Death Valley National Park is the largest park in the lower 48 states. With it’s vast amount of land, it has a lot to offer for any type of explorer. It holds the lowest point in North America, desert land, salt flats, canyons, mountains, sand dunes, and much more. Located in southern California on the Nevada border. The park is made of over three million acres, and some of the hottest temperatures in the United States. Mentor Travel has your tips on visiting Death Valley National Park in a day.
Death Valley National Park is accessible from highway 190. It spans east and west, but most come in from the east leaving Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s just over a two hour drive from downtown Las Vegas, and can easily be done. If you’re coming from Los Angeles, it will put you at about four hours to get to Death Valley National Park.
Pro Tip: If you’re coming from Vegas, stop by the Seven Magic Mountains on your way to see some color in the desert.
This National Park is chilly in the winter, with some snow visible on the mountain tops. The summers are extremely hot, with temperatures rising over 120 degrees F. Check the weather before your visit, it can change pretty frequently. Bring plenty of food and water, you don’t want to put yourself in a dangerous situation. Bring sun screen, hats, and anything else you can to protect yourself from the sun.
What to See
Now that you’ve made your way to the park and have appropriately prepared for the day trip, you’ll need an expectation on what you’ll see. With amazing views spanning across all 3.4 million acres, you’ll make this a day to remember.
1. Zebriskie Point
While you’re heading west on 190 into the park, the first stop you should check out is Zebriskie Point. It’s part of the Amargosa Range and has an enormous landscape to view. It’s just a short walk up a paved pathway that takes you to a view point over looking tons of what look like wrinkles in the Earth. There is a pathway that takes you down for a closer look, although signs are posted not to venture off the paved pathway.
2. Salt Creek Interpretive Trail
Your next stop will take you further down 190 to the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail. The road in is unpaved, but should be doable for most vehicles. If you don’t feel comfortable taking your car on this road, skip it. But the trail itself is only half a mile long on boardwalks. Depending on the time you visit, you’ll be able to see water down under the boardwalks.
This part was one of the major highlights of the visit for me. It was so awing to see so much sand collected in one place formed into mini mountains throughout the area. There’s a parking lot here to drop you vehicle off at, and the rest is smooth walking. You can climb up the sand dunes for amazing views of the scenery. If you plan ahead, bring a sand board to glide down the dunes in.
4. Devil’s Golf Course
At this point, you’re going to turn around on 190 and head east. You’ll take a right onto Badwater Road to see the second leg of this trip. You can keep going on 190, but since we’re only here for a day, now is a good time to turn around. Devil’s Golf Course will be your first stop on the right. The area is made up of large salt formations that cover the ground for miles and miles. This does make the ground tricky to maneuver, so be careful not to fall. The salt formations are sharp.
5. Badwater Basin
The next stop is one of the major attractions to the park: Badwater Basin. It’s popularity is due to it’s elevation. This point is 282 feet below sea level, making it one of the lowest points in the world and the lowest point in North America. There’s a short boardwalk trail you can walk on before heading onto the salt bed just past it. If you look towards the road, you’ll see a sign that shows you where sea level is compared to your location.
6. Natural Bridge
Now, you’ll head back on Badwater Road towards 190. On the right, you’ll see a turn off for the Natural Bridge Trail. You’ll take this 13 mile road up and park in the lot. The trail is a mile long and takes you to a unique rock formation that creates a natural bridge over the trail. It’s a really nice change in scenery at this point. You go from seeing vast landscapes to tight crevices and rocks as tall as buildings.
7. Artist Drive Loop
Moving on from the Natural Bridge Trail, you’ll continue north on Badwater Road until you see a sign for the Artist Drive Loop. It will be on the right side of the road and take you on a nine mile one way road around some beautiful sites of the park. It dips you back onto Badwater Road a bit further north. On the loop, you’ll see multi-colored hills and cliff sides. The color comes from volcanic left overs and sediment. One of the major attractions on the road include Artist’s Palette, a point on the road with amazing colors.
Once you’ve hit all of the above attractions, this marks the end of the day trip to Death Valley National Park. The park itself is enormous and has so much more to explore if you have more time. If you’re only able to spare a day, this is the best arrangement of attractions to see in the park. Whether you have a few days or a few hours, Death Valley National Park is worth the visit.
Let us know in the comments below what your favorite part of the park is. Contact us if you have any further questions about planning your next trip!