15 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

15 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

Working our way down our road trip list, we decided to camp in Death Valley National Park while it was still spring. One of our friends we were traveling with had been before and knew all the best photo spots. We arrived late afternoon and quickly realized how hot it was there! Death Valley holds the record for the highest recorded temperature on earth of 134 °F, and it was living up to its name.

Friends, Death Valley weather is no joke! We went in late April and at sea level, it was around 100 degrees. Luckily, we weren’t camping at sea level and every 1000 ft above sea level, the temperature dropped 5 degrees. It’s is also a large park and within 2 days we drove over 100 miles to get around. Click the links below for more photos and info!

9 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park California // localadventurer.com
15 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley

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Last Updated: August 17, 2019.  First Published: May 23, 2013

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Essential Tips / What You Need to Know Before You Visit

  • Death Valley is the largest National Park outside of Alaska covering 3.4 million acres. There are almost 1000 miles of paved an dirt roads giving you access to popular and remote locations.
  • Pick up an America the Beautiful National Park Pass to save money on future visits.
  • Cellphone access within the park is very limited. For your best chance to get service, head to Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells.
  • You can purchase wifi in Furnace Creek at The Oasis at Death Valley or the Death Valley Lodging Company in Stovepipe Wells.
  • Although it’s a massive park, there is only one Visitor Center at Furnace Creek.
  • During the summer, it is recommended that every person has at least one gallon of water per day.
  • Light, long-sleeved clothes can help protect you from the sun. It’s also good to have layers if you plan on exploring higher elevations.
  • Do not hike in low elevations when the temperatures are hot. Head to the mountains if you want to get on the trail.
  • Stay on paved roads in the summer.
  • Don’t reach into places where you can’t see. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, or black widows may be hiding out.
  • If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or a headache, get out of the sun and hydrate. Damp clothes can help you lower your body temperature.
  • Avoid canyons during rainstorms. Flash floods can happen.

When to Visit Death Valley

  • Death Valley is an International Dark Sky Park. Visit during the new moon to see an amazing showing of stars. Some of the best spots to view the night sky are Harmony Bora works, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and Badwater Basin.
  • Death Valley is best known for its heat. It is the hottest place on earth. The summer season runs from May to September with temperatures well over 100°F, and often over 120°F.
  • The Fall season doesn’t start until late October. It is still warm, but much more manageable. Winter is cool during the day and cold at night. At higher elevations, you may find snow too.
  • Spring is the most popular season for the park. Besides the warm weather and sunny days, wildflowers bring in a lot of visitors.

15 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

Coordinates: 36.363676, -116.802634, map

A scenic drive and views from the parking lot. The view requires no hiking, but you can venture further in if you want.

Artists Palette (9 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park California) // localadventurer.com

Trailhead Coordinates: 36.281023, -116.769909, map

A 2 mile round trip hike through a canyon. Worth the easy walk.

Natural Bridge (9 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park California) // localadventurer.com

Coordinates: 36.230210, -116.767388, map

The lowest elevation in the US (282ft below sea level). Also extremely hot! If you dare, you can even taste a bit of the salt.

Badwater Basin (9 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park California) // localadventurer.com

4. Furnace Creek

Coordinates: 36.462124, -116.866556, map

Get on their cell service if you need it. We ate lunch at the 49ers Cafe. It’s the only restaurant in in sight for miles. It’s definitely overpriced, but the Hiker’s Pasta was decent and filling. Again, it’s the only thing available. Also, we bought a patch souvenir at their souvenir shop.

Coordinates: 36.220834, -116.726607, map

Dante’s View is along the Black Mountains where it gives you a panoramic view of Death Valley. Viewpoints are only a short walk from the parking lot.

Dantes View (9 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park California) // localadventurer.com

Coordinates: 36.265815, -117.188182, map

These are free campsites that are great for car camping. There’s a pit toilet (like a porta potty) and also a spigot outside to use.

Coordinates: 36.615297, -117.113130, map

We headed here around 10:30AM the next day. It’s incredible how there’s a desert in the middle of the different mountain ranges. It seems so out of place! We starting walking onto the dunes and before we knew it, we could barely see the cars.

Note: Don’t forget your water. It is extremely hot during most parts of the year, and you will suffer without your water.

Mesquite Flats (9 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park California) // localadventurer.com

Coordinates: 36.420149, -116.812215, map

Originally, we wanted to take sunset photos at Zabriskie Point. Since everything was so far apart in Death Valley, we didn’t make it back in time. We decided to end our trip at Zabriskie Point instead.  It was a beautiful view and we regretted not making it there for sunset. Next time we also want to hike through the badlands from here.

Zabriskie Point (9 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park California USA) // localadventurer.com

9. Devil's Golf Course

Coordinates: 36.3282724,-116.864449, map

The Devil’s Golf Course got its name from a guidebook back in the 1930s that stated: “Only the devil could play golf on such a surface.” Since its elevation is several feet above Badwater, this area has remained dry and the weather has sculpted the salt into crazy formations.

10. Ubehebe Crater

Coordinates: 37.0099504,-117.45857, map

Ubehebe Crater is 600 feet deep and a half-mile across. You can appreciate it from the parking lot or hike to the bottom. Keep in mind that the walk down is easy, but coming back up can be exhausting. There is also a trail around the rim that is roughly 1.5 miles. Along the way, you’ll see other small craters including Little Hebe.

11. Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

Coordinates: 36.2465834,-117.0784878, map

Ten beehive-shaped kilns stand 25 feet high giving you a glimpse into history. Completed in 1877, these kilns were used by silver miners. We saw similar kilns in Nevada during our road trip through the state.

Coordinates: 36.681547, -117.562620, map

The Racetrack is a dry lake bed known for its strange moving rocks. I’ve always wanted to do astrophotography here, but this is one we did not get to do because we weren’t equipped with the right car.

Note: Must have a 4×4 and high clearance vehicle. The road is rough and remote. If you get a flat, it’s not likely you will find others there to help you.

The Racetrack Playa Death Valley National Park California USA

13. Golden Canyon

Coordinates: 36.4213541,-116.8552173, map

This is one of the most popular hikes in Death Valley. The 3-mile roundtrip hike takes you through large canyons to the Red Cathedral at the end. Fans of Star Wars may also recognize the mouth of the canyon as “Jawa Canyon” from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. They shot a bunch of other scenes in the canyon too.

14. Salt Creek Interpretive Trail

Coordinates: 36.5915665,-116.9955217, map

This is an easy 0.5 mile hike along a wooden boardwalk. It’s open year-round and if you visit between November and May, you’ll find water flowing. Between February and April, you might see Salt Creek Pupfish spawning too.

Pro Tip: If you’re looking to get away from the crowds, there’s a sandy footpath at the furthest point of the boardwalk.

15. See the Superbloom

Spring is one of the most popular seasons to visit Death Valley because of the weather, but mostly because you might see the amazing wildflowers blooming in the park. The conditions have to be just right, but when they are, the superbloom is spectacular. Check this page for the latest updates.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that the timing of the superbloom is different at higher elevations.

More Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

  • Eureka Dunes – more remote, but cleaner dunes than Mesquite.
  • Father Crowley Point
  • Keane Wonder Mine
  • Mosaic Canyon
  • Rainbow Canyon
  • Twenty Mule Team Canyon Drive
  • Wildlife – Find desert kit foxes at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Death Valley Hikes From Easy to Difficult

All the hikes are out and back and mileage and time needed is round trip unless specified as a loop or point to point hike.

What to Pack for Death Valley

What's Nearby

Distances are from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

  • Amargosa Opera House (30.6 mi SE, 35 min, map)
  • Rhyolite Ghost Town (37.7 mi N, 50 min, map)
  • Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (42.8 mi E, 50 min, map)
  • Tecopa Hot Springs (65.3 mi SE, 1 h 15 min, map)
  • China Ranch Date Farm (75 mi SE, 1 h 30 min, map)
  • Dumont Dunes (83.2 mi SE, 1 h 30 min, map)
  • Trona Pinnacles (111 mi, 2 h 20 min, map)
  • Manzanar National Historic Site (115 mi W, 2 h 10 min, map)

Death Valley Hotels

Death Valley National Park Camping

There are 9 campgrounds in Death Valley. During the summer (May to September), only a few are open since it’s so hot. Even at midnight, temperatures can be over 100. All sites during the summer are first-come, first-serve so it can get really busy during holiday weekends.

From October to April, it is rare that all campgrounds fill up in Death Valley. All of the sites are first-come, first-serve except for Furnace Creek Campground. 

Here is a list of campgrounds:

  • Furnace Creek (open year-round) – 136 sites, 18 hookups
  • Sunset (Oct – May) – 270 sites
  • Texas Springs (Oct – May) – 92 sites
  • Stovepipe Wells (Oct – May) – 190 sites
  • Mesquite Spring (open year-round) – 30 sites
  • Emigrant (open year-round) – 10 tent-only sites
  • Wildrose (open year-round) – 23 sites
  • Thorndike (open year-round) – 6 sites (requires high clearance)
  • Mahogany Flat (open year-round) – 10 sites (requires high clearance)

Read all camping rules and regulations here.

The trip was a great first taste of Death Valley. We’re going to have to wait until winter before we go again. At least, now we know what’s on the agenda for next time.

What’s the hottest temperature you’ve ever experienced? Can you think of any other fun things to do in Death Valley National Park?

Did you enjoy this post? Pin it for later

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9 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park California // localadventurer.com

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15 Incredible Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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This Post Has 26 Comments

    1. there are! we haven’t seen them yet in death valley, but apparently they will come up to the campgrounds because they’re curious and attracted to campfires.

  1. there is nothing to do in this fucking park other than die from heat stroke

  2. Great list! If you guys come back through Vegas I’d be happy to take you out to the Sailing Stones. They are incredible.

    1. We would love to go!! We’re considering moving back actually.

  3. Is it dangerous to drive there in August?

  4. My bf and I are going from the 3-10 Jan 2018 camping at furnace creek. Looking for some good day trips also.

    1. Was it hard to get a campsite with hookups I’m Furnace creek . We are coming in Nov . 2018

    2. Hey Bonnie S Porter,

      My hubby and i are heading there in January 2019… any tips? How was the weather? We’ll be doing a day trip from Vegas, hoping to do Ubehebe Crater, the sand dunes and Badwater basin before heading back! is this doable?

      1. I’m planning to go Jan 2019 as well with my mom and sister. I’d love to know as well!

  5. Thanks for the tips. Im going in February for 4 days. Cant wait.

    1. You’re welcome, Ronnie. Hope you have a wonderful trip! It’s going to be amazing in Feb.

      1. Is this Esther and Jacob website. . .? I would like you help for a trip along the west coast from Seattle to Death Valley in March of this year please a road trip and we are in our seventies

    2. Did y’all see a lot of SNAKES

  6. A very detailed and complete guide. Thanks a lot for the information.

    1. Thank you, Rushabh. If you’re visiting, I hope you enjoy your time there. :)

  7. I used to live in Death Valley while working a seasonal job at Stovepipe Wells Village, right down the road from the sand dunes. I saw 136 degrees last summer! It was no joke. 115-120 on the regular throughout the summer months. And we had the once a summer thunderstorm and our power was out for 3 days. Talk about hot!

    1. That is so insane!! I can’t believe I was complaining about not having AC in San Diego while we lived there. haha What did you do to stay cool when your power was out? Did the storm cool down the area at all?

  8. Wow! Amazing photos. Thanks for sharing with us and love to hear more…

    1. thank you!

  9. i enjoyed every one of the photos. very inspiring! i must visit.

    1. thank you so much! :)

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