11 Excellent Things To See in Death Valley National Park

death valley - beautiful landscape

Death Valley National Park sits at the border between California and Nevada just 130 miles northwest of Las Vegas. With more than 3 million acres of protected wilderness, it is the largest national park in the lower 48 states. The park boasts an incredibly diverse landscape featuring salt flats, badlands, sand dunes, volcanic craters, canyons, valleys, and mountains. Choosing things to see in Death Valley might feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow this guide to make the most of your Death Valley trip.

Initially set up as a National Monument, Death Valley was designated as a biosphere reserve in 1984 and then as a national park in 1994.

Being the driest, hottest and lowest elevation place in all of North America, Death Valley is truly a land of extremes. If you are interested to learn more about the park’s unique features, check out our post – Amazing Facts About Death Valley.

Keep reading for an overview of the very best things to see in Death Valley National Park.

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A Quick Glance Through

Where To Stay

Death Valley National Park offers lodging facilities inside the park. There are 4 hotels to choose from.

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

The Oasis at Death Valley has two hotels – The Ranch and The Inn, both in the Furnace Creek area.

The Ranch at Death Valley

It is a good family-friendly place to stay within the park. The accommodation comes with amenities like outdoor pool, in-house restaurant, tennis court, and more.

Book a room at The Ranch at Death Valley.

The Inn at Death Valley

If you are looking to enjoy a luxurious stay in Death Valley, this 4 Diamond resort is an excellent option.

It offers a selection of well-appointed rooms including standard rooms, suites, pool bungalow, and newly-built casitas.

While there, you can enjoy a rejuvenating massage at the spa, take a stroll in the palm gardens, or relax in the spring-fed pool.

Book a room at The Inn at Death Valley.

Stovepipe Wells Village

This hotel makes for a good base for exploring Death Valley National Park.

It is located close to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. On-site, you will have access to a swimming pool, a restaurant, a saloon, and a general store.

Book a room at Stovepipe Wells Village.

Panamint Springs Resort

Panamint Springs Resort is a small, rustic motel in Panamint Valley in Death Valley National Park. It offers basic accommodation in the form of cottages and cabin rooms at affordable rates.

So, it’s a great choice if you are traveling on a budget. Camping and RV services are also provided by them.

Book a room at Panamint Springs Resort.

Another option for your stay inside the park is to go camping. There are 12 public campgrounds in Death Valley.

All campgrounds other than Furnace Creek Campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For camping during the high season (October to April), the Furnace Creek campsite can be booked up to six months in the advance. No bookings are required during the remaining months of the year.

You can check out the Death Valley Camping page for more information.

Best Things To See in Death Valley

1. Badwater Basin

Set in the stark landscape of Death Valley, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

badwater basin - one of the best things to see in death valley

The area covered by the Badwater Basin salt flats was once the site for Lake Manly, a large glacial lake that dried up thousands of years ago.

Bizzare landscape, filled with sparkling polygon-shaped salt crystals, Badwater Basin is one of the most interesting things to see in Death Valley.

These crystals form on the basin surface after the evaporation of rainwater that leaves lots of minerals and salt deposits behind.

To get a closer look at the salt crystals, you can hike a short trail onto the salt flats.

This spot is located 17 miles south of Furnace Creek on Badwater Road. From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to the Badwater Basin parking lot, it is roughly 30-minute drive without any stop.

2. Devils Golf Course

Devils Golf Course is another geologic marvel in Death Valley that you must see. It is situated between Badwater Basin and Furnace Creek just off Badwater Road.

devil's golf course
Devils Golf Course | Best Things To See in Death Valley

A stunningly vast salt pan on the valley floor, Devils Golf Course is a surreal landscape shaped by rain and wind. It is brimming with jagged salt formations, strikingly different from what you see in Badwater Basin.

Although this part of Death Valley rarely floods, there is salt-rich water below the ground surfaces. When the water seeps through the cracks to the surface, it quickly evaporates and leaves behind edgy salt pinnacles.

The main vantage point that also serves as parking area is accessible via a short dirt road.

If you decide to walk around, be extremely careful as falling on this rough, spiky ground can cause serious injuries.

3. Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point is one of Death Valley’s most spectacular sights, filled with vibrantly colored badlands. It forms a part of the Amargosa Mountain Range that runs along the eastern side of Death Valley.

This dramatic landscape, as we see it today, has a history of millions of years. A huge ancient lake existed here even before the formation of Lake Manly.

zabriskie point in death valley national park
Zabriskie Point | Amazing Things To See in Death Valley

After the lake dried, its loose sediments combined to form solid rocks. Over the years, weathering process eroded these rocks to carve an incredibly beautiful field of badlands.

Zabriskie Point is located on Highway 190, just 4.5-mile drive away from Furnace Creek Visitor Center. From the parking area, walk a quarter of a mile uphill on a paved trail to get to the viewpoint.

Once there, you can take in majestic vistas of the badlands and far-away salt flats with the Panamint Mountains in the backdrop.

If you are looking to explore more, hike the 2.7-mile Badlands Loop Trail that takes you through rock formations below Zabriskie Point.

4. Vistas From Dante’s View

Nestled at an elevation of 5,476 feet (1,669 meters), Dante’s View affords some of the most iconic views in Death Valley.

vistas from dante's view - one of the amazing things to see in death valley

From this overlook, you will have fantastic views of the entire Badwater Basin area and the towering Panamint Range. It is also one of the popular sunset destinations in Death Valley National Park.

Dante’s View is found 25 miles south of Furnace Creek on Dante’s View Road off Highway 190. A short hike from the parking lot brings you to the main lookout point.

5. Artist’s Palette

Artist’s Palette is the most recognizable landmark of the scenic nine-mile Artist’s Drive.

This one-way drive road is found south of Furnace Creek, off Badwater Road. After a 5-mile drive on this road, you will get to the gorgeous, rainbow-colored hills of Artist’s Palette.

artist's palette - one of the unmissable things to see in death valley
Artist’s Palette | Incredible Things To See in Death Valley

Created by the erosion of mineral-rich volcanic deposits, the stunning landscape of Artist’s Palette is a sight to behold.

When the minerals oxidize, they produce an array of beautiful colors like red, pink, yellow, orange, and more.

You can admire the scenery from the car or wander around the hills for an up-close view.

Artist’s Palette has its own parking lot that allows you to get out of the car and explore this dramatic terrain on foot.

Note that vehicles longer than 25 feet are not permitted on Artist’s Drive as the road is curvy and very narrow in some places.

6. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Best known for its astonishing show of colors and shadows at sunrise and sunset, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is one of the most popular dune fields in Death Valley.

The soothing backdrop provided by majestic mountain peaks adds to its charm.

This serene dune field is undoubtedly one of the best things to see in Death Valley and shouldn’t be missed.

mesquite flat sand dunes

It has three types of sand dunes – linear, crescent, and star-shaped. And, the highest dune rises 100 feet above the desert floor.

Mesquite Flat sits Just next to Stovepipe Wells Campground in Central Death Valley, about 23 miles from Furnace Creek.

Upon reaching there, you can stroll around the dunes and go as far as manageable. The hike to the tallest dune is roughly 2-mile roundtrip.

The dawn and dusk hours are the best time of the day to attempt hiking into the dunes.

This area is home to rattlesnakes and many other forms of wildlife. So, be watchful for these creatures when hiking.

7. Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe crater is one of the most impressive geologic features of Death Valley.

It was created by a massive volcanic explosion that occurred here more than 2000 years ago.

In terms of size, this is the largest of all volcanic craters found in Death Valley National Park. It measures half a mile wide and about 600 feet deep.

ubehebe crater - one of the unusual things to see in death valley

Ubehebe Crater is located 56 miles northwest of Furnace Creek. It’s a long drive from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, but this magnificent crater is totally worth a visit.

You will be dazzled to see the vistas of this volcanic wonderland, particularly the display of orange and brown on the crater’s eastern wall.

There is a 1.5-mile loop trail that allows you to hike around the rim. You can gaze upon the crater from the parking area too.

8. Mysteriously Wandering Rocks of Racetrack Playa

Racetrack Playa is a flat, dry lakebed in the northwestern part of Death Valley. The main highlight of Racetrack Playa is its mysteriously gliding rocks.

Some of the rocks are huge weighing as much as 700 pounds (320 kilograms). When these rocks move across the playa surface, they leave long, visible trails behind them.

Wandering Rocks in Death Valley

Although Racetrack Playa is one of the most interesting things to see in Death Valley, getting there is not so easy.

It is roughly 83 miles away from Furnace Creek and the last 27-mile drive is via a rough gravel road. So, you will need a high clearance vehicle to access this road.

And, make sure to take plenty of water and some snacks with you.

9. Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

The Charcoal kilns are remnants from Death Valley’s mining days.

Constructed in 1877 by a mining company, these beehive shaped structures were used in producing charcoal from wooden logs.

Charcoal was the fuel of choice for smelting metals like lead and silver from their ores.

wildrose charcoal kilns
Image: Ken Lund

The Charcoal Kilns are one of the coolest things to see in Death Valley National Park. There are ten of them symmetrically laid out in a row.

This historic feature is found in upper Wildrose Canyon at an elevation of more than 6,500 feet. It is roughly 62-mile drive from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

10. Harmony Borax Works

Famed for its twenty mule teams, Harmony Borax Works was one of the earliest commercial mines in Death Valley.

It was set up in the 1880s after the discovery of Borax deposits near the Furnace Creek area.

harmony borax works - mining remains

The wagons pulled by the mule teams transported borax out of Death Valley to Mojave where the nearest railhead was located.

The mining company winded up just after 6 years of operations, however, the image of twenty mule teams remained etched on people’s memory.

Visit this site to take a peek at Death Valley’s mining past and learn about its history. Besides the ruins of the borax plant, there is a well-preserved wagon on display.

11. Dark Night Sky And Stargazing

Untainted by light pollution, Death Valley National Park is a fantastic place to watch night skies. The artificial lighting in the park is restricted to protect its true darkness.

night sky - death valley
Image: Steve Walser

The International Dark-Sky Association has designated Death Valley National Park as a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park (the highest rating of darkness).

Some of the very best locations to stargaze in the park include Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Harmony Borax Works, Ubehebe Crater, and Dante’s View.

If you have planned a night of stargazing in Death Valley, consider visiting during the New Moon phase.

It’s when the moon is not shining, the sky is the darkest and you can see more stars. Bring along a pair of binoculars for a close-up of the night sky.

The park also offers ranger-led stargazing tours during winter and spring. You can check the schedule and tour details in the park’s calendar.

How To Get There

The best way to get to Death Valley is by private vehicle. The park doesn’t have any public transportation or shuttle services.

How To Get To Death Valley From Las Vegas

There are several routes you can take. But the most direct route is through Pahrump, NV to Death Valley Junction.

Other routes to drive to Death Valley include:

  • Interstate 95 to Amargosa and then Highway 373 to Death Valley Junction.
  • Interstate 95 to Beatty, NV and then Highway 374 into the park

The approximate drive time from Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park is 2 to 2.5 hours.

How To Get To Death Valley From Los Angeles

Take Interstate 10 or 210 to Interstate 15 to Baker, then Highway 127 to Highway 190 into Death Valley. It can take between 4 to 4.5 hours.

The Closest Airport To Death Valley

The major closest airport to Death Valley is Las Vegas McCarran Airport (officially renamed Harry Reid International Airport). From the airport, you will drive 120 miles to get to Death Valley National Park.

Approximate Drive Time From Other Major Destinations

  • San Francisco: 7.5 hours
  • Yosemite National Park: 6 hours
  • Sequoia National Park: 5.5 hours
  • Grand Canyon South: 7 hours

Best Time To Visit

Spring (March-April) and Fall (October-November) months are the best for visiting Death Valley. The weather is pleasant in both seasons.

Wildflower bloom is an added attraction in spring. This also means that all popular spots in Death Valley will be crowded.

If you are looking to escape the crowds, winter may be the right time for you. While the nights are chilly, daytime temperatures are comfortable ranging from the high 60s°F to low 70s°F.

Summer is the least optimal season to visit due to the scorching desert heat.

Further Reading

For more national parks travel inspiration, please read some of these posts.

Top 10 National Parks in The United States.

10 Must-see Attractions in Yosemite National Park.

12 of The Best Attractions in Yellowstone National Park.

Southern California’s 3 Best National Parks.

10 Attractions in Joshua Tree National Park That You Shouldn’t Miss.

Best Things To See in Zion National Park.

10 Facts About Zion National Park That Will Surprise You.

10 Best Attractions in The Grand Canyon.

12 Interesting Facts About Grand Teton National Park.

Over To You Now…

Hope our travel guide with the best things to see in Death Valley has given you a fair idea of what to expect and will help you plan your trip.

What are your favorite views and viewpoints in this national park? Tell us in the comments below.

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