advance, as do other hotels in the surrounding areas. 

Then there’s the flooding and access. The park’s unique geography can lead to sudden and intense flash floods which can cause extensive damage to roads and landscapes – as illustrated in summer 2023 and the ensuing chaos of Burning Man. 

Be very cautious if you’re visiting the park during a rainfall – even if you’re not, ensure you’re up to date with the current situation via the National Park Service’s website. 

Other Top Tips for Your Visit

  • There’s little to no mobile reception across most of the park. Buy a paper map or use the free map from the Visitor Center and ensure you let someone know your plans before heading to a remote area. 
  • Ensure you’ve filled up your tank prior to going into the park and keep a close eye on gas levels as you drive around. There are two gas stations – at Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek but both are more expensive than those in the surrounding areas. 
  • Sun protection is key – wear light, loose-fitting clothes to help keep you cool during the day. 
  • Stay hydrated – 4-8 litres per person per day is recommended thanks to the dry desert air and high temperatures. 
  • Stay on designated paths and preserve the park’s delicate ecosystem. It also helps you steer clear of hazards like old mines and unstable ground. 

How Long Should I Spend Visiting Death Valley National Park? 

While it’s possible to see Death Valley’s highlights in one day, it will be a rush. Plan to spend two to four days to see the park’s main sights at your leisure – or even a week if you want to include lots of hikes. 

Best Time to Visit

Zabriskie Point Death Valley National Park

The best time to visit the valley is undoubtedly in spring, from March to May when days are warm and sunny but steer away from the unbearable temperatures of mid-summer. It’s also the most popular time, so don’t be surprised if many of the most popular spots are a bit busy. 

Spring is also when the wildflower blooms take place – peak blooming time is late March to early April.

Where Should I Stay in Death Valley? 

Holiday Inn Express & Suites (Mid-Range) 

Although it’s not in Death Valley, the Holiday Inn in Pahrump is an unremarkable, if decent mid-range option with crisp modern rooms. It’s the best-value option near the park, which is only 24 miles away.

Check Rates and Availability for Holiday Inn Express & Suites on Booking.com

The Inn at Death Valley  (Luxury) 

Located inside Death Valley National Park, this luxurious hotel has all the trimmings. It is a beautiful place and offers a sauna, outdoor pool, bar and air-conditioning in the rooms. With uber-comfy beds and lush lawns and palms before the mountainous backdrop, you won’t want to leave. 

Check Rates and Availability for The Inn at Death Valley on Booking.com

Recommended Tours

Mosaic Canyon Death Valley National Park

Things to Do in Death Valley: Map

Read More Death Valley National Park Guides 

  • 3 Days in Death Valley National Park Itinerary 
  • Where to Stay in Death Valley, Area by Area 
  • When’s the Best Time to Visit Death Valley National Park?
  • Stunning Hikes in Death Valley You Have to Try
  • Where to Catch Epic Sunrises and Sunsets in Death Valley National Park 

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tourist attractions death valley

I’m Julianna Barnaby - a professional travel writer and geek extraordinaire. I started The Discoveries Of to help you to discover the best of new destinations from around the world.

Discovering new places is a thrill - whether it’s close to home, a new country or continent, I write to help you explore more and explore differently.

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6 Must-See Places & Best Things to Do in Death Valley (+Map & Tips)

By Author Jurga

Posted on Last updated: October 25, 2023

6 Must-See Places & Best Things to Do in Death Valley (+Map & Tips)

Death Valley at the border of California and Nevada is one of the most visited National Parks in the USA . You may have heard that it’s the hottest and driest National Park and that the lowest point of North America can be found here. But there’s so much more to Death Valley than that. And there is more to see and do in Death Valley than it looks at first sight!

In this article, we share some of the most beautiful places to see in Death Valley and the best things to do for first-time visitors.

We only focus on the VERY BEST sites that are worth your time the most if you only have a few hours or a day in Death Valley. If you plan well and – depending on the season – you can easily see them all in a day. Although, spending at least one night here can be a special experience too!

Good to know: All these Death Valley must-sees are accessible in a regular car (so no 4WD is needed). However, some are not accessible for larger vehicles (RVs, motorhomes).

At the bottom of this article, we also included a few additional suggestions for places to visit and things to do in Death Valley if you have more time .

But if you are visiting for the first time and want to see the best that Death Valley has to offer, then this list will help you do just that. Despite covering just 6 sites and a rather small area, you’ll see a big variety of landscapes and jaw-dropping sceneries that will make a long drive to Death Valley more than worth it!

To help you plan your time, we also include a map and practical info , as well as some useful tips for your first visit to Death Valley. Take a look!

Important update for spring 2024: While most of the main landmarks are accessible, some secondary roads in Death Valley NP are still closed due to last year’s flooding. If you are planning a trip soon, be sure to check the official website for up-to-date conditions.

Red cactus in a desert - Death Valley, USA

These are the best places to see and things to do in Death Valley:

1. Zabriskie Point

No matter how much time you have in Death Valley – just passing by, visiting on a day trip from Las Vegas, or staying for a few days – Zabriskie Point is not to be missed! This is one of the most beautiful places in Death Valley, with stunning views of multi-colored badlands all around you.

The scenery here is absolutely breathtaking and you can enjoy wide panoramic views of a very large area. This is a desolate and somewhat unearthly landscape, but it looks magical. Golden-brown mudstone hills have distinct shapes, which are formed by erosion and rare but intense water flows.

No two visits here will be the same because all the different shades and tints of color change depending on the light. If you are staying in Death Valley for a few days, consider coming here at different times of the day. Zabriskie Point is one of the nicest places for both – sunrise and sunset in Death Valley.

But there is one more reason why we list Zabriskie Point as number one among the best places to see in Death Valley, and that’s its convenient location and ease of visiting. Located just next to the main road (I-190), the viewpoint is just a short walk from the car. Even though it’s an uphill walk, it’s really not strenuous and takes just a few minutes.

However, if you are visiting Death Valley in the hottest summer months, even this short walk can feel exhausting. Be sure to use sun protection and take some water with you! We once stopped here in July and the moment you step out of the car, it feels like walking into an oven…

Zabriskie Point - best viewpoint in Death Valley National Park, USA

Good to know: Zabriskie Point is one of the most popular places to see in Death Valley. In the peak season (winter months), it can get really busy here.

That being said, we recently visited Death Valley on New Year’s day and had no difficulties finding parking. Also, the area is so big that people spread out beyond the main viewing terrace and it doesn’t feel crowded.

How much time do you need: You can spend as little as 10 minutes here, or you can stay much longer, hike around a bit, etc. The kids love walking up and down these ‘strange’ hills.

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

2. Badwater Basin

At 282 feet (85.5 meters) below Sea Level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America and one of the lowest elevations on earth. This is the place that made Death Valley famous and is one of the most visited sites in the park.

And indeed, Badwater Basin is absolutely worth a visit. Not just to take a picture of the sign and say ‘been there done that’, but for some of the most unique landscapes you’ll ever see in your life!

Just a few thousand years ago, this place was the site of a 30 ft (9 meters) deep lake. As it evaporated, it left a thick layer of salt. This is what you see here today – a vast salt pan stretching for several miles.

Interesting to know: Badwater Basin gets its name from a surveyor mapping the area. He was glad to find a water pool where his mule could drink, but the animal refused to because the water was too salty. So he wrote on his map “bad water” and the name stuck.

Badwater Basin - one of the must see places in Death Valley National Park

Good to know: Badwater Basin is large, but you shouldn’t just walk anywhere you like. There is a designated parking area (I indicated it on our map). Here, you will find a few boardwalks and a nice straight path leading you to the saltpan.

How much time do you need: If you just want to take a picture of the sign and look around a bit, 10-15 minutes will be enough. However, keep in mind that you have to walk about half a mile in order to reach the main salt pan. If you walk really fast and it’s not too hot, you need about 15 minutes to get there from the car parking. More realistically, you will need 20-30 minutes just to reach it. If you also count the time to look around, take pictures, and walk back, you need about 1 hour for a visit here.

This can be really daunting if it’s hot and I don’t think I would attempt this walk during the day in the summer months… Remember, this is the hottest place in the U.S.!

The good thing is that even if you don’t go all the way, you can see plenty of salt crust closer to the car parking area.

Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park

3. Artists Drive & Artists Palette

Artists Drive is another must-see in Death Valley. This is a scenic one-way drive just off Badwater Road. This road is about 9 miles (14 km) long and takes about 20-25 minutes to drive without any stops.

There are a few places where you can stop along the way, but it’s really more about the surreal scenery and the thrill of the drive itself than about the stops. But since you are here anyway, be sure to stop at all the main viewing areas where you can get out of the car and enjoy the colorful scenery around you.

The nicest place here (and one of the must-sees in Death Valley) is Artists Palette , which is the second bigger stop that you’ll come across. Parking is quite limited so you may need some patience.

But the reason why we list Artists Drive so high on this list of top sights in Death Valley is the road itself. With twists, turns, ups and downs, and narrow passages cut out between the rocks, driving here makes you feel like you are part of the unearthly scenery around you.

Artists Palette, Death Valley National Park

TIP: Take it slow – not just to enjoy the surroundings, but also for your safety. Also, don’t stop on the road because there are some places where visibility is really limited as you emerge from a sharp corner or drive over a steep hill.

Good to know: Because you don’t even have to get out of the car (or just for a quick photo stop), this is one of the very best things to do in Death Valley in any season. Also in the summer when it’s too hot for anything else, Artists Drive is a great place to visit because you can enjoy it from the comfort of your car.

Important! Please note that cars over 25 feet (7.6 meters) are not allowed on Artists Drive. Even though the road looks perfectly wide at first, there is a good reason for this. The second half of the drive is really not suitable for longer vehicles.

How much time do you need: Count 30-45 minutes for Artists Drive with a few photo stops. Of course, you will need more time if you decide to go for a walk and explore more.

Artist Drive in Death Valley NP

4. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

No visit to Death Valley would be complete without at least a quick stop at Mesquite Flat Dunes . Surrounded by mountains on all sides, some of these sand dunes are up to 150 ft (46 m) high.

This is yet another must-see place in Death Valley showing you yet another facet of the incredible diversity of landscapes in this desert park.

Also here, there is a designated parking area, from which you can walk straight into the dunes. The highest dune is about 1 mile from here, but you have to cross lots of sand and smaller dunes to get there, so it’s not a quick walk. Even if it’s not too warm, you should count at least 2 hours round-trip.

But you really don’t have to go that far in order to enjoy the scenery. Even if you just walk 5-10 minutes from the car, it’s a really nice stop on any Death Valley itinerary!

Keep in mind that the sand dunes will look quite different depending on the light. The white sand can turn bright orange with the rising or setting sun.

Mesquite Flat Dunes - one of the best places to see in Death Valley National Park

TIP: Sand dunes are spectacular at sunrise and at sunset. These are also the best times of the day to walk around here. It can be very dangerous when it’s hot! If you hike, be sure to do it during the coolest times of the day and carry lots and lots of water.

You can also visit here at night and the dunes are a popular place for Full Moon hikes or stargazing when it’s New Moon. However, be aware that desert wildlife is active at night, so watch out for sidewinder rattlesnakes.

How much time do you need: You can spend 10 minutes here or 2-3 hours – it’s really up to you. Mesquite Flat Dunes are located just next to the main road near Stovepipe Village in the heart of Death Valley, so at least you don’t need much extra time in order to drive here from all the other main sights in Death Valley.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at sunset - Death Valley

5. Mosaic Canyon

Mosaic Canyon , just near Stovepipe Wells and Mesquite Sand Dunes, is another place that should be high on your Death Valley bucket list. This canyon is a geologic wonder and walking inside it is a really special experience.

While the Mosaic Canyon hiking trail is about 2 miles one-way, you only need to hike about half a mile in order to see the most impressive part of the canyon. And because there is lots of shade from the rocks all around you, this short walk is even doable when it’s warm (but avoid doing any hiking in Death Valley on summer days!).

Good to know: The first part of the trail is rather easy with a few knee-high stones/rocks to climb on the way. However, if you decide to walk beyond the narrow part of the canyon and all the way to the end, be prepared for some serious scrambling (you really need good hiking shoes!).

Because the trail goes a bit uphill, it takes more time to get there than to come back. We explored just the narrow part of the canyon and stopped where it got really wide. We walked for 20 minutes to get there and just 10 minutes to get back.

Mosaic Canyon - one of the best places to visit in Death Valley

How much time do you need: If you only walk about half a mile, you need about 30 minutes for a visit here. If you decide to hike the entire trail (only recommended in winter), it can easily take 3 hours or even longer depending on the temperatures and your condition. Also here, be sure to pack plenty of water!

It’s important to note that you have to drive the 2-mile Mosaic Canyon Road in order to reach the trailhead. This is a pretty rough gravel road. We saw a few regular cars here, but an SUV or a 4×4 would be better here.

Also, don’t count on GPS or Google Maps for guiding you here. But Mosaic Canyon Road is really easy to find – it’s just southwest of Stovepipe Wells. I indicated this road on our map below to help you find it.

Mosaic Canyon hike in Death Valley

6. Dante’s View

One of the highest easily-reachable viewpoints in the park, Dante’s View is a lookout point offering stunning aerial views of Death Valley. From here, you can see mountain ranges and flat desert valleys stretching for over 110 miles.

The scenery here is truly impressive, giving you an even better appreciation of how much diversity there is in Death Valley.

There is a large car parking and viewing area, so you can see great views without having to walk much at all. However, if it’s not too hot (or too cold and too windy as it was when we visited), you can also climb Dante’s Peak, to the right of the parking. It’s about 10-15 minutes hike to the top and the views should make up for it.

Dante's View - one of the best places to see in Death Valley National Park

Interesting to know: Towering just above the Badwater Basin, Dante’s View is 5,000 feet higher than the valley floor. That’s a huge difference, not just in terms of elevation or scenery, but also in terms of temperature!

When we were here in January, it was FREEZING cold at Dante’s View with temperatures of just 39 F (4°C) and such a strong wind that we could hardly stand on our feet. We needed winter jackets, gloves, and hats just to walk around at the viewpoint, not even to mention attempting a hike to the peak. In the meantime, it was 65 F (18°C) at Badwater Basin and we ended up in t-shirts after a walk…

How much time do you need: Dante’s Peak is located 13 miles south of Hwy 190. It’s quite a big detour to get here, and driving alone will take you at least 20 minutes one-way. In addition, if you just stop at the viewpoint, you should add about 10 minutes. If you also hike to the lookout on top of the hill, add at least 20-30 minutes extra. Obviously, you will need more time if you decide to do even more hiking in the area.

So realistically, you need at least 1 hour for a visit here. But it’s totally worth it!

Good to know: Also here, the last part of the road is prohibited for vehicles over 25 ft (7.6 m). You can leave your RV/motorhome at the parking lot and walk the last bit, but whether you would want to do this, depends on the temperatures.

Death Valley scenery as seen from Dante's Peak

Now that we covered the must-sees in Death Valley, here are a few additional recommendations for places to see and things to do if you have more time.

More Places to See & Things to Do in Death Valley

Stretching over 3.4 million acres (almost 14,000 sq km), you can imagine that there is a lot more to see and do in Death Valley National Park than just the 6 top places mentioned above.

There are countless hiking trails, ghost towns, gold and borax mines (it’s not the best idea to visit them inside though), sliding rocks, and even hot springs and golf (!)…

However, most visitors don’t have the time to explore more, and often it’s simply too hot as well.

Anyway, if you have more time and are looking for more things to do in Death Valley , here are a few additional suggestions.

Ghost towns, machinery, and the remains of the old mining operations

  • Harmony Borax Works. This is an old mining operation where you can still see some remains of machinery and buildings from over 100 years ago. It’s a short interpretive trail close to the highway and makes a nice stop just a short drive north of Furnace Creek.
  • Furnace Creek. At Furnace Creek, just behind the general store, you can also find some old machinery and interesting objects from the mining days at Death Valley. There is an old train, carts, etc.
  • Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. These are old ‘ovens’ used to produce charcoal. They look like cute little houses and make for some nice photo opportunities. However, it’s quite a bit of a detour. Also, the last few miles of the road are a bit rough. When we visited in the winter, we had to skip this because rangers told us that snow chains were needed because of recent snowfall (yes, also this is Death Valley!).
  • Ghost towns. In the past, Death Valley had lots of mining sites with small towns built around the mining activity. Today, you can visit some of these ghost towns (Ballarat, Leadfield, Panamint City, Rhyolite), but their conditions vary. Some of them have old dwellings and machinery, but there are also a few where there’s hardly anything left…

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, Death Valley National Park

Scenic Views

  • Devil’s Golf Course. Crystalized salts have formed some very strange jagged formations, sort of small salt spires. If you want to see some more unique scenery in Death Valley, this can be a nice quick detour on your way to Badwater Basin.
  • 20 Mule Team Canyon. This scenic area is located right on I-190 just before you reach Zabriskie Point. There is a short gravel road that takes you into the canyon, which is quite nice (a high-clearance vehicle is recommended, but some people seem to do it in a regular car too). Since it’s a loop road, you get back on the main road again soon. Most people just park next to the main road and walk around a bit.
  • Ubehebe Crater. This is a really impressive crater and you can see it straight from the parking area. However, it’s located in the northern part of Death Valley, quite a bit out of the way from the main attractions.
  • Father Crowley Vista Point- Rainbow Canyon. This is a nice viewpoint to check out if you find yourself on the western side of Death Valley (e.g. if driving to/from Los Angeles or Sequoia NP).

Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley

Active things to do at Death Valley National Park

  • Horseback riding. There are several places where you can go horseback riding in Death Valley. Especially in the winter months, this can be a great experience and a nice, easy way to explore more surreal landscapes. One of the best centrally-located horse stables can be found at Furnace Creek (next to The Ranch/Oasis Resort ). They offer 1 or 2-hour rides.
  • Biking. If you like slow travel, you can also explore Death Valley by bike. Among several other places, rental bikes are available at the above-mentioned resort at Furnace Creek. You can choose between regular road bikes or e-bikes and rent them for half a day, a day, or even a few days. I’d only recommend this if you are visiting in the winter and have plenty of time. There are also bike tours available – you would have to do some additional research on that if interested.
  • Swimming. Death Valley has several hot springs. However, most of them are located further away from the main area with the most interesting sights. Anyway, the best places to go for a swim are The Inn At Death Valley and The Oasis/The Ranch Resort at Furnace Creek. Their pools are filled with spring-fed warm water. We were here at New Year and the outdoor pool was warm enough for a swim. It’s not hot though, so perfectly enjoyable in the warmest months as well. However, the pools are only accessible to hotel guests. Another (very simple) accommodation with hot springs is Delight’s Hot Springs Resort in Tecopa, just outside the southeast corner of the park, close to Shoshone.
  • Golf. In addition to Devil’s Golf Course (which is obviously not a golf course at all), there is an actual golf course in Death Valley as well. You can find it at Furnace Creek. It’s a bit surreal to see green grass in the desert, but avid golfers will enjoy playing golf on the lowest-elevation course in the world. In the summer, you have to start at 6-7 am or it gets too hot!

Hot spring pool at The Oasis (The Ranch) in Death Valley National Park

To help you get a better idea of where everything is located, we created this map indicating all the sites mentioned in our article.

As you can see, all the very best places to visit in Death Valley are located rather close to Furnace Creek, in the center of the park.

This area is just a bit over 2 hours away from Las Vegas and so it’s possible to see these top sights in a day (by car or with an organized tour ). In fact, this is one of the best day trips you can do from Vegas !

How to use this map:  Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the top left corner for the index. Click the star next to the map’s title to add it to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’. If you want to print the map or see it in a bigger window, click on ‘View larger map’ in the top right corner.

Practical Information

  • Death Valley is the dryest and hottest place in the USA. If you are visiting in the summer, your feet can literally start to burn through your shoes! So adjust your expectations and itinerary based on the season when you visit and don’t do stupid things like hiking in the middle of the day in the summer. Also, always carry plenty of water !
  • There is a fee to visit Death Valley and you can get a pass at the visitor center (so not at the entrance of the park). If you have the annual National Parks Pass ( America the Beautiful Pass ), it’s also valid here.
  • Death Valley has limited facilities , but you can find fuel and food stores here too. However, everything is very expensive here. It’s best to fill up your tank before you arrive, and you may also want to bring your own snacks/picnic. This will save you money, but also time.
  • Because of its size and limited facilities, you need a car (or a motorcycle/RV, etc.) in order to visit Death Valley.
  • While the main roads in Death Valley are really good, many side roads are unpaved and in varying conditions. It’s always a good idea to check if your rental car insurance covers gravel roads (most don’t) and it’s even more important to ask park rangers for up-to-date information about the specific places you plan to visit! Also, driving off-road is forbidden!
  • When planning your sightseeing at Death Valley, keep in mind that in summer it’s very hot during the day and you won’t be able to do much after 10-11 am. And in winter, the days are short and it gets dark very early (it’s pitch dark from +- 5 pm around New Year).
  • You can visit Death Valley in 1 day from Las Vegas , but it’s a long drive (and lots to see when you get there). So be sure to leave early so that you can make the most of your time. If you are only coming for a day from Vegas, consider booking an organized tour . They will bring you to all the top spots in the most efficient way and you’ll be able to rest on your way there and back.
  • If you want to, you can spend a night here (or a few, depending on what you want to do). The most conveniently located hotels are The Oasis Resort (aka The Ranch) and The Inn At Death Valley (former Furnace Creek Inn). They are both beautiful resorts with all the amenities you might need. But – like everything else in Death Valley – quite pricey. We stayed at The Oasis/The Ranch when road-tripping between Las Vegas and LA and it allowed us to explore everything at a slower pace.

Death Valley National Park sign

I hope that this guide gives you a better idea of what to expect and what to see in Death Valley National Park. Have a great trip!

TIP: If you are road-tripping in Southwestern USA , you may want to check our other travel guides to a big variety of destinations in the region. Take a look via the links below!

  • Best things to do in Las Vegas
  • One day in Las Vegas itinerary
  • Las Vegas travel tips
  • Best day trips from Las Vegas
  • One day in Grand Canyon
  • Where to stay in Grand Canyon
  • Grand Canyon South Entrance
  • Grand Canyon in Winter
  • Top places to see in Arizona
  • Best things to do in Sedona
  • Sedona day trip from Phoenix
  • Monument Valley
  • Grand Canyon – Antelope Canyon – Horseshoe Bend itinerary
  • Arches and Canyonlands National Park 1-day itinerary
  • Moab itinerary
  • Zion – Bryce Canyon itinerary
  • Phoenix – Scottsdale Itinerary
  • LA Itinerary
  • San Diego Itinerary
  • Best things to do in Arches National Park
  • Best things to do in Canyonlands National Park
  • Best hikes in Zion National Park
  • Where to stay in Zion National Park

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Best things to do and places to visit in Death Valley National Park, USA

More travel inspiration for USA National Parks:

  • Best Things to Do in Yellowstone
  • Grand Teton – Yellowstone Itinerary
  • Yosemite Travel Tips
  • Glacier National Park Itinerary
  • Rocky Mountain National Park Itinerary
  • Olympic National Park Itinerary
  • Acadia National Park Itinerary
  • Yellowstone National Park Itinerary
  • North Cascades National Park

Seasonal guides:

  • National Parks to Visit in January
  • National Parks to Visit in February
  • National Parks to Visit in March
  • National Parks to See in April
  • National Parks to See in May
  • National Parks to Visit in June
  • National Parks to Visit in September
  • National Parks to Visit in October
  • National Parks to Visit in November
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Last updated: June 11, 2024

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The 14 Most Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

A hiker on a rock. Hiking is one of the best things to do in Death Valley

Article Summary: Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

As the largest national park outside of Alaska, Death Valley has a lot to offer. The name implies that there isn’t much to see, but this park is full of life and there’s a wide variety of things to do in Death Valley.

You’ll be amazed by the slot canyons, sand dunes, salt flats, deserts, mountains, and so much more on any trip to Death Valley. It’s also the park of superlatives hosting the nation’s lowest point (282 feet below sea level), the hottest temperature on record (134°F/57°C), and the driest desert (Mojave). You’ll find plenty of things to see in this mind-blowing place. Here are 14 amazing things to do in Death Valley National Park .

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, view my privacy policy .

Table of Contents

Logistics of Visiting Death Valley National Park

The sun begins to set near Zabriskie Point, one of the best things to do in Death Valley

Before we get into the best things to do in Death Valley , let’s look at the logistics of visiting the park.

Where is Death Valley? Death Valley National Park is located in southeastern California on the border of Nevada. The park is north of Joshua Tree and Mojave Preserve and east of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

How much does it cost? There is a park entrance fee of $30 per vehicle or $15 per person if you enter the park on foot or on a bicycle. This fee is valid for seven days. If you have a current America the Beautiful pass, this fee is waived. The park entrance fee does not include fees for tours, camping , lodging, or other services.

The 14 Most Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park 1

Prepare for desert conditions. It’s hot and dry! Make sure you drink plenty of water, no matter what time of year you visit. Dehydration is nasty anywhere, but Death Valley is especially remote. Be safe and take care of yourself when you visit. Furthermore, when the rare rains fall, flash floods can occur. Be prepared to move to higher ground at any time if it begins to rain.

Drive safely. Follow the posted speed limits; many accidents have occurred on the park’s remote roads when assistance is very far away. Drive on designated roads only. Off-roading is illegal . Many roads are unpaved, dirt, or gravel and 4WD, high-clearance vehicles are recommended.

Map of Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

A cropped map of Death Valley with things to do in Death Valley circled

You can click on the map above to view and download the map of things to do in Death Valley in its entirety. If you’re interested in a detailed map of the Furnace Creek area, click here to download one.

The Best Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

An image of orange rock formations. The text on the image is encouraging you to download a checklist of things to do in Death Valley by signing up for e-mail notifications.

1. Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, one of the best things to do in Death Valley

Of all the things to do in Death Valley, this is definitely the main attraction in the park.

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 282-feet below sea level. There’s a small parking area here, a boardwalk, and a trail to the salt flats. I highly recommend walking the trail into the basin. There, you can see the white hexagon shapes that spread in all directions.

You can also see some outstanding views from here, looking up to the surrounding mountains. Views are best later in the day when the sun is shining on the mountains.

Don’t forget to take your typical tourist photo with the sign! Depending on the crowds, there may be a line of people waiting.

Look closely at the mountain behind the parking lot and you might spot the sign for sea level.

Distance from Furnace Creek : 30 minutes one-way

2. Zabriskie Point

A clear day over Zabriskie Point, one of the best things to do in Death Valley

Another one of my favorite things to do in Death Valley, the area around Zabriskie Point is stunning. The main attraction is the rock formation above, juxtaposed by the mountains in the distance. You can also walk a trail below these badlands to take it in from a different angle.

Zabriskie Point is probably most famous for its incredible sunrises and sunsets. Photographers will flock here to snap the perfect shot, so arrive early if you’re hoping to do the same.

From the parking area, you’ll walk a short 1/4-mile paved path to the viewpoint. Another one of Death Valley’s main things to see, you’re basically required to stop here at some point during your visit. There are great hiking trails through the badlands as well.

Distance from Furnace Creek : 15 minutes one-way

3. Devils Hole

Devil's Hole, Death Valley National Park (Exclave Unit), Amargosa Valley, Nevada

Did you know that there are special species of Pupfish that only live in one small pool?

Here, at a satellite area of Death Valley National Park in Nevada, you’ll find the only home of the Devils Hole pupfish in a pool of water that remains a consistent 93°F.

The Devils Hole pupfish is extremely small and resilient. They are considered critically endangered due to their extremely limited habitat. Attempts have been made to create additional habitats for them, but none have succeeded. In 2013, there were only 35 known to exist. As of 2019, the number has increased to 136.

This is one of the more unique things to do in Death Valley National Park, and one of the least common. This is a great option if you want to avoid crowds. It is a bit farther from the other attractions in the park, so I would save it for when you have extra time.

Distance from Furnace Creek : 37 miles one-way

4. Artists Drive And Artists Palette

A trail through multi-colored rocks in Artists Palette, one of the best things to do in Death Valley

When driving back to Furnace Creek from Badwater Basin, take a detour on the one-way Artists Drive. One of the best things to do in Death Valley, I promise you won’t regret the extra mileage.

On the 9-mile drive, you’ll find your jaw falling open as you marvel at the colorful hills. Stop at Artists Palette (pictured above) along the drive to get out and walk around.

Various scenes from the Star Wars IV : A New Hope , like when R2-D2 gets kidnapped by the sand people, were also shot around this area.

This is something you seriously can’t miss when you visit Death Valley.

More Information on Star Wars Filming Locations: click here

5. Devils Golf Course

Strange rock formations on the Devils Golf Course, one of the best things to do in Death Valley†f

Near Badwater Basin is another out-of-this-world landscape, the Devils Golf Course. It was named because the terrain is so difficult that only the Devil could play golf here.

Years and years ago, a lake called Lake Manly was located here but has since evaporated. Based on scientific research, it’s possible that these salt and gravel beds have a depth of 9,000 feet!

You’ll take an unpaved road to the parking area, then walk a short, easy distance for the best views. The road is usually suitable for vehicles with 2-wheel drive, but check with park rangers in Furnace Creek to be sure.

Distance from Furnace Creek:  30 minutes one-way

6. Dante’s View

An overlook of Death Valley National Park from Dante's View, one of the best things to do in Death Valley

This is one of the most breathtaking scenes in Death Valley that is easily accessible by car.

From the top of Dante’s View, you can see both Telescope Peak and the Badwater Basin, the highest and lowest points in the park, respectively. You can also see a rift in the earth’s crust where the mountains are (slowly) moving in opposite directions.

There is an ADA-accessible viewing platform that is only a short distance from the parking area.

You may also recognize this view from Star Wars IV: A New Hope . This is where Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi, and the two droids stop at a cliff and peer over Mos Eisley. In reality, there are no cantinas here, only saltwater basins.

On our trip, we stopped here on our way out of the park and it was the perfect way to say goodbye after two days in Death Valley . After exploring many of the best things to do in Death Valley, consider coming here and overlooking the terrain you’ve traversed.

It’s also another great place for sunset or sunrise.

Distance from Furnace Creek : 1 hour one way

7. Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes

A bright blue sky over the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, one of the best things to do in Death Valley

If you’ve ever wanted to take some epic, so-cool-they-seem-fake photos on some sand dunes, this is one of the best things to see in Death Valley.

You’ll pass the Mesquite Salt Flats on Highway 190 on your way to/from Panamint Springs. While you can see the sand dunes from your vehicle, the best way to experience them is to get out and hike around. You’ll drive down a short, unpaved road to a small parking area to begin your walk. The road is decent and usually okay with a 2WD vehicle. If you have the appropriate vehicle, you can also visit the Panamint Dunes for a less-crowded option.

8. Keane Wonder Mine

Keane Wonder Mine, Death Valley NP

This historic gold mine is over 100-years old, and its trams used to carry up to 70 tons of gold in one day.

You may notice on the map of things to do in Death Valley that this site is currently closed. That may be true for sections, however, there are still other remnants to check out.

Near the parking lot are the Keane Wondermill and Tramway Area, the sites of the mine and camp.

If you do decide to visit, beware of hazards in the area and read this before you go. The road can be rough, so you may want to stop by the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to check conditions before you go.

Distance from Furnace Creek : 35 minutes one-way

9. Rainbow Canyon

The view over Rainbow Canyon, one of the best things to do in Death Valley

If you enter Death Valley National Park on the western side near Independence, you’re in for a treat.

On your way from Independence to Furnace Creek, this is one of the most beautiful places to see in Death Valley. Known to some as “ Star Wars Canyon” and others as “Jedi Transition”, the true name is Rainbow Canyon.

The U.S. Air Force and Navy both use the canyon for low-flight training, and if you stop by you may be lucky enough to watch. There is no public schedule, so you have to luck out with your timing. If you see a plethora of cameras and tripods set up as you drive by, that’s a good sign a flight may take place.

You’ll park near an overlook called Father Crowley Vista Point and take in the view.  Even if planes aren’t flying, the scenery is spectacular.

Distance from Furnace Creek : 1.5 hours one-way

10. Ubehebe Crater

Colors and Patterns of Rocks in the Ubehebe Crater (Death Valley National Park)

This 600-feet deep crater is what remains after a massive volcanic eruption hundreds of years ago. It’s also over a 1/2-mile wide! The volcanic magma mixed with an underground spring causing the water to become steam resulting in such high pressure that an explosion occurred.

This is one of Death Valley’s most stunning geologic features. It’s a bit out of the way and far from other attractions in Death Valley, but worth the trip if you have time.

11. Mosaic Canyon

Mosaic Canyon, a popular day hike, is one of the best things to do in Death Valley

One of my personal favorite things to do in Death Valley is the hike through Mosaic Canyon. While the trail can be difficult, you only need to hike the first 1/2-mile or so to see some of its most beautiful twists and corners.

You’ll need to drive on an unpaved road to reach the parking area.

This hike can be extremely narrow, and may not be best for people with claustrophobia. There’s also limited shade and no water, so come prepared. For more information and a map, check out this page .

Distance from Furnace Creek : 45 minutes one-way

12. The Racetrack Playa

A small rock carried by wind over the Racetrack Playa, one of the best things to do in Death Valley

Of all the attractions in Death Valley National Park, Racetrack Playa may be the most famous.

You’ve undoubtedly heard of the mysterious sailing stones at some point. For years, no one knew what caused these stones to move and leave their “racetracks” behind. In 2017, a documentary was released explaining the cause and how it was discovered (spoiler alert: wind). The area is dry nearly year-round with no vegetation, making the scene even more striking.

The unpaved road to the Racetrack can be very rough. It is essential that you have a high-clearance vehicle to reach the Racetrack, and 4-wheel drive is recommended but not always necessary. Bring extra tires with you as well; many flat tires have been reported on this road. As always, check with Park Rangers for the latest conditions. 

Distance from Furnace Creek : 3 hours one-way

13. Scotty’s Castle

Castles, Buildings and Towers at Scotty's Castle (Death Valley National Park)

Another famous landmark in Death Valley is Scotty’s Castle. While Walter Scott (or “Death Valley Scotty”) claimed to have built the castle with money made from his secret mines, the true artist was Albert Johnson. He built it as a vacation getaway for him and his wife, Bessie.

Sadly, in 2015, damage from horrific flash floods resulted in a closure of Scotty’s Castle. One room in the castle was covered in mud four feet deep!

After restoration work, it was partially re-opened in early 2020. As of this posting, tours are required and only available at certain times of the year. The tours focus on flood recovery. They can be booked here , and fill up quickly.

Distance from Furnace Creek : 1 hour one-way

14. Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

A group of five large kilns used for burning charcoal, one of the best things to do in Death Valley

After all of our talk about  Star Wars  in this post, it may surprise you to learn that this was not one of the filming locations. The minute I saw these huts, I thought of the  Star Wars films. They seemed like the perfect homes for reclusive Jedi on Tatooine.

Located in Wildrose Canyon, the kilns were built in 1876 to provide fuel to process silver and lead ore. Today, they’re some of the best-preserved kilns in the Western United States. When you enter, you can still smell the scent of burns.

Driving to the Kilns is one of the best things to do in Death Valley that is off the beaten path, but worth the trip for the scenery and cultural history. It’s also on the way to some great hikes in the park . If you have the time, it’s worth a visit.

Where to Stay in Death Valley

There are a total of five lodges within the park.

  • The Ranch : Of the hotels in Furnace Creek, this is the significantly cheaper option. It’s an older hotel, but the location can’t be beaten.
  • The Inn : This 4-star hotel is much nicer than the Ranch, and therefore twice as expensive. Be prepared to shell out the cash for any luxury. Located in Furnace Creek.
  • Panamint Springs Motel : This place doesn’t have great reviews, but if you’re hoping to save money it may be your best option. Located in Panamint Springs.
  • The Inn Casitas : The third property in Furnace Creek is also the newest.
  • Stovepipe Wells : There’s a hotel, restaurant, and gift shop located in this small complex just a few minutes north of Furnace Creek in Stovepipe Wells.

Camping in Death Valley National Park

A woman with a headlamp near her tent camping, one of the best things to do in Death Valley

In total, there are nine campgrounds in Death Valley National Park . By far, this is the cheapest lodging in Death Valley. You can read more about the campgrounds here .

  • Furnace Creek : This is the only campground that accepts reservations (during the peak winter season). It is open year-round.
  • Sunset and Texas Springs : These campgrounds are also located in Furnace Creek.
  • Stovepipe Wells : This is another year-round campground in the park. It’s about 30 minutes away from Furnace Creek if you’d like a little quiet but don’t want to be too far away from the center of the park.
  • Mesquite Springs : About 1 hour and 15 minutes from Furnace Creek for a more remote experience. Open year-round.
  • Emigrant : This is a tents-only campground about 40 minutes from Furnace Creek.
  • Wildrose, Thorndike, and Mahogony Flat : Typically closed in winter due to snow, but open in the summer season. Located at higher elevations for some cooler air.

What to Pack for Exploring Death Valley

I’m a big believer in guidebooks. My favorites are the ones written by Lonely Planet as they’re the most detailed while also managing to be the most concise. I have the National Parks guidebook below as well as the USA guidebook and many other worldwide destinations. I download the e-books and then they’re with me everywhere I go on my travels, significantly lightening my load.

I also carry (and collect) the Trails Illustrated maps of national parks. They’re sturdy, waterproof, and provide a great overview. If I’m backpacking or hiking, I’ll purchase a topographic map that is centered on the area I’m in so that I have more detail. But for road tripping or to have the big picture in your hands, Trails Illustrated is the way to go. They create maps for U.S. National Parks as well as international destinations.

Some more favorites include the Falcon Guides for hiking . These detail everything you need to know from how to get to places, trail distances, and elevation changes. Moon Guides are my runner-up to Lonely Planet but still have great information. Last but not least, I love learning about the places I visit by reading about them. I’ll do this through books or vehement internet research, but there’s just something about holding that book in your hands, am I right?

Purchase some of my recommendations below. You can also find more Death Valley-related books and souvenirs on the official website .

The cover of a Guidebook to USA's National Parks by Lonely Planet

Death Valley National Park Phone Case

Death Valley National Park wall pennant

Death Valley National Park Pennant

A guidebook to the 63 national parks

Fodor’s Guide to the 63 National Parks

A national parks t-shirt with checkboxes to check off the parks as you visit

Women’s National Parks Checklist T-Shirt

A green national parks t-shirt with checkboxes to check off the parks as you visit

Map of National Parks T-Shirt

Death Valley National Park sticker

Death Valley National Park Sticker

Death Valley National Park pin

Death Valley National Park Pin

Death Valley National Park patch

Death Valley National Park Patch

A water bottle with images from all 63 national parks

63 National Parks Water Bottle

The 14 Most Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park 2

Death Valley Sticker

The 14 Most Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park 4

California National Parks Face Mask

The 14 Most Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park 5

Death Valley National Park Map

The 10 hiking essentials.

Every hiker should always carry the ten essentials with them. These include:

A collection of the ten essential items for hiking: shelter, water, food, matches, tools, a light, insulating layers, navigation, sun protection, and first-aid

  • Navigation systems: map , compass , and/or GPS
  • Sun protection: sunscreen and/or ballcap
  • Insulating layers: synthetic or down jacket, rain jacket , hat , gloves , and leggings
  • Illumination ( flashlight or headlamp )
  • First-aid kit
  • Something to light a fire: lighter , waterproof matches , and/or fire starter
  • Repair kits and tools: pocket knife , duct tape, screwdriver, and/or scissors
  • Emergency shelter: tent , bivy , tarp, and/or space blanket
  • Nutrition: food for both meals and snacks
  • Hydration: water bottle , water treatment ( LifeStraw or  SteriPen ), and water

For camping, you’ll want to make sure you pack the basic supplies.

  • Tarp or ground cover
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Camp pillow
  • Light source: flashlight , lantern , or headlamp
  • Cook set , stove , utensil , and fuel

For more of my recommendations, check out my posts on my favorite outdoor gear and best daypacks for women .

Pin Top Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

Well, there you have it – the best things to do in Death Valley National Park . What are your favorites? Is there anything I missed?

My favorite things to do in Death Valley National Park will blow your mind. Read the list and download it for free to take with you on your trip. | Things to Do in Death Valley National Park | #deathvalley #california #deathvalleynationalpark #nationalparks

Riley has been visiting national parks for as long as she can remember. Her newest passion is sharing her love of national parks with the world by planning trips, writing about her travels, and offering advice. One day, Riley hopes to visit all 429 national parks.

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10 comments.

Death Valley NP looks so interesting. My husband and I are trying to take our kids to as many national parks as we can before they leave home so we’ll most likely visit one of these days.

It was spectacular! There’s so much more to do that lists like this could never encapsulate everything. Truly a gem of the National Park system.

What a stunning area! I realize there is a lot of life there, but it does look very empty and rocky when you are used to the greens of the Pacific North West.

I really love the names of the places and landmarks! I mean, Dantes View, Rainbow Canyon and Devils Golf Course!? The early settlers had great sense of humor.

It’s a whole different world of life 🙂 There are so many more super creative names! So many go along with the death theme, it’s super interesting.

I have wanted to visit Death Valley for years, but haven’t made it there yet. The landscape is incredibly striking and the camping looks good too!

It truly is like no place else! I hope you make it there soon.

Excellent post with quality content! I can’t wait for my trip one day!

Thank you! I hope you get to visit soon.

This is on my bucket list!!! Thanks for the tips and beautiful photos! Keeping this post for later! 🙂

I hope you make it there one day – it’s unbelievable!

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Taylor's Tracks

12 Iconic Things to Do in Death Valley

By: Author Taylor Lorenz

Posted on Last updated: 07/11/2022

12 Iconic Things to Do in Death Valley

California’s Death Valley is known as “the land of extremes” and is full of unique landscapes and natural phenomenons. The vast national park has 3.4 million acres of desert and mountains and is one of the hottest places on earth in the summer. It’s also the driest and lowest place in the USA, with less than 2 inches of rainfall a year and certain areas up to 282 feet below sea level.

With this fascinating geology, you’ll find many incredible things to do in Death Valley. From scenic hikes to mind-blowing viewpoints and endless distinct landscapes, this Californian national park is a true natural wonder. So, to help you put together an epic Death Valley itinerary , here are all the best things to do and see here.

Table of Contents

What to Do in Death Valley

With sand dunes, craters, canyons, and even a waterfall, discovering what to do in Death Valley is always a surprise. 

Hold-up: I didn’t want to miss the other must-read Death Valley guides , like where to stay in Death Valley ! Oh, and there are many more California national park guides too!

tourist attractions death valley

Experience the lowest point in North America

The ultimate Death Valley must-see is Badwater Basin. This huge area of salt flats is made of almost pure salt and descends to 282 feet (85 meters), the lowest elevation in North America. As Death Valley rarely gets any rain, there is usually just a thin sheet of water here so you can walk directly over the flats.

You can reach Badwater Basin via the mile-long boardwalk trail from the car park on Badwater Road. Because it’s one of the most accessible Death valley attractions, Badwater Basin does get pretty busy during peak season. However, most visitors don’t venture far out, so the further you go, the more peaceful and tranquil your experience here will be.

tourist attractions death valley

Drive up to Dante’s View

There’s no doubt that the best vista of the park can be found at Dante’s View, so unsurprisingly, it is one of the most popular places to visit in Death Valley. Dante’s View sits above Badwater Basin in the central part of the park, and you’ll be pleased to hear that you can reach it by car.

Dante’s View gives an unobstructed panoramic of the park and an incredible vista over Badwater Basin, making it one of the most memorable places to visit in Death Valley. Aside from admiring the view, you’ll find a few short trails leading off into different directions, all of which give unique perspectives. It can be a bit cold up here, especially during the winter, so be sure to take an extra layer with you.

tourist attractions death valley

Embark on the Artist’s Drive road trip

Artist’s Drive is an incredibly scenic 9-mile (14.4 km) drive through the national park, showcasing some of the valley’s most unique landscapes and photogenic spots. The road is one way, running from south to north, where it then rejoins onto Badwater Road, 6 miles (9.5 km) from Furnace Creek.

Artist’s Palette is one of the highlights of this road trip, consisting of pink, aqua, and purple colored rocks. These pastel colors are due to the oxidation of different metals in the soil, such as iron, mica, and manganese. This is only one of the colorful sights you will see as you drive through this unique area full of chemical weathering and hydrothermal alteration.

tourist attractions death valley

Check out the salt formations at Devil’s Golf Course

Another of the most iconic things to see in Death Valley is the large salt pan full of unique formations, known as Devil’s Golf Course. These rough and lumpy salt flats were formed by the erosion of minerals of a past lake. You might hear quiet popping sounds if you listen carefully here. The unusual noise is the salt crystals expanding and bursting from the heat.

The crystal rocks are super intriguing, so you’ll surely want to get a glimpse of them up close. But be careful as they are sharp enough to cut through your clothing, shoes, and skin. In fact, their prickliness is how the area got its name, as it is said only the devil could play golf on a surface like that.

tourist attractions death valley

Walk around the rim of Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater is a 2100-year-old volcanic crater and the aftermath of a gigantic volcanic steam eruption. Today, you can see the result, a 600-foot (182 meters) deep hole although it was initially 800 feet (242 meters). Plus, you’ll spot the debris that spreads out as far as 15 miles (24 km). 

The best way to explore the area is by walking around the rim. This is a 2 mile (3 km) hike, and as there is no shade here, I recommend doing it early in the morning or late afternoon.

tourist attractions death valley

Marvel at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

If taking incredible photos is one of your favored things to do in Death Valley, you’ll love the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. The landscape is so impressive that it has been the movie set for various films, including Star Wars, and the mountain backdrop makes it look even more spectacular. 

You can walk as far out to the dunes as you like but be warned, trekking through the sand in the heat gets tiring quickly. A more fun way to explore the area is by sandboarding, but you’ll need to bring your own board. You’ll find this remarkable field of dunes in the north of the park, close to Stovepipe.

tourist attractions death valley

Hike to Darwin Falls

A waterfall is, for sure, one of the most unexpected things to see in Death Valley! However, there really is a waterfall in the middle of this uber dry desert. What’s more, the 18-foot (5.5 meter) Darwin Falls has water all year round, making it a much-welcomed oasis in the hot summer months. 

To reach this hidden gem, you’ll need to hike for 2 miles (3.2 km), but thankfully, the trail is gentle and mostly flat and features some pleasant streams along the way. You’ll find it in Panamint Springs, on the park’s western edge. Turn off onto Old Toll Road from Nadeau Trail to reach the trailhead.

tourist attractions death valley

Walk through Mosaic Canyon

Mosaic Canyon is located by Stovepipe Wells and offers one of the most fun hikes in Death Valley . It gets its name from its smooth, polished marble walls enclosing the path. The 3.3 miles (5.3 km) route will take you 2 to 3 hours to complete, and you’ll need to first drive for 2 miles (3.2 km) on a gravel road to reach the trailhead. 

What’s cool about this trek is that the canyon’s width constantly changes. Sometimes it’s narrow, and you’ll have to scramble over rocks. Then at other times, it widens, giving fantastic views of the surroundings. There are also many curves and obstacles, making it a somewhat challenging but exciting adventure.

Go rock climbing in Grotto Canyon

For avid rock climbers and adventure seekers, climbing Grotto Canyon is one of the best Death Valley activities for you. Grotto Canyon requires more scrambling and features more obstacles than Mosaic Canyon, so you won’t find more than a handle of tourists here. 

The hardest part of the 2.1-mile (3.4 km) trail is the 8-foot (2.4 meter) chimney that stops many climbers in their tracks. You’ll find various videos on Youtube that show how to get past the most challenging obstacles, so I recommend watching them before attempting. You’ll find the canyon close to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Stovepipe Wells, and to access the trailhead, you’ll need to drive up a loose gravel road.

tourist attractions death valley

Watch the sunrise or sunset at Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point is one of the most popular places to visit in Death Valley, especially at dawn and dusk when the sun illuminates the peaks in warm shades of pink and red. What’s more, getting here for sunrise is totally doable too if you stay the night. It’s located northeast of the park and is a 6-minute drive from Furnace Creek Inn. So, if you’re keen to catch the best sunrise in Death Valley, choose this historic hotel as your base. 

Don’t worry if you can’t make it for daybreak, though, as sunset is just as beautiful. Of course, it will be busier at this time, but you’ll still enjoy splendid views of the sun disappearing behind the peaks. Some short trails from the car park also lead out into the hills, offering more peaceful viewing spots.

tourist attractions death valley

Explore Rhyolite Ghost Town

Rhyolite Ghost Town features the ruins of a 1905 gold-mining town, which is now a Hollywood movie set and a historic site with art installations. The village sits east of Death Valley, just a 10-minute drive from the Death Valley National Park sign, making it an excellent addition to your trip.

You can explore Rhyolite Ghost Town and Death Valley on a private guided tour . On this trip, your guide will take you to the eeriest spots, such as the cemetery, the train depot, and the famous ghost sculptures. You will also learn the history of the abandoned town and hear many spooky stories. 

Explore the quirky Area 51 Alien Center

A 40-minute drive south from Rhyolite will bring you to one of the weirdest Death valley attractions, the Area 51 Alien Center. The unusual venue is an alien-themed souvenir shop and roadside diner where many Death Valley visitors stop off on the way home. 

As well as all the extra-territorial style keepsakes you can imagine, the quirky store features many ‘out of this world’ photo opportunities. While this is not one of the typical things to do in Death Valley, if you’re a sci-fi lover, you’ll find it a fantastic and unexpected addition to your trip.

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  • Death Valley

Guide to Visiting Death Valley

Foreboding, desolate, isolated, and brutally beautiful; Death Valley in the largest national part in the continental US at 140 miles long and 15 miles wide. It is the lowest, hottest, and driest area in North America and with a wide variety of unusual topography and landscapes, Death Valley is desert beauty at it’s absolute best.

tourist attractions death valley

I was surprised at how different the northern and southern regions of the valley are from each other. They each have a lot of different landscapes to offer. The northern region is much more isolated and far less crowded, which is more of what I was expecting Death Valley to be like, whereas the southern region has more diversity and the attractions that Death Valley is famous for, which also means more crowds of tourists… just something to keep in mind when planning your trip.

Table of Contents

Why Is It Called Death Valley

Death Valley was named by a group of pioneers known as “The Lost ’49ers” who were lost here in the winter of 1850. They all assumed that they were going to die here in the valley, which was barren with no water and seemed to be never ending. Two of the younger men, William Lewis Manly and John Rogers, lead the pioneers out of the valley over the Panamint Mountains. The story goes that as they left, one of the men looked back, and said “goodbye, Death Valley.”

Where Is Death Valley Located?

Death Valley is located on the California/ Nevada border in Inyo County, California between the arid Great Basin and Mojave deserts. It’s just east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (which is really beautiful if you’re entering/exiting the park in that direction).

From Los Angeles : 4.5 hrs; Take 14 North out of Los Angeles (from the 101N, to the 170N, to the 5N). You’ll be on 14N almost the entire way. Follow it for 115mi and then go left on 395N. Follow 396 for 74 mi and turn right onto 190E, which will take you into the park. Do not get gas at the station in Panamint Springs just outside the park. It’s $0.70 more expensive than the gas inside the park.

From Las Vegas : 2.5hrs; Take 95N out of Vegas. Follow this for 87 miles and then left onto 373S. Follow this for 23mi and then turn right onto 190W, which will take you into the park.

From Sacramento : 8hrs; Take 50E for 93mi. Turn right onto 89S and follow it for 29mi crossing into Nevada. Turn right onto 395S and follow it for 150mi. If you have a 4×4, you can enter the northern part of the park near Big Pine via Death Valley Road, which is off of Rte 168, just past Zurich. If not, follow 395S for another 58mi and then take a left onto 136E at Lone Pine. Follow for 17mi and then go left on 190E, which will take you into the park. Do not get gas at the station in Panamint Springs just outside the park. It’s $0.70 more expensive than the gas inside the park.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Death Valley?

Early spring or late winter . Death Valley gets extremely hot over the summer – by May temperatures get into the 100s during the day, and with no shade, you’re at the mercy of the sun. During the late winder/ early spring is ideal. The temperatures during the day are in the low 80s and at night the low 50s (tho it may sometimes dip to the mid 30s).

Getting Around

The popular attractions and tourist areas are accessible with a regular car as most of these roads are paved. But, if you really want to see Death Valley, you’re going to need a 4 wheel drive vehicle .

Pro Tip: Gas is cheaper at Stovepipe Wells than at Furnace Creek. Gas prices are comparable to standard CA prices. Do not get gas at Panamint Springs (just outside the park) – the gas station here is $0.70/ gallon more expensive than inside the park.

Jeep 4×4 Rentals

The majority of the valley (including the entire northern region) is accessible only via dirt roads of a various quality levels. Even the “packed” dirt roads will take a toll on a regular vehicle and there is little to no cell service in pretty much the entire park, so you do not want to get stuck!

jeep

You don’t want to be this guy: On the road to the Eureka Sand Dunes (10 mile packed dirt road), we stopped to help an Audi sedan with a shredded tire on the side of the road. They had already used their spare tire to replace a flat earlier . It was 1pm and they had been stuck there overnight even though they had already gotten a call out and a tow-truck was on its way… due to be there within the next few hours (we passed it turning in as we were exiting). In this case, a regular SUV would probably have solved the problem, but the “not well maintained” dirt roads absolutely require 4 wheel drive, so why risk it and end up like this guy?

So if you don’t have a 4×4, rent one! Unfortunately traditional rental car facilities (such as Hertz, Enterprise, etc.) don’t guarantee 4wheel drive – believe me, I called all of them when trying to get a car. There’s always that “or similar” clause that allows them to give you whatever “similar” car they currently have in their inventory at the facility – and they don’t guarantee that it will be 4wheel drive.

So, instead you can rent from:

  • Farabee’s Jeeps – located at Furnace Creek within the park. $296.71/day, 200 Miles included per day, $0.50 every additional mile
  • Better option: : TURO ! $50- $70/day, unlimited miles – this is what we did and it worked out great! It’s basically AirBnB but for cars. You’re renting a specific car of your choosing and you can add-on insurance just like any other rental. We did this in our home town before leaving and even with the extra $100 we spent in gas getting here, it was still cheaper!
Get a Rental From TURO Here

Pro Tip: Pay attention to the mileage limitations before booking. If you’re going on a long trip, make sure to get a car that allows for unlimited miles!

Bicycle Rentals

During our visit there were also a lot of people who were cycling around the more popular attractions on the paved roads. While this is a bit annoying as a driver, I’m sure its beautiful to cycle if it’s not too hot. The general store at the Ranch at Furnace Creek rents 24-speed mountain bikes.

Places to Stay

Where to stay in Death Valley depends on how adventurous you want to be. I’m always an advocate for camping, but during the summer it gets so hot and brutal here, you will need some shelter (which is why I would recommend finding a shady canyon off a dirt road somewhere and sleeping in your 4×4!).

Pro Tip: If you’re outside, be prepared for it to get windy! The winds can come up at a moment’s notice and will sometimes blow all night.

There are only three hotels actually inside the park. They are often sold out far in advance and are rather pricey. If you don’t mind staying outside the park, it will definitely save you a few bucks – in some cases up to $300/night! Pahrump NV and Lone Pine CA are the closest big towns and each have a few options (remember you’re in the middle of no where), in addition to the ones below:

Inside The Park

  • Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel – Ave: $150/night
  • The Oasis Inn at Death Valley – Ave: $300/night
  • The Oasis Inn at Death Valley – Ave: $500/night (but it’s super cute and a true “Oasis”)

Just Outside The Park

  • Amargosa Opera House – Ave: $90/night
  • Death Valley Inn Motel & RV Park – Ave: $90/night
  • Longstreet Inn Casino & RV Park – Ave: $100/night
  • Panamint Springs Resort – Ave: $90/night
  • Shoshone Inn – Ave: $125/night
  • Delight’s Hot Spring Resort – Ave: $100/night

There’s a bunch of really cute places just outside the park that are available on AirBnb for around $50-$80/night. Also a lot of these places will give you more of a taste of the local culture, such as staying in an airstream trailer!

Campgrounds & RV Sites

The majority of the official campgrounds are in the center of the park near Furnace Creek. Campgrounds are open year round and are first come first serve unless otherwise noted. There is no shade in these campgrounds and they’re located on flat packed dirt. You can also choose to camp in the backcountry rather than a campground (see below) just by driving to an area that you think looks good.

Campfires : As a national park, all vegetation is protected, so you either need to bring your own firewood or buy it from one of the general stores. Fires can only be made in designated fire pits and are prohibited during the Summer (June- Sept). All stoves and grills must be gas burning.

  • Furnace Creek Campground – reservations available and often sold out – $22
  • Stovepipe Wells Campground – Open Sept 15 to May 10 – $16
  • Texas Spring Campground – Open 11/13 to May – $16
  • Sunset Campground – Open November to May – $14
  • Mahogany Flat Campground – Open March to November – free, 4×4 required
  • Thorndike Flat Campground – Open March to November – free, 4×4 required
  • Emigrant Campground – tents only – free
  • Wildrose Campground – free
  • Mesquite Spring Campground – $14
  • Eureka Sand Dunes – not listed on NPS website, but its on their map and there are fire pits and bathrooms available. 4×4 required.
  • Warm Springs – not listed on NPS website, but its on their map and there are fire pits and bathrooms available. 4×4 required.
  • Homestake Dry Camp – not listed on NPS website, but its on their map and there are fire pits and bathrooms available. 4×4 required.

Backpacking & Backcountry Camping

Death Valley has over 3 million acres of wilderness and almost 700 miles of backcountry dirt roads that are open to camping. You get pick up a free voluntary permits for backcountry camping at the visitor center or any ranger station.

Rules for backcountry camping:

  • No campfires. Stoves and propane grills are allowed.
  • You can camp along dirt roads at least one mile away from any paved road or “day use only” dirt road (this applies to the first 8 miles of Cottonwood Canyon).
  • Camp only in previously disturbed areas to minimize impact.
  • Campsites must be more than 100 yards from any water source

2022 Death Valley Entrance Fees & Permits

If you plan on visiting a lot of National Parks, I recommend getting an America The Beautiful Park Pass . The pass allows you to enter every National Park in the US for one year for just $80.

There is no entrance gate for Death Valley. Park entry fees can be paid at the ranger stations or at any of the self-pay facilities around the park.

  • Individual (on foot or bicycle) – Good for 7 Days: $15
  • Motorcycle – Good for 7 Days: $25
  • Automobile with up to 4 people – Good for 7 Days: $30
  • Death Valley Annual Pass – Good for 1 Year: $55

Permits : You get pick up a free voluntary permits for backcountry camping at the visitor center or any ranger station. No other permits are needed for camping, but each campsite does have a fee (see above).

Things To Do

There’s SO much to do here it’s really hard to put everything onto one map, but we’ve tried! Here’s a collection of everything listed on the NPS site plus some extra stuff I found through my own research… all on one nifty interactive map so that you can put together a kick-ass itinerary based on your planned trip route!

Pro Tip: The only places you can expect to have a small amount of cell service is at Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek. Plan ahead and know where you’re going (screenshot the map if necessary), you won’t be able to rely on your phone for directions! Here is a printable map .

  • Places With a View (red binocular marker)
  • Attractions (red camera marker)
  • Sand Dunes (red mountains/dunes marker)
  • Ghost Towns, Ruins, & Mines (red castle marker)
  • Scenic Drives (red car marker)
  • Hiking (green markers)
  • Easy Hikes (yellow-green hiking marker)
  • Moderate Hikes (light green hiking marker)
  • Advanced Hikes (emerald green hiking marker)
  • Backpacking Hikes (blue-green two hikers marker)

Places With a View

Dante’s view.

tourist attractions death valley

Zabriskie Point

tourist attractions death valley

Father Crowley Point

tourist attractions death valley

Aguereberry Point

tourist attractions death valley

Ubehebe Crater

tourist attractions death valley

Attractions

Badwater basin.

tourist attractions death valley

Devils Golf Course

Racetrack playa.

tourist attractions death valley

Joshua Trees

tourist attractions death valley

Saline Valley Warm Springs

tourist attractions death valley

Marble Bath of Saline Valley

tourist attractions death valley

Saratoga Spring

tourist attractions death valley

Devil’s Corn Field

tourist attractions death valley

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

tourist attractions death valley

Eureka Sand Dunes

tourist attractions death valley

Panamint Dunes

tourist attractions death valley

Ibex Sand Dunes

tourist attractions death valley

Saline Valley Sand Dunes

tourist attractions death valley

Ghost Towns, Ruins, Mines & Historical Landmarks

There are thousands of abandoned mines and landmarks all over the park. This was a thriving area during the gold rush and has countless mines for gold, silver, lead, zinc, Epsom salts, mercury, tungsten, copper, borax, talc, sodium chloride, and manganese.

Scotty’s Castle

tourist attractions death valley

Harmony Borax Works

Eagle borax works.

tourist attractions death valley

Charcoal Kilns

tourist attractions death valley

Ashford Mills Ruins

tourist attractions death valley

Rhyolite Ghost Town

tourist attractions death valley

Panamint City Ghost Town

tourist attractions death valley

Ballarat Ghost Town

tourist attractions death valley

Leadfield Ghost Town

tourist attractions death valley

Old Sulfur Mine

sulfur mine

Keane Wonder Mine

tourist attractions death valley

Skidoo Mine

tourist attractions death valley

Eureka Mine

Scenic drives, twenty mule team canyon.

tourist attractions death valley

Artists Drive & Palette

tourist attractions death valley

Last Chance Mountains

tourist attractions death valley

Pretty much any of the above attractions, views, sand dunes etc. all offer hiking options in addition to these “official hikes”.

Natural Bridge Trail

tourist attractions death valley

  • .5 mile out and back to the bridge.
  • Accessible via dirt road only, but packed dirt road, and crowded by tourists.

Salt Creek Interpretive Trail

tourist attractions death valley

  • 1-mile long boardwalk loop
  • Accessible via paved road and crowded by tourists.

Golden Canyon Trail

tourist attractions death valley

  • 3 miles (4.8 km) out and back trip
  • More details here .
  • Accessible via paved road and also crowded by tourists.

Gower Gulch

tourist attractions death valley

  • 4.3 mile (6.9 km) loop.

Badlands Loop

tourist attractions death valley

  • 2.7 mile (4.3km) loop
  • Accessible via paved road (at Zabriskie Point) and also crowded by tourists.

Desolation Canyon Trail

tourist attractions death valley

  • 3.6 mile (5.8km) out and back
  • More details here.
  • Accessible via dirt road only.

Mosaic Canyon Trail

tourist attractions death valley

  • 4 mi (6.4km) out and back
  • Accessible via dirt road across from Stovepipe Wells. Crowded by tourists (tho most of them turn around after getting their pictures at the first narrow slot canyon).

Darwin Falls Trail

tourist attractions death valley

  • 2 miles (out and back)
  • Accessible via unmarked gravel road.

Lemoigne’s Cabin Hike

  • 5 miles (out and back)
  • Accessible via bad dirt road – 4×4 required.

Slit Canyon

tourist attractions death valley

  • Accessible via dirt road.

Hungry Bill’s Ranch

tourist attractions death valley

  • 2 miles to ranch site from road end; 7 miles to Panamint City.
  • Accessible via rough dirt road, 4×4 required.

Fall Canyon

tourist attractions death valley

  • 6 mile (9.7km) out and back
  • Accessible packed dirt road.

Sidewinder Canyon Waterfall

tourist attractions death valley

  • 5 miles (8.4km) out and back
  • Accessible via unmarked gravel access road

Telescope Peak

tourist attractions death valley

  • 14 mile (22.5km) out and back
  • Accessible via maintained gravel road.

Wildrose Peak

tourist attractions death valley

  • 8.4 miles (13.5km) out and back

Grotto Canyon Trail

tourist attractions death valley

  • Accessible via unmarked dirt road near Stovepipe Wells

South Fork Trail Canyon/Mine Camps

tourist attractions death valley

  • 9.7 miles (out and back)
  • Accessible via bad dirt road – 4×4 required.

Surprise Canyon Trail

tourist attractions death valley

  • 10.3 miles (out and back)

Undertaker Canyon to Widowmaker Dry Falls

Backpacking trails.

You can also backpack the above “advanced” or “moderate” trails as well as long as you camp a mile from a paved road or “day use only road”.

Hanaupah Canyon & Shorty Borden’s Mine

  • 3-18 miles (out and back), depending on how far in you drive.
  • Rough dirt road, 4×4 required

Cottonwood Canyon & Marble Canyon Loop

tourist attractions death valley

  • Water: Seasonal Springs

Titanothere Canyon

tourist attractions death valley

  • 4.5 miles to Lostman Spring; 12 miles to Scotty’s Castle Road.
  • Water: Seasonal Spring

Indian Pass

No real trail; walk gravel wash and cross-country. Follow wash bearing left (north) staying in drainage nearest ridge; head for low pass in mountains to the east. Last four miles in canyon. 6 miles to springs; 8 miles to pass. Water available in the canyon. Accessible via paved road. Here’s a good resource .

Bighorn Gorge

No set trail. NPS recommends: From the Scotty’s Castle Road, hike down to Death Valley Wash then follow main drainage up alluvial fan to canyon. Several small dry falls are easily passed, but at upper end of gorge an 80 foot dry fall requires scrambling up talus slope on north side to continue beyond. Some additional good info . Accessible via paved road.

Hole in the Wall Trailhead

This isn’t so much a “trail” as a road that leads to several options (including Slit Canyon and Undertaker Canyon listed above) or backpacking. There’s no trails, so you can make your own! Several rugged canyons in Funeral Mountains just above Hole-in-the-Wall can be explored depending on your climbing ability.

Owlshead Mountains

No specific trail, just options to create your own. Through Canyon is one of the largest and passes through to a hidden basin at the heart of the mountains. A possible loop trip is return via Granite Canyon.

Travel Vlog!

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Revealed: America's Most Deadly Tourist Attractions

Posted: June 14, 2024 | Last updated: June 14, 2024

<p>While most tourist attractions pose little risk, there are a few that push the limits. From teeteringly high trails in Utah's Zion National Park to the shark-infested waters around Florida, we've rounded up some of the deadliest tourist attractions in the US. Remember to follow any safety advice, rules and regulations if you visit. Read on at your own risk...</p>

Perilous US attractions

While most tourist attractions pose little risk, there are a few that push the limits. From teeteringly high trails in Utah's Zion National Park to the shark-infested waters around Florida, we've rounded up some of the deadliest tourist attractions in the US.

Remember to follow any safety advice, rules and regulations if you visit. Click or scroll on at your own risk...

<p>While Volusia County’s New Smyrna and Daytona beaches are blessed with year-round sunshine and balmy temperatures, they’re also some of Florida’s most dangerous. Sun-seekers flock to the area for pristine stretches of sand and great surf, but it’s what’s lurking in the water that you need to be wary of…</p>

Volusia County beaches, Florida

While Volusia County’s New Smyrna and Daytona beaches are blessed with year-round sunshine and balmy temperatures, they’re also some of Florida’s most dangerous. Sun-seekers flock to the area for pristine stretches of sand and great surf, but it’s what’s lurking in the water that you need to be wary of…

<p>The so-called 'shark bite capital of the world', Volusia County recorded 16 shark bites in 2021. Although statistically getting bitten by a shark is unlikely, New Smyrna Beach sees more shark attacks than any other place in the US. In 2022 Florida accounted for 28% of unprovoked shark bites worldwide, and in July a man was taken to hospital after a six-foot (1.8m) shark bit his foot.</p>  <p><strong><a href="http://bit.ly/3roL4wv">Love this? Follow our Facebook page for more travel inspiration</a></strong></p>

The so-called 'shark bite capital of the world,' Volusia County recorded 16 shark bites in 2021. Although statistically getting bitten by a shark is unlikely, New Smyrna Beach sees more shark attacks than any other place in the US. In 2022 Florida accounted for 28% of unprovoked shark bites worldwide, and in July a man was taken to hospital after a six-foot shark bit his foot.

<p>Huntington Beach in Orange County is another popular spot for beach-goers and surfers. So much so it's dubbed Surf City USA, offering miles of sandy shoreline as well as one of the Pacific coast's longest piers at 1,850 feet (564m) long. It also hosts the world's largest surf competition, Vans US Open of Surfing, every summer.</p>

Huntington Beach, California

Huntington Beach in Orange County is another popular spot for beach-goers and surfers. So much so it's dubbed Surf City USA, offering miles of sandy shoreline as well as one of the Pacific coast's longest piers at 1,850 feet long. It also hosts the world's largest surf competition, Vans US Open of Surfing, every summer.

<p>But in October 2019, a record 176 people <a href="https://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/story/2019-10-28/176-people-stung-by-stingrays-in-one-day-in-huntington-beach#:~:text=Officials%20said%20176%20people%20were,of%20people%20to%20the%20water.&text=A%20record%20number%20of%20swimmers,were%20injured%20by%20the%20creatures.">were stung by stingrays</a> in just one day. The flat fish descended into the shallow waters and gave paddlers a nasty shock, sometimes puncturing their skin with their sting.</p>

But in October 2019, a record 176 people were stung by stingrays in just one day. The flat fish descended into the shallow waters and gave paddlers a nasty shock, sometimes puncturing their skin with their sting.

<p>Death Valley National Park attracts vast visitor numbers with its ethereal landscape of undulating sand dunes, rock-salt spires and salt flats. It's also among America's best spots for stargazing and viewing unforgettable sunrises and sunsets. However, this gorgeous place is filled with hazards, from extreme heat and flash floods to rattlesnakes, scorpions and black widow spiders. There’s even <a href="https://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/safety.htm">a chance of stumbling into illegal marijuana cultivation sites</a>.</p>

Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park attracts vast visitor numbers with its ethereal landscape of undulating sand dunes, rock-salt spires and salt flats. It's also among America's best spots for stargazing and viewing unforgettable sunrises and sunsets. However, this gorgeous place is filled with hazards, from extreme heat and flash floods to rattlesnakes, scorpions and black widow spiders. There’s even a chance of stumbling into illegal marijuana cultivation sites.

<p>The hottest and driest place in America, it's not surprising that there have been numerous heat-related fatalities in this dramatically named park. The hottest temperature ever recorded here was 134°F on 10 July 1913, while the Furnace Creek area saw temperatures of 127°F in September 2022, breaking the month’s <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/death-valley-world-record-temperature-b2159236.html">single-day world temperature record</a>. The National Park Service recommends taking extra drinking water and detailed maps into the park, and avoiding hiking in the heat (particularly in lower elevations).</p>  <p><a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/galleries/130965/mother-natures-spectacles-you-can-only-see-in-america?page=1"><strong>Check out these Mother Nature spectacles you can only see in the US</strong></a></p>

The hottest and driest place in America, it's not surprising that there have been numerous heat-related fatalities in this dramatically named park. The hottest temperature ever recorded here was 134°F on 10 July 1913, while the Furnace Creek area saw temperatures of 127°F in September 2022, breaking the month’s single-day world temperature record. The National Park Service recommends taking extra drinking water and detailed maps into the park, and avoiding hiking in the heat (particularly in lower elevations).

<p>Offering over 200 miles (322km) of trails, pretty wildflowers and photogenic lakes, Mount St Helens is a popular hiking area, and most visitors climb to the peak's summit and survey its mile-wide crater. It's even been dubbed the Mount Fuji of America. However, this natural tourist attraction has erupted twice in the past few decades, with the worst event killing nearly 60 people in 1980.</p>

Mount St Helens, Washington

Offering over 200 miles of trails, pretty wildflowers and photogenic lakes, Mount St Helens is a popular hiking area, and most visitors climb to the peak's summit and survey its mile-wide crater. It's even been dubbed the Mount Fuji of America. However, this natural tourist attraction has erupted twice in the past few decades, with the worst event killing nearly 60 people in 1980.

<p>The fatal eruption has been described as the most destructive in US history, and the site did not reopen until 1986. The active stratovolcano is closely monitored today, and it’s <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/volcanoes/mount-st.-helens/volcanic-hazards-mount-st-helens">expected to erupt again</a>. Pictured here is volcanic activity from 2004, when plumes of steam and ash billowed from the crater alongside minor earthquakes.</p>

The fatal eruption has been described as the most destructive in US history, and the site did not reopen until 1986. The active stratovolcano is closely monitored today, and it’s expected to erupt again. Pictured here is volcanic activity from 2004, when plumes of steam and ash billowed from the crater alongside minor earthquakes.

<p>No US travel wish list is complete without the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most revered natural wonders and most popular attractions. The North Rim (open seasonally) has fewer crowds, while Grand Canyon West is home to the teeth-chattering Skywalk (pictured). But although the National Park Service <a href="https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/visitation-numbers.htm">recorded 4.5 million visitors</a> here in 2021, the site comes with some dangers. </p>

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

No US travel wish list is complete without the Grand Canyon, one of the world’s most revered natural wonders and most popular attractions. The North Rim (open seasonally) has fewer crowds, while Grand Canyon West is home to the teeth-chattering Skywalk (pictured). But although the National Park Service recorded 4.5 million visitors here in 2021, the site comes with some dangers. 

<p>Between 2018 and 2020, the Grand Canyon was responsible for the most search and rescue (SAR) efforts of any national park, accounting for <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/brandonschultz/2022/01/12/these-are-americas-most-dangerous-national-parks/?sh=4fbb1022bc12">785 SARs out of the 3,926 total</a>. In August 2022, <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/hiker-falls-200ft-to-his-death-at-grand-canyon-12683721">one hiker also fell 200 feet (60m) to his death</a> from Bright Angel Point trail, while in January 2023 another hiker had to be airlifted to hospital.</p>  <p><a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/galleries/123234/american-beauties-the-best-national-park-in-every-state?page=1"><strong>This is the best national park in every US state</strong></a></p>

Between 2018 and 2020, the Grand Canyon was responsible for the most search and rescue (SAR) efforts of any national park, accounting for 785 SARs out of the 3,926 total. In August 2022, one hiker also fell 200 feet (60m) to his death from Bright Angel Point trail, while in January 2023 another hiker had to be airlifted to hospital.

<p>You might recognize this lonely stretch from the TV show <em>Ice Road Truckers</em>​. As well as being one of the world’s most isolated roads, the James Dalton Highway is also among the most dangerous. The two-lane gravel road starts just north of Fairbanks and ends at the Prudhoe Bay oil fields (and the Arctic ocean), spanning 414 miles (666km). </p>

Dalton Highway, Alaska

You might recognize this lonely stretch from the TV show  Ice Road Truckers ​. As well as being one of the world’s most isolated roads, the James Dalton Highway is also among the most dangerous. The two-lane gravel road starts just north of Fairbanks and ends at the Prudhoe Bay oil fields (and the Arctic ocean), spanning 414 miles. 

<p>There are only three opportunities to stop for fuel, plus there's freezing Arctic weather, giant potholes and sometimes reduced-to-zero visibility to contend with. In September 2021, <a href="https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2021/09/21/texas-man-dies-after-head-on-collision-between-suv-and-semi-on-northern-alaskas-dalton-highway/">one man died</a> following a head-on collision with another vehicle.</p>

There are only three opportunities to stop for fuel, plus there's freezing Arctic weather, giant potholes and sometimes reduced-to-zero visibility to contend with. In September 2021, one man died following a head-on collision with another vehicle.

<p>Denali stands head and shoulders above all of Alaska’s outdoor attractions – literally. You can head along Denali Park Road for fabulous views of the massive mountain (it's serviced by a shuttle bus in the summer months). However, some people are determined to go further and scale the peak which can be exceedingly perilous.</p>

Denali, Alaska

Denali stands head and shoulders above all of Alaska’s outdoor attractions – literally. You can head along Denali Park Road for fabulous views of the massive mountain (it's serviced by a shuttle bus in the summer months). However, some people are determined to go further and scale the peak which can be exceedingly perilous.

<p>It's impossible to deny the mountain's dizzying beauty, but it can be extremely challenging to climb. There’s only a 50% success rate for reaching the summit – mainly due to its far north location and extreme weather – and more than 100 people have died during their attempts. </p>  <p><a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/gallerylist/101467/amazing-alaskas-most-beautiful-sights"><strong>These are Alaska's most beautiful sights</strong></a></p>

It's impossible to deny the mountain's dizzying beauty, but it can be extremely challenging to climb. There’s only a 50% success rate for reaching the summit – mainly due to its far north location and extreme weather – and more than 100 people have died during their attempts. 

<p>Yellowstone was the very first US national park (established on 1 March 1872) and visitors still flock to its natural wonder-filled 2.2 million acres. Travelers share the sprawling park with more than 10,000 geothermal sites, like the Grand Prismatic Spring (pictured), Old Faithful Geyser and Mammoth Hot Springs, while bears, wolves, bison and white-tailed eagles are best viewed from the Lamar Valley.</p>

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana

Yellowstone was the very first US national park (established on 1 March 1872) and visitors still flock to its natural wonder-filled 2.2 million acres. Travelers share the sprawling park with more than 10,000 geothermal sites, like the Grand Prismatic Spring (pictured), Old Faithful Geyser and Mammoth Hot Springs, while bears, wolves, bison and white-tailed eagles are best viewed from the Lamar Valley.

<p>That doesn’t mean Yellowstone is completely visitor-friendly, though. Close encounters with the geysers risk third-degree burns or even death, and there have been more than <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/observatories/yvo/news/yellowstones-gravest-threat-visitors-its-not-what-you-might-think">20 related fatalities</a> since 2000. Some unfortunate (or in some cases misbehaving) visitors have also been the target of bison and bear attacks. The national park advises keeping a distance of 75 feet (23m) from these animals, and there are plenty of signs warning visitors to steer clear of wildlife and refrain from entering geothermal sites.</p>

That doesn’t mean Yellowstone is completely visitor-friendly, though. Close encounters with the geysers risk third-degree burns or even death, and there have been more than 20 related fatalities since 2000. Some unfortunate (or in some cases misbehaving) visitors have also been the target of bison and bear attacks. The national park advises keeping a distance of 75 feet from these animals, and there are plenty of signs warning visitors to steer clear of wildlife and refrain from entering geothermal sites.

<p>Silverton Mountain is the highest and steepest ski area in North America. All 69 of its trails are rated for experts only – meaning there’s little room for error. The peak elevation is 13,487 feet (4,110m), and there’s no easy way down from such great heights.</p>  <p><a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/galleries/85023/the-worlds-safest-and-most-dangerous-countries-revealed?page=1"><strong>The world's safest and most dangerous countries revealed</strong></a></p>

Silverton Mountain, Colorado

Silverton Mountain is the highest and steepest ski area in North America. All 69 of its trails are rated for experts only – meaning there’s little room for error. The peak elevation is 13,487 feet, and there’s no easy way down from such great heights.

<p>With an average total snowfall of more than 400 inches and steep terrain, there’s always a risk from avalanches. In February 2021, <a href="https://www.durangoherald.com/articles/three-skiers-killed-in-avalanche-recovered-outside-silverton/">three skiers were tragically killed</a> in the ‘The Nose’ area near Ophir Pass.</p>

With an average total snowfall of more than 400 inches and steep terrain, there’s always a risk from avalanches. In February 2021, three skiers were tragically killed in the ‘The Nose’ area near Ophir Pass.

<p>Spanning more than 50,000 acres, the Lake of the Ozarks attracts millions of visitors each year. There are a couple of sandy beaches tucked along this manmade reservoir – although there aren’t any lifeguards – with plenty of family-friendly activities, from fishing to watersports. So why is it considered one of the most dangerous lakes in the US? </p>  <p><a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/galleryextended/132992/americas-most-beautiful-wildernesses?page=1"><strong>America's most beautiful wildernesses</strong></a></p>

Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri

Spanning more than 50,000 acres, the Lake of the Ozarks attracts millions of visitors each year. There are a couple of sandy beaches tucked along this manmade reservoir – although there aren’t any lifeguards – with plenty of family-friendly activities, from fishing to watersports. So why is it considered one of the most dangerous lakes in the US? 

<p>Boating accidents are unfortunately common. In July 2022, <a href="https://www.komu.com/news/state/body-recovered-from-lake-of-the-ozarks-after-boating-accident/article_41449dce-1032-11ed-9254-e3b6f6f95bee.html">one boater was killed</a> when they were thrown overboard after hitting a wake, while in November 2022, two swimmers drowned near the Bagnell Dam area. </p>

Boating accidents are unfortunately common. In July 2022,  one boater was killed  when they were thrown overboard after hitting a wake, while in November 2022, two swimmers drowned near the Bagnell Dam area. 

<p>As its name suggests, this stirring national park on the island of Hawaii is all about volcanoes; in fact, it's home to two of the most active on Earth, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Day and backcountry hikes are popular here, as are scenic drives like the Crater Rim Drive. But a trip comes with inherent risk.</p>

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

As its name suggests, this stirring national park on the island of Hawaii is all about volcanoes; in fact, it's home to two of the most active on Earth, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Day and backcountry hikes are popular here, as are scenic drives like the Crater Rim Drive. But a trip comes with inherent risk.

<p>Mount Kilauea erupted in late 2020, creating new lava flows and rippling smoke plumes, while the <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/news/volcano-watch-kilauea-nations-most-deadly-volcano">United States Geological Survey</a> describes the volcano as the deadliest in the country since it's killed four visitors in this century alone. Remarkably, though, the 2020 eruption actually led to <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/is-volcano-tourism-safe">a rise in visitors</a> to the park. Pictured here is a dangerous lava boat tour. </p>

Mount Kilauea erupted in late 2020, creating new lava flows and rippling smoke plumes, while the  United States Geological Survey  describes the volcano as the deadliest in the country since it's killed four visitors in this century alone. Remarkably, though, the 2020 eruption actually led to a rise in visitors to the park. Pictured here is a dangerous lava boat tour. 

<p><a href="https://www.nps.gov/cave/index.htm">Carlsbad Caverns</a> in New Mexico is home to the 'Big Room', which is 4,000 feet (1,219m) long, 625 feet (191m) wide and 350 feet (107m) high. Whether you choose to explore by following one of the self-guided routes or on a ranger-led tour, you’ll see rock formations and areas with mystical names such as the Devil’s Spring, the Whale’s Mouth, the King’s Palace and the Hall of the White Giant.</p>

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is home to the 'Big Room', which is 4,000 feet long, 625 feet  wide and 350 feet high. Whether you choose to explore by following one of the self-guided routes or on a ranger-led tour, you’ll see rock formations and areas with mystical names such as the Devil’s Spring, the Whale’s Mouth, the King’s Palace and the Hall of the White Giant.

<p>Two species of bat roost in the cavern and it’s a remarkable experience to watch them flood out of the cave's entrance between summer and fall. However, the park's greatest danger is invisible. Dangerous levels of radon – a gas linked with lung cancer – were discovered in the cave in 2019, causing the National Park Service to introduce <a href="https://www.nps.gov/cave/learn/news/carlsbad-caverns-national-park-adopts-report-recommendations-to-mitigate-radon.htm">an action plan</a> to keep visitors and staff as safe as possible.</p>

Two species of bat roost in the cavern and it’s a remarkable experience to watch them flood out of the cave's entrance between summer and fall. However, the park's greatest danger is invisible. Dangerous levels of radon – a gas linked with lung cancer – were discovered in the cave in 2019, causing the National Park Service to introduce an action plan  to keep visitors and staff as safe as possible.

<p>The hike to Angels Landing is popular for a reason: it promises vistas sweeping across the gaping canyon and ethereal scorched landscape. The first section of the route is fairly tame, but it’s once you reach Walter’s Wiggles – 21 steep switchbacks that will leave you panting – that it quickly becomes one of the USA’s most dangerous tourist attractions.</p>

Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Utah

The hike to Angels Landing is popular for a reason: it promises vistas sweeping across the gaping canyon and ethereal scorched landscape. The first section of the route is fairly tame, but it’s once you reach Walter’s Wiggles – 21 steep switchbacks that will leave you panting – that it quickly becomes one of the USA’s most dangerous tourist attractions.

<p>When you reach the final, exposed ridge, beware of human traffic jams. Between 2000 and 2021, it’s estimated that at least 13 people have died on this trail, even though there are chains installed along the route. In April 2022, the National Park Service responded to growing concerns about crowding and congestion on the trail by <a href="https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/angels-landing-hiking-permits.htm">introducing a permit requirement</a> to reach the top.</p>  <p><a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/galleries/151087/these-beloved-american-national-parks-are-in-danger-heres-why?page=1"><strong>These beloved American national parks are in danger – here's why</strong></a></p>

When you reach the final, exposed ridge, beware of human traffic jams. Between 2000 and 2021, it’s estimated that at least 13 people have died on this trail, even though there are chains installed along the route. In April 2022, the National Park Service responded to growing concerns about crowding and congestion on the trail by introducing a permit requirement  to reach the top.

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  1. Death Valley National Park: What to See and Do While Visiting

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  2. 10+ Things to do in Death Valley National Park

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  3. Top 10 Attractions of Death Valley National Park

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  4. Death Valley National Park

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  5. Top 10 Attractions of Death Valley National Park

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  6. Ultimate 3-Day Death Valley National Park Itinerary

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  4. Top 10 Most DANGEROUS Tourist Attractions in the WORLD

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COMMENTS

  1. Things To Do

    Death Valley is a vast national park with over three million acres of designated Wilderness and hundreds of miles of backcountry roads.The park contains an amazing variety of terrain, historic sites, plants and animals for outdoor adventurers to explore. It is your responsibility to leave no trace of your visit so everyone can enjoy Death Valley for generations to come.

  2. 18 Top Attractions & Places to Visit in Death Valley, CA

    5. Dantes View. Dantes View. Dante's View offers one of the best overall perspectives of Death Valley. The view from the top looks out over the valley floor, as far as the eye can see, and across to the mountains that line the far side of the valley. This lookout is a little out of the way but worth the effort.

  3. Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

    Scenic overlook providing panoramic vistas of Death Valley from an elevation of 5,000 feet, with interpretive signage and a trail for expansive views. 2. Zabriskie Point. Panoramic viewpoint in Death Valley with accessible, short paved path to 360-degree vistas of badlands, particularly striking at sunrise and sunset.

  4. 22 Best Things to Do in Death Valley National Park (+ Map)!

    21. Do Some Stargazing. As a Gold Tier Dark Sky National Park, Death Valley offers some of the best stargazing and astrophotography opportunities in the country. While you can enjoy stargazing and photographing the night sky year round, the park holds special dark sky events in the winter and the spring.

  5. 25 AMAZING Things to Do in Death Valley National Park (+ Photos)

    21. Find the Famous Death Valley Mud Cracks. Finding the best mud cracks was high on my list of things to do at Death Valley National Park as the photos I'd seen before visiting seemed almost fake. Death Valley is famous for scenes like the ones below - a valley floor beautifully cracked with geometric shapes.

  6. Sightseeing- Park Highlights

    Sightseeing- Park Highlights. At over 3.4 million acres, there is a lot to see in Death Valley National Park! In a park this large, deciding which sites to visit can be overwhelming. Click on the locations in the list below to help you decide what to see based on how much time you have. Note that all of these locations can be accessed by car ...

  7. What to do in Death Valley National Park

    Death Valley National Park is all about extremes. Famous for the highest temperature ever recorded anywhere in the world (a sizzling 134 degrees in July 1936) and as the driest spot in North America, from autumn into spring Death Valley is inviting to explore. Come here to hike through colorful canyons and to see such landmarks as Badwater Basin—at 282 feet below sea level, it's the lowest ...

  8. 21 Best Things to do in Death Valley National Park

    It highlights many of the top Death Valley attractions. Safety Tips for Death Valley National Park: As we mentioned, Death Valley is the hottest and driest place in North America, so: ... And while the site is small, it is officially held on the National Register of Historical Places and is a well-known tourist attraction. The wagons from ...

  9. The 23 Best Things To Do in Death Valley National Park

    Quick Summary: The 5 Best Highlights of Death Valley 1 Badwater Basin 2 Artist's Palette 3 Mesquite Sand Dunes 4 Zabriskie Point 5 Dante's View. The Best Things To Do in Death Valley National Park. At more than 3.3 million acres, Death Valley is the largest national park in the lower 48 United States, trailing only four Alaska parks in size ...

  10. Things to Do in Death Valley: 11 Incredible Places to Explore

    10. Observe the mysterious rocks at Racetrack Playa. Located here, 83 miles northwest of the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center. In a more remote section of Death Valley, there lies a dry lakebed (which has the fun name of a "playa"), known for its mysterious sailing rocks.

  11. The 15 Best Things to do in Death Valley National Park

    13. Be Amazed at Racetrack Playa. The Racetrack Playa, also known simply as the Racetrack, is one of the strangest and best sights in Death Valley. The playa is a large, dry lakebed characterized by its mud hexagons. But the thing that makes the Racetrack so unique is the existence of the "sailing stones.".

  12. 35 Unforgettable Things to do in Death Valley National Park

    What are the major attractions in Death Valley National Park? Some of the must-see attractions in Death Valley include: Badwater Basin: The lowest point in North America. Zabriskie Point: Offering panoramic views of the badlands. Artist's Palette: A colorful mineral deposit. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: Ideal for sunrise and sunset photography.

  13. The 10 Best Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

    This 1920s vacation home in the desert was built by insurance magnate Albert Johnson. However, at the time most people believed it belonged to…. 12. Devil's Golf Course. 863. Geologic Formations. A seemingly infinite number of crusted salt formations jut from the "course." See ways to experience (9) Rhyolite.

  14. 22 Things to do in Death Valley National Park

    If you'd like to buy an America the Beautiful Pass for year-long entry to all national parks, you can either do so online or at the visitor center in Furnace Creek. Death Valley National Park Hours & Phone Numbers: Furnace Creek Visitor Center: Open 8 AM to 5 PM every day. Phone: (760) 786-3200. ABOUT THE AUTHOR.

  15. 20 Incredible Things to do in Death Valley National Park

    When it comes to Death Valley attractions, Badwater Basin is always going to be high on the list. At 86 metres (282 feet) below sea level, Badwater is the lowest point in North America. That's not all though - Badwater Basin just so happens to be a vast salt flat. Hundreds of intricate geometric shapes tessellate like sunlight on the bottom ...

  16. 6 Must-See Places & Best Things to Do in Death Valley (+Map & Tips)

    2. Badwater Basin. At 282 feet (85.5 meters) below Sea Level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America and one of the lowest elevations on earth. This is the place that made Death Valley famous and is one of the most visited sites in the park. And indeed, Badwater Basin is absolutely worth a visit.

  17. Plan Your Visit

    If visiting Death Valley in the summer, follow these tips to stay safe. The park is over 3 million acres with limited cell service; prepare ... refuges Explore Nearby Attractions. Grab some food! Restaurants. What roads are closed or damaged? Road Conditions. Enhance Your Experience! Guided Tours. Park footer. Contact Info. Mailing Address: P.O ...

  18. The Most Beautiful Death Valley Attractions

    Badwater Basin is one of the most well-known attractions in Death Valley, and arguably the most beautiful! It's the lowest point in North America, resting at 282 feet (85m) below sea level. If you've been to the Dead Sea, you'll know that that goes a lot lower — a massive 1400 feet or 430m below sea level!

  19. THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

    6. Furnace Creek Visitor Center. 972. Visitor Centres. Sprawling desert park with a visitor center providing insightful exhibits, a model of the valley, and a selection of souvenirs. Near vibrant natural attractions and volcanic craters. See ways to experience (12) 2023. 7.

  20. 14 INCREDIBLE Things to Do in Death Valley in 2024

    Distance from Furnace Creek: 30 minutes one-way. 6. Dante's View. This is one of the most breathtaking scenes in Death Valley that is easily accessible by car. From the top of Dante's View, you can see both Telescope Peak and the Badwater Basin, the highest and lowest points in the park, respectively.

  21. 12 Iconic Things to Do in Death Valley

    Artist's Drive is an incredibly scenic 9-mile (14.4 km) drive through the national park, showcasing some of the valley's most unique landscapes and photogenic spots. The road is one way, running from south to north, where it then rejoins onto Badwater Road, 6 miles (9.5 km) from Furnace Creek. Artist's Palette is one of the highlights of ...

  22. Visiting Death Valley

    Individual (on foot or bicycle) - Good for 7 Days: $15. Motorcycle - Good for 7 Days: $25. Automobile with up to 4 people - Good for 7 Days: $30. Death Valley Annual Pass - Good for 1 Year: $55. Permits: You get pick up a free voluntary permits for backcountry camping at the visitor center or any ranger station.

  23. Revealed: America's Most Deadly Tourist Attractions

    Offering over 200 miles of trails, pretty wildflowers and photogenic lakes, Mount St Helens is a popular hiking area, and most visitors climb to the peak's summit and survey its mile-wide crater ...