Death Valley is a park that continues to capture my heart, where mountains spring from the valley floor, towering over the lowest point in the U.S. and displaying alien like rock formations in a variety of colors. It is one of those parks where you suddenly feel small, but in the most inspiring way.
Straddling the border of California and Nevada, Death Valley National Park prides itself in holding the title of the largest national park in the lower 48 states and sports a variety of terrain such as salt flats, dunes, badlands, canyons, and more.
Competing against parks such as Yosemite and Joshua Tree in California, Death Valley is often not the park that comes to mind. This is by far one of the most underrated parks in the Golden State and one I frequently encourage others to visit. With that, here are my personal top 5 things to do Death Valley. There are many things to do in this park and I have yet to check out everything, so use this as a rough guideline for your next trip.
1. Zabriskie Point
Located just a quick drive from Furnace Creek and with only a short walk to an incredible view, this is a must do for anyone visiting the park. This viewpoint offers stunning views of badlands that vary in color as white salt flats and snow capped mountains loom in the distance. The best time to visit this spot is at sunrise as the soft light accentuates the unique terrain perfectly.
The first time I visited Death Valley, we did a one day trip, but my second time we made a two day trip out of it. The extra time allowed us to explore the park a bit more and made it easier to catch sunrise, which is a must as the park is even more stunning before the harsh light hits it later in the morning. Death Valley is also known for its dark skies and camping allows you take advantage of the lack of light pollution. But overall, camping is one of my favorite activities and is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life — I recommend doing this at every park.
*TAKEN BY MELANIE KIM (WHILE I WAS KNOCKED OUT)*
3. Badwater Basin
Deemed the lowest point in North America with an elevation of 282 feet consists of a small spring-fed pool of “bad water,” not only making it undrinkable, but also giving it its name. Although this is technically not the lowest point in the park, this location is easier to traverse and allows you to walk out for a closer view of the salt flats. Prepare for some chilly weather if it is winter or blistering heat in the summer at this particular location, but despite the extreme temperatures, it is a must see.
*TAKEN BY MELANIE KIM*
4. Dante’s View
Named after Dante Alighieri, the author of Dante’s Divine Comedy, this 5,476 foot viewpoint overlooks the valley floor as well as its infamous salt flats. Textured mountains rise from the valley floor as the white salt flats appear as streams running through the valley and snowy mountains parallel the viewpoint. Only a short drive up from one of the main roads, once there, visitors can take several hiking trails including one with picnic benches to enjoy your lunch.
5. Amargosa Cafe
Although not located in the park, this quaint cafe is located in a small town right outside the valley. We stopped by to enjoy a cup of tea before hitting the road for the long drive back and I recommend this quick stop to anyone looking for a hearty meal or a caffeine boost.