Death Valley National Park 】A full record of summer day trips by car

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park (Death Valley National Park) Located on the eastern edge of California, the 5,270-square-mile park is the sixth-largest national park in the U.S. Spanning the Mojave Desert in both California and Nevada, the park is known for its breathtaking desert landscapes and mystical colors. The park features a variety of geological formations, including salt marshes, sand dunes, canyons and mountain ranges. Some of the most famous landmarks include the Bad water basin, the lowest point in North America, and Devil's golf course.

The attractions of Death Valley National Park can be roughly divided into four areas, including the Furnace Creek Area in the center of the park, the Scotty's Castle area to the north, and the Stovepipe Wells Area and Panamint Spings Area to the west.

Since Las Vegas is only about 2 hours away by car, there are many tours from Las Vegas during the peak season. If you are traveling from Las Vegas, you may want to consider a one-day tour. Day tours usually focus on the Furnace Creek Area, which is one of the most popular areas.

Death Valley National Park | Driving Itinerary & Notes

Our day trip started from Southern California and traveled east via US395 and CA190. In the morning, we entered Panamint Springs area in Death valley from the west, then entered Stovepipe wells area in the east, and drove north to Scotty's Castle in the north. In the afternoon, we headed south to Furnace Creek area, then CA190 to CA160 to Las Vegas Hotel for the day.

Summer is actually the off-season for Death Valley, and we drove to Death Valley as an outpost from Los Angeles to Grand Circle. The advantage of summer is that you can take advantage of the long days of sunshine and compress what would normally be at least a two-day trip into a one-day drive. We took advantage of this and covered all four areas of the park in one day. If you are coming in fall or winter, we recommend splitting the whole trip into two days, and spend more time hiking in cooler weather, preferably staying in the park.

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Death Valley is characterized by being very hot, really very hot, because death valley is famous for its below sea level elevation, sweltering climate and vast desert, so usually there are more tourists coming to death valley in winter or spring. The name "Death Valley" comes from the fact that occasionally in the news, there are tourists who get lost and dehydrated while hiking in Death Valley in hot weather. During summer vacation, the temperature in Death Valley is so high that it is hard to hold the steering wheel when driving, so you need to have some preparation before entering Death Valley, both psychologically and in terms of equipment.

You should always replenish water in Death valley, we prepared three big buckets of water for this trip, and four of us drank almost all of it in the whole day. It is important to note that people should not go hiking in the summer, otherwise it will be dangerous for their lives under the extremely high temperature. When we went there, the temperature was nearly 60 degrees Celsius, and there were warning signs all the way to remind people to be alert to the high temperature. Bring plenty of water and a damp towel when you go outdoors.

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How vast is the desert? Just take a look at the photos, you can tell that the desert has gradually changed from grassland to yellow sand before entering the Death Valley.

Death Valley | Area Attractions

Panamint Springs Area | Father Crowley Vista Point | Rainbow Canyon

Father Crowley Vista Point, the westernmost point, was our first stop. Most of the tourists come to Death valley from Las Vegas direction, so the Panamint springs area, which is farther away from the four areas, is often abandoned. In fact, the scenery here is quite spectacular, Father Crowley Vista Point is one of the must-step attractions. You can see the colorful Rainbow Canyon formed by volcanic rocks without walking from the parking lot, and if you walk along the trail east of the parking lot, you can see the whole Paramint valley.

Stovepipe Wells Area | Mesquite Last Sand Dunes

The main attractions in Stovepipe wells area are Mosaic Canyon and Mesquite Flast Sand Dunes, Mosaic Canyon requires a long unpaved road or hiking up the hill, our sedan is not suitable for the weather and it is too hot, so we decided to give it up and go straight to Mesquite Flast Sand Dunes. Mesquite Flast Sand Dunes: Mesquite Flast Sand Dunes is the most accessible sand dunes in Death Valley National Park, and many people climbed the dunes to play on it, even in the scorching heat, children had a great time playing on the sand. The top of the dune is a colorful desert scene.

Scotty's Castle area

Scotty's castle is at the north end of Death valley, and it takes about 40 minutes to get there. Although there are no named attractions along the way, there are a lot of sand dunes along the way, and the continuous sand dunes are a very rare scenery.

Scotty's Castle

Scotty's castle was built in 1922 and named after Scotty, but Scotty was not a great man, but a con man who cheated Albert Johnson, a wealthy Chicago man, to come to Death Valley to pretend to mine gold. The development of this story is very interesting, Johnson was cheated for a period of time, but after a long time began to suspect, and decided to come to investigate, Scotty this liar is not panic, intending to wait for Johnson can not stand the climate here to leave, but Johnson's physical condition is more special, the hot weather here is actually good for his health, so he stayed for a long time. Therefore, he stayed here for a long time. After living here for a long time, he actually saw through that Scotty was a liar, but he didn't expect that Johnson would become friends with him after the incident, and even decided to build this castle for vacation use. So Scotty, the con man, claims that this is the castle he built with the money he made, and names it Scotty's castle.

Scotty's Castle is currently closed for repairs due to flooding from heavy rains in 2015.

The Visitor Center is located behind the main castle building, which is quite impressive for the heat of the desert.

Scotty's Castle is like an oasis in the Death valley, with surprisingly green trees around the castle and active desert life.

In the garage at the back of the castle, there are still antique cars that Scotty used to drive.

You have to take a guided tour to see the inside of the castle. Although it's not expensive, it's not very popular during the off-season, so we had limited time and could only visit the outside of the castle. From the outside, the inside of the castle looks like this, but if you want to go further inside, you have to take a tour.

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Next to the castle, there is a half-built swimming pool. From the side of the pool, you can follow the road to the back, and above it is the kitchen of the castle. Climb up to the clock tower on the other side of the castle, from which you can enjoy a panoramic view of the whole castle, and turn around and see Scotty's tomb.

Downstairs is the castle's powerhouse, which you can enter to visit.

Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater, not far from Scotty's Castle, is a spectacular caldera, so big you can't see the bottom. The rock wall of the crater was in bright golden color. I don't know if the weather had something to do with it, but we felt the wind was so strong that we were almost blown down, and it took us a lot of effort to capture the golden color of the wall. 

Furnace Creek Area

The Furnace Creek area is one of the most famous and must-see attractions in Death Valley, and is usually the main focus of a typical day trip. If you are considering an overnight stay, this is the best place to stay in Death Valley National Park.

Harmony Borax Works

The first place we reached from north to south was the Harmony Borax Works, a former borax mining area where many Chinese workers used to work hard in the unbearable heat of Death Valley. It's hard to imagine living in such a harsh environment for so long, and knowing that we would get heatstroke if we got off the train for more than 10 minutes, these people had to live here for a long time. Borax was refined here and transported out by train, and we could see many of the remains and tools left behind. 

Golden Canyon

Golden Canyon Trail is sheltered due to the terrain and the trail is not long.Golden Canyon is a long, narrow canyon, and as you walk deeper into the canyon, you'll see a lot of rocks left behind by the people who came before you.

As it was too hot, we only walked until we saw the Red Cathedral and then turned back. Along the way, we could clearly see the color change of the stones. Turning the corner and following the loop will lead us to Gower Gulch, where we can walk all the way to the bottom of Red Cathedral.

Devil's Golf Course

Devil's Golf Course takes its name from a 1934 travel book, in which the author describes the area as "a plane where only devils can play golf". The ground is rugged and covered with a layer of salt crystals. Why are there salt crystals? It's because Death Valley used to be below sea level, then geological changes raised it to become a salt lake, which dried out and became what it is now. 

Devil's Golf Course is a rugged road that is prone to flat tires, so be careful to drive very slowly and carefully.

Badwater Basin

The further south we went, the lower the terrain became. By the time we reached Badwater basin, we were actually standing at 855 meters below sea level. From the parking lot, we could see an indicator of the sea level on the wall next to the parking lot, so that we could have a clearer idea of how low the terrain was.

Like Devil's Golf Course, Badwater Basin is covered with salt because it was once below sea level. However, the salt lake here is still not completely dried up, so we can still see the Badwater pool, which is a stagnant water that is not flowing, and that's the reason why it is named as bad water. Walking along the wooden pallet, you can see the whole Salt Flat, which is the plain formed by the salt. 

Artist's Drive

Artist's drive is a spur road between Golden Canyon Trail and Devil's Golf Course, because it is a one-way road, you have to enter from near Devil's Golf Course. It is a one-way road that enters from near Devil's Golf Course, so it is a good route to turn back into after seeing Badwater Basin. The scenery on this section of the Scenic Drive is really beautiful, so don't miss it.

Artist's Drive is the central and most beautiful viewpoint on Artist's Drive. A palette of color, the brightly colored rocky mountains are arranged together like a painter's palette.

Zabriskle Point

Zabriskle Point is a scenic spot located on the road leading to the east exit. I like this spot very much. I passed by Zabriskle Point just before the sunset, and the light is very beautiful. There is a small walkway, and you can climb up to the high point to get a nice panoramic view. 

Dante's View

Dante's View is said to be the most beautiful spot for sunrise in Death Valley National Park. You have to go through a long steep uphill climb to get here. When we arrived here, it was already after sunset, but the light was still there at dusk, so we climbed up to the edge of the cliff to see the panoramic view of the whole Furnace Creek.  

Further reading

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