Everyone Should Visit Death Valley National Park
One of the places everyone should go to at least once is Death Valley National Park.
People come all over the world to visit this park, but there are still many people from America that still haven't visited it and it's definitely a place you can't understand through just pictures.
Full of unique features, and with a complex geologic history, Death Valley is a place you should visit at least once, if not several times. There's so much to see and do, I always spot something new each time I visit.
Where Is Death Valley?
Getting to Death Valley
Death Valley National Park is located midway between Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. In maps it may look way out in the middle of nowhere, but luckily there are many good highways to get there and it's not too bad of a drive.
If you are in Las Vegas or Los Angeles it makes a wonderful weekend trip. Just stay the night at the park and return home having experienced some of natures most incredible wonders.
If you're flying in, there are any number of airports within driving range. Las Vegas will probably be the easiest and cheapest. Then just get a rental car and drive over the breathtaking desert.
Guide to Death Valley
There's so much to see and do in Death Valley, it's important to have a good guide book like this one to help you maximize your visit.
Prepare For the Weather
Anytime you go to Death Valley you need to prepare for the climate.
Yes, we all know the desert is hot and the temperature gets well over 100* during the summer. Death Valley once had the world record for the highest temperature ever on the face of the earth.
It's not always hot though. Since it's the desert, Death Valley can also get extremely cold. Deserts lose the heat they gathered during the day very quickly because there's nothing to hold it. That means once the sun goes down, it can get frigid. Bring a warm coat and warm sleeping clothes just in case. Usually during the summer even at night it rarely gets below 90*, but when it does get cold you'll get really cold.
And although deserts are called deserts because they don't get much rainfall and in Death Valley it is almost always extremely dry, what little rain does fall can cause flash floods. The land simply can't soak up rain quickly, so it can go roaring down a canyon taking out anything in its way. If you see rain, get out of any narrow canyons and get to high ground.
Death Valley is a land of extremes and as such you need to be very careful. I don't mean to scare you from visiting, but I don't want to see you endanger your family by ignoring the dangers.
So, how do you safely visit Death Valley?
- Try to visit when the weather will be good. Spring and Autumn are really the best times to visit.
- Bring warm clothes as well as cool ones so you don't freeze or get overheated.
- Drink water!
- Wear sunscreen even in the winter.
- Don't push yourself too hard, there are too many amazing things to see in one trip and you'll only hurt yourself trying to do it all.
- Talk to the rangers. They know where you should go that day and where to avoid and want to tell you. That's why there's a visitor's center.
- Avoid moving around during the hottest parts of the day.
- Wear a hat even in winter.
- Don't listen to your GPS, use your eyes and intelligence. If the GPS says to drive onto a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, please don't.
- And always, always, do I need to say it again?...Always bring water for you and your vehicle!
This is a nice water bottle. It is stainless steel so it will stay nice and cold, and the little loop on the top makes it easy to attach to your belt or bag with a carabineer so you always have it handy.
Mountains Surround Death Valley
Two mountain ranges sandwich Death Valley between them like an Oreo Cookie. One of the mountain ranges is the Panamint Range it contains Telescope Peak which is 11,049 feet tall. The Black Mountains on the east are part of the Amargosa Range and contain Funeral Peak which is 6,384 feet tall.
These mountain ranges are really tall and still growing. And Death Valley has the lowest spot in the United States which makes for a huge difference in heights.
This big difference just doesn't show well in pictures. You need to stand at Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level, then drive up more than a mile into the air to Dante's View at 5,476 feet above sea level, then stare straight down at where you just were.
The valley spreads out below you, so far down you can barely see cars. The salt covered basin below you defies your depth perception and your brain feels overwhelmed with trying to understand how high you are and how far below you is the valley floor.
Video of Dante's View
Looking down into Death Valley from Dante's View. Dante's View is 5,475 feet above sea level in the Black Mountains. Almost directly below is Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Across the valley is Telescope Peak, 11,043 feet above sea level and in the Panamint Range.
Land of Extremes
When people start talking about Death Valley, something that is always mentioned is that Death Valley is a land of extremes.
Death Valley is one of the hottest places on Earth. Summer temperatures almost always get above 100*. Death Valley holds the record high temperature in North America and possibly the world (the world record is disputed) at 134*. At night during the winter it can get below freezing.
Death Valley is one of the driest places on Earth. It gets less than 2" of rain a year and is considered the driest place in North America. And when it does rain, it may just flood.
Death Valley has one of the lowest places on Earth. Badwater Basin is 282' below sea level. Badwater Basin sits right below Telescope Peak which is over 10,000 feet high.
The Broken Land: Adventures in Great Basin Geology
My personal favorite book about Death Valley and the entire area is The Broken Land. If you are interested in natural history or just really want to know what caused Death Valley and why it's the way it is, this is the book for you.
Death Valley is one valley in a repeating series of parallel valleys and mountain ranges stretching from the Eastern edge of the Sierra all the way across Nevada and to the Wasatch Range in Utah. This book explains the Basin and Range Geologic Province and is really a thorough study of the geologic area. The Basin and Range is extremely intriguing and many people don't understand it at all.
Although Frank is great at explaining the geology of the area, he really shows his story-telling skills when he recounts several of his personal trips throughout the Great Basin. He manages to make you feel as though you're sitting around a campfire with him after a long day of hiking through the area -- I should know, I've actually taken a few trips with him.
Looking for Pupfish at Salt Creek
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
The Story Behind the Scenery
Learn what you should see in Death Valley and what made those spots the way they are in this great book written by a former Park Ranger.
Learn About the Geology of Death Valley
Death Valley has some of the most interesting geology in the world. From exploded volcanoes to brightly colored lakebed sediments to prehistoric lakeshores, learn about the marvelous geology of Death Valley in this great book.
Signs of Danger
Some signs of dehydration are:
- Not Sweating
If anyone begins to show any of these signs, make them drink some more water and find a shady place to sit. If there's no improvement within a short amount of time, you need to seek assistance. Dehydration and heat stroke are nothing to play around with.
People do die in Death Valley, and if you don't want to endanger yourself or your family, you will bring water and make yourself drink it.
Every time I've gone to Death Valley, I've seen people hiking up canyons and walking around in the sun, without water. They're idiots.
Plan on drinking a minimum of a gallon a day.
You need to drink a lot more than you normally drink and have water with you at all times. You may not notice you are dehydrated until your body starts to shut down, and children are particularly susceptible since they have small bodies and can't hold as much water.
A great way to remember to drink enough water is to bring a stopwatch with you. Set the stopwatch to go off every once in a while, and when it does, stop and take a drink. This is also a great time to make sure everyone's feeling okay since it's easy to get distracted by all the beauty and not realize they're starting to feel sick, this is especially true with children.
Hydration packs are also great for making sure you're drinking enough. Small backpacks with water carrying bladders inside them, hydration packs make water easy to carry and easy to drink. Instead of having to stop and dig your water bottle out of your bag, or carry it in your hand the entire time, hydration packs allow you to easily drink on the move since they have a straw-like tube from the bag over onto your shoulder. It's very easy to turn your head slightly and suck down a gulp of water without stopping or even breaking stride. Also, since they usually carry about 2 liters of water, you can easily make sure you're drinking enough by making sure you go through two a day.
Keep with a Hydration Pack
Hydration packs are the easiest way to stay hydrated in Death Valley. You just wear them and when you want a drink you turn your head a hair and drink out of the nozzle without having to stop. So much easier and better!
Having Fun with Hiking the Desert Parks
Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Anza-Borrego, and the Mojave are amazing place to explore, and the best way to explore them is by hiking. Learn where to go with this helpful book.
The Moving Rocks of Racetrack Playa
Visit Racetrack Playa
- Visit Racetrack Playa
Want to see the mysterious moving rocks of Racetrack Playa? Click the link above to check out my article on this amazing and beautiful place and learn more!
Furnace Creek is the oasis in Death Valley. As one of the only reliable and potable water sources around, it's long been the basis of human activity in the park.
It contains historic buildings, a lodge, a campground, a warm pool fed by a natural hot spring, and a very old date farm. It can be hard to get a spot but it's the best place to stay in Death Valley. And even if you can't stay at Furnace Creek itself, it's a good place to stop and do the tourist thing.
Visit Death Valley
My poor quality pictures don't do this amazing park justice. Go visit Death Valley National Park as soon as you can and see the stunning views, intriguing geology, and beautiful and different wildlife.
See Beautiful Death Valley
Even if you can't get to Death Valley, you can still get to enjoy its splendor with this stunning book full of photos.
© 2009 Alisha Vargas