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Death Valley National Park - What to Expect

Updated on January 19, 2015

Death Valley: Attracting Visitors Even in the 120 Degree Heat

For over a hundred years, visitors have been flocking to the strange, secluded desert of fascinating Death Valley. Sharing sections of California and Nevada, this massive National Park is the largest in the lower 48 states by far, covering 3.4 million acres.

Considered inhospitable between the months of May and October, this park still draws thousands of eager visitors even then. Peak season is generally considered to fall between November and early April, when temperatures are the most welcoming and make for an enjoyable hike.

Picture by 4gott.

More than Just a Dry, Boring Desert!

Death Valley is filled with rolling sand dunes, weird rock formations, ancient dry salt beds, abundant wildlife, snow capped mountains, spring wildflowers, castles, palm trees and some of the most unusual sites in the world, like Badwater, the lowest elevation in North America.

What to Expect

It's not called Death Valley for nothing. The heat really does kill in Death Valley. This is the hottest spot in North America, and can fry your car's tires, turn cold water into tea in minutes, and dehydrate and crisp up the healthiest person in no time. Not to scare you, but just be smart about visiting here! Here are some realistic things you can expect:

  • It's hot from May through October. Other times, it can be warm during the day, but freezing at night.
  • It's not always hot. Half the year is nice. For example, in mid January, the daily average temperature is around 65 degrees F.
  • Nighttime winter temperatures seldom reach freezing, hovering around 34 degrees F.
  • Fall is often hotter than spring.
  • Spring foliage occurs early at lower elevations, in mid February to mid April. Higher elevations have spring foliage and wildflowers in later months.
  • You'll need lots of water. Bring plenty, and hydrate before. Stop at the park stores for rest and shade when you can.
  • Blowing sand can be a hazard. Check with the rangers for daily information.
  • Rental car agencies often prohibit travel to Death Valley for the damage that can be incurred.
  • Use suntan lotion in abundance all year here. Even twenty minutes outside in the extreme heat can cause a burn.
  • Don't plan on long hikes in the peak heat months. Late May, June, July, August, and September aren't ideal for long hikes. 30 minutes should be your max.
  • A car is recommended, unless traveling via guided tour. You'll want to escape the heat in your car's air conditioning.
  • Gas up. There are few gas stations here, and they charge high, high prices. Plan on paying more, and gas up often. You never know where the next gas station will be.

Mars? No, it's the Devils Golf Course of Death Valley

Mars? No, it's the Devils Golf Course of Death Valley
Mars? No, it's the Devils Golf Course of Death Valley

Don't Underestimate the Heat - Heat kills in Death Valley!

The swealtering heat of Death Valley is not to be messed with. The comfort of car air conditioning can often mislead travelers when they step out of the car. 4 liters of water per day to replace sweat loss minimum is required in the desert. Hiking in the early morning hours is highly recommended because of the cooler temperatures. Besides, the sunrise shots of Death Valley often make the most amazing photos. The desert heat can kill in only an hour without the proper equipment and hiking at the proper times.

Before making your journey into Death Valley, be sure to check your tire pressure and fluid levels of your car, including the car radiator. If you have not-so-dependable car, consider renting one from a local dealership. Don't forget your sunscreen!

HOT HOT HOT!

Death Valley is well known for its record breaking heat. The highest temperature ever in the valley was recorded on July 10, 1913, topping out at 134 degrees Fahrenheit. That's the hottest temperature in North America and the 2nd highest in the world. Who's #1? El Azizia in Libya at 136 degrees.

Coyote on the outskirts of Death Valley

Coyote on the outskirts of Death Valley
Coyote on the outskirts of Death Valley

Death Valley Links

Recommended Death Valley Books

Death Valley is a beautiful place, and with the right preparation, you can have an outstanding trip. Try these recommended guides and books for more information on Death Valley. All have received excellent reviews.

© 2008 Kiwisoutback

Guestbook - If you've been to Death Valley (or would like to go) tell us about it!

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    • Trender1 profile image

      Trender1 5 years ago

      Such great lenses. I'll have to come back later and take notes for trip-planning =D

    • profile image

      ShamanicShift 6 years ago

      I am planning a bucket list tour of California parks centering around national parks & covering state and local parks too -- Death Valley is a must for the itinerary.

    • myraggededge profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      Wow... the immenseness and variety America is astounding to us Brits. The nearest thing to Death Valley here would be... er... Dartmoor? Great lens!

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 7 years ago from New Zealand

      I've been through death valley twice, but not in the summer!

    • AlishaV profile image

      Alisha Vargas 8 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Great lens! Death Valley is one of my favorite places in the world. There's so much beauty there.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Beautiful, just beautiful, thank you for the trip! Definitely more than a boring desert! The pictures blew me away! - Kathy

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I didn't know that Death Valley was a national park, lens-roll! Great information 5*'s

      It would be fun going out on a dune buggy on the dunes.

    • AlisonMeacham profile image

      AlisonMeacham 8 years ago

      I visited about 10 years ago in October and it was still very very hot. It is certainly an amazing place. The contrast in landscapes is incredible. Angel Blessings to you

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 8 years ago from Covington, LA

      Welcome to the Naturally Native Squids group. Don't forget to add your lens link to the appropriate plexo and vote for it.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      Brilliant, as usual! Welcome to All Things Travel.

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image

      Bellezza-Decor 9 years ago from Canada

      Kiwi, what a wonderful lens!

    • Lady Gotrocks profile image

      Lady Gotrocks 9 years ago

      Great lens! Lots of good info. Ihave been to Death Valley several times and it is always fascinating!