Dan and I journeyed to Death Valley this past February and it was completely stunning. Shame on me for not knowing this but when I thought of Death Valley, I had always imagined it to be just a vast desert with tumbleweeds blowing by every hour. I could not have been more wrong! We saw so many different colors, landscapes, and interesting places. We went in February which is during peak season and it was sunny but quite cold. The average annual rainfall is 2.36 inches… Therefore, it’s not likely you will get rained out of any outdoor activities :). You do need to bring lots of water though since there aren’t many places to fill up your water bottles.
We had a goal in mind of going for walks and exploring photography so if those are of interest to you, here is what our itinerary looked like and is absolutely possible in 4 days:
- Day 1
- Rented a car in Vegas and drove to Death Valley. The drive is beautiful! It took us about 2.5 hrs. Pro-tip: make sure to check what time the rental car company opens if you go this route, we flew in early in the morning and had to wait (not long) for the company to open up to get the car.
- Stopped at Zabriskie Point on the way in as well as a few other unmarked spots for photos.
- Checked into The Ranch at Death Valley. This hotel is OK. It’s in a great location but for how expensive it is, not worth it. Hopefully some of the money goes back to the park. The Oasis is a really upscale hotel in the park which looks really fancy and then there are campgrounds so there are three spectrums of choices to choose from. Camping would be really fun but the temperatures are sort of extreme in both directions so I was glad we ended up in hotel after we saw the campgrounds were sold out.
- Went for sunset at Badwater Basin which was awesome!! You can walk for miles and miles around the lowest point in North America.
- Day 2
- Sunrise at Zabriskie Point. This spot is great. Easy to access by car with a parking lot and you can walk up a short path to enjoy the view or hike around.
- Second stop was the Mesquite Sand Dunes. Quite a bit of walking and trying to walk uphill in sand but very beautiful. We enjoy hiking so it was fun to get out in the dunes and see a sea of the beautifully soft rolling hills. We also saw a big group of kids who brought sleds and they were having a blast. That was really fun to see.
- We ended with a sunset at the Ubehebe Crater. Very unique and beautiful spot to see and hike around! I should mention this full day entailed a lot of driving to each point of interest so just FYI in case you suffer from car sickness.
- Day 3
- We rented a jeep from Farabee’s Jeep Rentals. Very friendly staff, extremely easy to rent, and very close to the campgrounds and the Ranch where we were staying. They gave us maps and explained all of the places we could potentially take the jeep. That helped us decide to go on an adventure through a long, 4WD drive through Titus Canyon which was amazing. Beautiful vistas and it’s a one way drive so you don’t have to worry about any other vehicles coming around blind turns towards you.
- Sunset at The Artist’s Palette. The mineral colors here aren’t as stark as some of the photos you will find online but as soon as the sun dropped and there was a shadow cast on the mounds, the colors really started to pop. It is suggested to come here at sunset and I’d agree with that. You will find many other people here at this time.
- Day 4
- Breakfast and then hike through Golden Canyon Trailhead. Nice and easy with great views of these red cathedrals. So interesting how big some of these features are but fragile. They are all made of minerals and light, sand type materials.
- After the nice morning hike, we packed up and headed on our road trip back to Vegas.
Important things to consider when visiting Death Valley:
- Time of year for temperature purposes.
- Having a car is crucial. Everything is really far apart. On the plus side, there’s a gas station conveniently located near the campgrounds.
- Bring your own food and water. This isn’t a necessity but I wish we would have. There are stores and a few restaurants in the park but they cost a bit more and the quality isn’t great. In fact, I got a stomach bug from one of the restaurants so I wish we would have brought a lot more snacks to make on our own. Also, when we’d drive to each different location, we hardly ever encountered water fill stations. That’s not common in a desert type of environment like it is in mountain settings.
- What you want to see in what time frame. The park is massive so figure out what are the top sights you want to see and try to map it out by location.
- Logistics are key. There are very few places to stay actually inside the park so you will need to book in advance especially if you are going during peak time (mid-Oct to mid-May). This also goes for activities like renting a jeep or booking a tour. I would say this park was not as busy as Yosemite is in the Summer but I think that’s just the nature of how spread out Death Valley is.
OK if you made it through all of that, now you will see some of these amazing places through a few photos I snapped.
Zabriskie Point at sunrise
Jeep adventure through Titus Canyon.
Hike through the canyons that lay below Zabriskie Point called Golden Canyon Trailhead.
The drive in as we started to see interesting features pop up, we’d pull over to explore and take photos.
The Artist’s Palette was easy to access and the colors were stunning!You can hike around in The Artist’s Palette which is so fun to get up close to the beautiful pastel colors.
Here’s Dan hiking another mound near the Artist’s Palette to get an elevated photo.
The Mesquite Sand Dunes.
The texture of the Ubehebe Crater was so unique.
More views driving out of Death Valley.
There were of course a few more things we could have seen in the park but I was happy with the amount of time we spent there and all of the locations we went to. It was a trip well worth it!