Death Valley National Park Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Death Valley National Park Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes photo by John Bruckman on Flickr

People from all over the world are drawn to Death Valley because of the incredible diversity of its landscape, all contained in one massive National Park. The landscape of Death Valley is the roughest and severest in the country, containing salt flats, sand dunes, valleys, canyons, badlands, and mountains. It is the lowest, the hottest, and the driest area in North America. In the summer, temperatures reach record highs. The Visitors Center is located in Furnace Creek where a large odometer tracks the wild temperatures.

Death Valley earned its name in the 1800’s when a group of pioneers became lost in the area, believing they would die before making it out. Luckily for them, they were rescued, and it’s believed that only one person from their group died. According to legend, as the pioneers went to leave, one man turned over his shoulder and said, “Goodbye, Death Valley.”

Death Valley in the summertime attracts adventurous people from all over the world who come to experience extreme heat that can’t be felt anywhere else! Summertime temperatures begin as early as May and can quickly soar into the triple digits, getting as hot as 120-130 degrees. What exactly does that feel like? Imagine the perpetual blast of hot air like the heat that radiates from an open oven or blows out of a hairdryer. Death Valley in the summertime is not for the faint of heart.

Summer Safety
It is highly recommended that visitors avoid hiking or strenuous activities during summer, except for early in the morning. It’s also important to drink plenty of water when sightseeing and hiking, never stray too far from your car. During those hot summer days, it’s a good time to relax in the lodge’s spring-fed pool, check out the Visitors Center and exhibits. Early risers can play a game of golf in the morning at the Furnace Creek Golf Course, which holds the world record for being a golf course at the lowest elevation level.

Car Testing Conditions
Hot weather brings cool cars to Death Valley. Auto manufacturers have to test their cars under extreme conditions, making Death Valley a top destination. You’re likely to see next season’s hottest new models zipping around the National Park during your summer stay.

Star Gazing at the Sand Dunes
When the sun sets at night, venture over to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes where you can lie back and stargaze. Too hot to visit during the day, the sand dunes are still quite warm at night, but the temperatures are bearable.

Death Valley National Park Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Death Valley National Park Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes photo by John Bruckman on Flickr

Fall in Death Valley is a great time to explore some of its famous lookouts and tour some of its historical towns.

Badwater Basin
Badwater Basin is a must-see for visitors of Death Valley. The basin is made up of 200 square miles of salt flats and sits at 282 feet below sea level. This makes it not only the lowest point in Death Valley but also the lowest spot in all of North America. The salt flats also qualify as the largest protected salt flats in the world.

Dante’s View
Follow a gentle, paved road all the way up to Dante’s View for an unforgettable panoramic view of the entire valley! A scenic drive up to the lookout, this is a great place to view wildflowers as they can cover the hillsides during a good year. Dante’s View is located 5,000 feet above Death Valley and offers some of the most breathtaking views imaginable.

Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point, located near the aptly named Furnace Creek area, is situated amongst the scattered vibrantly colored badlands. This spot is one of the most popular locations for watching the sunset or sunrise.

Ghost Towns
As hard as it may be to imagine, Death Valley has been home to a number of small towns, most unoccupied since the early 1900’s. The towns, such as Ballarat, came about as the result of miners moving to the area. Another town, Panamint City, a harsh place to live, was founded by outlaws on the run. The remnants of these towns can still be toured today. In Rhyolite, a town 35 miles from the Visitor’s Center, the remains of a 3-story bank, a train depot and jail still stand.

Considered by some as the only sane time to visit, winter offers mild temperatures that allow visitors to peacefully explore the valley.

Winter Wildflowers
While luscious wildflowers coat the hillsides during the Springtime, flowers can be found in Death Valley even during the winter.

Artist’s Palette and Artist’s Drive
Brighten your winter with a tour through the gorgeous Artist’s Drive Loop. Here, you can spot lingering wildflowers and view an array of hues scattered through the hills of volcanic and sedimentary rock. The foothills are adorned with rich colors in stark contrast to the brown desert floor. The Artist’s Palette is a great place to watch the sunset. The landscape can be seen changing colors as the light shifts and sinks below the horizon.

Hiking Spots
The best time for hiking in Death Valley is from October through April. The season’s mild temperatures make the best time to explore some of Death Valley’s most admired sites. However, many of the trails are not man-made and can be a bit rocky so be sure to wear proper hiking shoes. For a quick and pleasant hike, check out Natural Bridge Canyon or Mosaic Canyon where “mosaics” of rocks pieces decorate the canyon walls. For a more adventurous hike, try Death Valley Buttes or Fall Canyon.

Death Valley in the springtime is famous for drawing photographers to its vibrant badlands and flower-covered hills.

The Bloom
Death Valley is a hot spot for photographers looking to capture photos of beautiful wildflowers. During a good year, Death Valley is in full bloom, filled with a sea of bright, vibrant hues, with fragrant aromas wafting through the warm air. There are always flowers to find during the Spring, and some of the other months as well, but for a full, impressive bloom, the rainfall, wind, and sunlight have to come together just right!

Peak Periods
Flowers bloom all year long in Death Valley, but spring is certainly the best time to see them! You can usually find different websites online that track the bloom and show you the best place to find the type of flower you’re looking for!

February – April: In the foothills and areas with lower elevations, you can find species like the Bigelow Monkeyflower, Golden Evening Primrose or the Desert Gold.

April – May: At mid-high level elevations, you can find wildflowers strewn through canyons, valleys, and slopes. The Desert Dandelion, Indigo Bush and Mojave Aster are in full bloom during this time. The best places to check are along Daylight Pass Road, Dante’s View road or the Big Pine Road.

May – July: As the summer months set in and temperatures rise, the best place to find the Desert Mariposa, Purple Sage, or Rose Sage is at elevations higher than 5,000 feet.

Death Valley, a place of true extremes, is a gorgeous place to behold, featuring a diversity of lands to explore. With beautiful wildflowers in the spring and mild temperatures in the winter, Death Valley offers visitors a new experience for every season!