Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the nation. With the exception of Alaska, it boasts more than 3 million acres of federally protected land areas of wilderness, sand dunes, canyons, salt flats, and mountains. There is so much adventurous territory to explore, scramble, and trek through. And on top of that, you can even take a tour of the locations where Star Wars was filmed! Here is my list of what to see in Death Valley in one day.
With an average temperature of 100 degrees, it is considered the hottest place on earth. Which isn’t too bad considering it is the desert. Death Valley is an incredible place to experience. Hiking through colorful canyons, scrambling over and through badlands, or witnessing unobstructed views of ridges and valleys; this place will not disappoint.
You might ask the question: “An adventure in the middle of the desert in Death Valley, California, what?” My response is yes! This national park is spectacular to explore and enjoy the colorful rolling hills and mountains that surround you.
Our day trip to Death Valley was amazing. We prepared for our road trip adventure by packing lunch, water, and servicing the car. Please read about my vehicle prep blog here: Road trip preparation tips.
Our route took us north via State Route 127 from Baker to Shoshone and Death Valley Junction with connections to the park on State Route 178 from Shoshone and connection with California Highway 190 at Death Valley Junction.
Things To See
There are several interesting and historical points of interest in Death Valley. Including the Visitor Center at Furnace Creek where there is an incredible video-movie they offer that portrays several historical and interesting insights into Death Valley.
One of the interesting topics discussed in the movie is that in a particular part of the park, there are several large rocks sitting in the bed of a dry lake. Over time, these stones move and leave a trail in the sand. Scientists are baffled as to how these rocks are moving. Read more about this topic here:
This area of the park is truly remarkable in that it is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level! And the salt flats are amazing! The feeling of a cool twist in the air, with the warming sun, and the ‘extra’ oxygen intake can make you feel like a million bucks!
This scenic drive is spectacular and is a one way drive-through loop that takes you 9 miles between multi colored rolling hills that will have you saying wow!
This area is just a short distance from Artists Drive and is the point where there is a look and observe from a distance, or you can walk out onto some of the rolling hills and scramble through and explore the area.
The badlands and rolling hills painted with golden and reddish hues are everywhere you turn. And with the passage of time and highly active earthquakes and violent waters, this serene setting was submerged under water as it was filled with sparkling lakes.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Rising nearly 100 feet from the Mesquite Flats, these beautiful sand dunes will have you thirsting for more! The dunes are incredible to explore, hike, trek, and climb! This place is a perfect setting for a bridal photo shoot, and we saw folks with cameras and a bridal dress scrambling across the dunes to catch a sunset.
Other Points of Interest
Death Valley carries a lot of history and is still home to the Shoshone Indians. We were able to fit as many things to see here all in one day, but there is much more to explore. Take a look at these highlights that you may wish to explore as well:
- -Scotty’s Castle *A glance into the times during the Roaring 20’s and Great
Depression of the 30’s. (Temporarily closed at this time.-Nov 2018)
- -Furnace Creek Inn *Opened in 1927 by the Pacific Coast Borax Mining Co.
- -Harmony Borax Works *A mine that processed borax ore from 1884 to 1888
- -Keane Wonder Mine *Historical gold mine
- -Death Valley ghost towns and silent ruins
- -Wild Rose Charcoal Kilns *Beehive shaped structures that helped process
silver/lead ore built in 1877.
- -Barker Ranch *Once the ranch was a sanctuary for recreational ranchers.
Did You Know?
Interesting Note: In 1968; Barker Ranch was occupied by the infamous Mansion family for about a year. The family raided the ranch and were later jailed because they vandalized the property.
We had an amazing day at Death Valley National Park as it was full of interesting exploration over badlands and salt basin, painted hillsides along Artists Drive, and an exciting drive through narrow roadways of steep and curvy pathways.
There are invasive burros throughout Death Valley. They are destroying water resources for other animals, stomp around and mess the fragile spring habitat. It is suggested that you do not feed them, do not approach them or exit your vehicle.
As our road trip came to an end, we took a different route for our return trip by taking Panamint Valley Road to Trona Road. The route leads through the mineral mining town of Trona, connecting to US-395 to I-15 South returning home to San Diego.
Off road driving is strictly prohibited!
Camping is available.
Cabins/lodging is available:
The Oasis at Death Valley, Panamint Springs Resort
The park is a great place to ride bicycle. Please note that pets other than service animals, are not allowed in certain areas of the park. Check the website for more specific information before you go.
Find more adventure and take a journey with me through Joshua Tree National Park.
Death Valley brochure.