After spending a November weekend in Death Valley National Park, I have to say that this may be one of the most underrated national parks. The array of incredible sights from sand dunes and salt flats to creeks and colorful mountains really warrants a visit if you are in the area. Death Valley gets a bad rep since it is one of the hottest places in the world during the summer, but during the fall/winter months the weather is actually really pleasant.
One of our favorite things about the park was that it wasn’t too crowded. Often times national parks have so many visitors that it’s hard to truly enjoy the nature and sights because there are crowds of people at each stop taking pictures. Death Valley National Park wasn’t like that. While there were definitely a good amount of visitors, it was relatively easy to find privacy at each stop to enjoy what the park has to offer.
If you are planning a visit to Death Valley National Park, keep in mind that it is a massive park! For most of the things on our list, it will take a bit of driving to get from point A to point B. With that being said, here are 16 Things To Do in Death Valley National Park:
1. Dante’s View
Dante’s View was our first stop at Death Valley National Park, and this incredible overlook definitely set the tone for a great weekend in the park. A winding steep road will lead you all the way up to the Dante’s View parking lot, which sits at over 5,000 feet high in elevation.
From the parking lot, you can walk on the path along the top of the ridge to get even more beautiful views of the surrounding Black Mountains. In the distance, you can see Mt. Whitney (the tallest mountain in the continental U.S) and down below, you can see Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the U.S.).
2. Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road
No national park experience is complete without a little off-roading, and Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road is the perfect place to do just that. This dirt road is actually in pretty good shape and will lead you through multiple gorgeous canyons and cliffs. There are also plenty of places to pull off the road and hop out of the car to explore a little.
3. Zabriskie Point
Another incredible viewpoint within the park, Zabriskie Point has an observation deck with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and hills. The coolest part about this stop is the folds that are visible in the surrounding hills. Created by erosion, these folds are actually composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up millions of years ago.
4. Hike Golden Canyon Trail
Golden Canyon Trail is great for novice hikers, because the trails are very moderate and well maintained. They also offer incredible views of the surrounding “golden” colored canyons and rock formations. There are a few options here: you can do the shorter 1.5 mile hike to the Red Cathedral (see below), or you can do the 4 mile hike (Gower Gulch Loop).
We opted for the 1.5 mile hike to Red Cathedral and loved it! Along the way, there were tons of side paths that snaked along within the canyon that you could explore.
5. Visit the Red Cathedral
The very aptly named “Red Cathedral” is a huge red rock canyon that you can visit when hiking the Golden Canyon trail. About 1.5 miles from the trailhead, this incredible rock formation is well worth the hike to see in person. The Red Cathedral is so tall, that you can see the top of it from almost a mile out as you hike your way towards it.
6. Furnace Creek Visitor Center
It was too early to stop for sandwiches on our way into the park, so we were super excited to see that the Furnace Creek Visitor Center had very reasonably priced sandwiches and snacks. They also have clean bathrooms, and there is a gas station just down the road!
7. Artist’s Palette
Artist’s Palette is a beautiful rock formation composed of a bunch of vibrant different colors. Caused by the oxidation of metals within the rocks, you won’t want to miss out on this colorful photo opportunity. You can even park up close to the rocks and go hike around on top of them.
8. Devil’s Golf Course
Devil’s Golf Course was one of my favorite stops in the entire park. It is just down the road from Badwater Basin and consists of a large salt pan, rough in texture from the large halite salt crystal formations. It was apparently nicknamed “Devil’s Golf Course” after someone stated that only the devil could play golf here. Ha!
When we were there, a couple was having a wedding photo shoot on the rocks. I wish I could see how the pictures turned out because it is one of the coolest places to take pictures ever. Someone rightfully commented that it was a miracle the bride hadn’t snagged her dress…
9. Badwater Basin
Badwater Basin is the most popular stop in the entire park, and rightfully so. At – 279 feet, this picturesque salt pan is the lowest point in the entire country, and it is less than 100 miles away from the highest point in the entire continental U.S. (Mt. Whitney).
As you walk away from the parking lot towards the mountains in the distance, the light color of the salt almost appears as though you are walking in snow. Seeing this incredible piece of nature in person alone is worth a trip to Death Valley National Park.
For more information and pictures of Badwater Basin (one of the coolest stops in the entire park), visit our blog post: Badwater Basin: Exploring the Lowest Point in North America.
10. Stovepipe Wells General Store
As you are heading toward the Western end of the park, Stovepipe Wells is a great place to stop for a bathroom break or some food. The General Store is equipped with plenty of sandwiches and snacks.
11. Salt Creek Interpretive Trail
This short half mile loop is one of the only places in the park that you can see fresh water. A boardwalk runs along the creek so you are able to easily walk without getting your feet wet.
The Salt Creek is home to the pupfish: an ultra rare endangered species of fish. We didn’t get to see any while we were there, and heard it is better to go in the spring if you are hoping to catch a glimpse of these evasive fish.
12. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are one of the most picturesque places in the entire park. Reaching up to 100 feet high, these soft sand dunes are the perfect place to attempt sand boarding (which we tried and failed at).
Walking barefoot through these massive sand dunes, I felt as though I was in Egypt or somewhere very far away. It’s still unreal to me that we were able to visit sand dunes in Southern California.
13. Mosaic Canyon
While the 2.4 mile road leading to Mosaic Canyon was closed on the day that we went, we still wanted to include it on this list since it is supposed to be incredible. A moderate trail will lead you out to a beautiful picturesque canyon. If the road is open while you are there, take advantage of it and go see this beautiful canyon.
14. Stop in for Pizza at Panamint Springs Resort Restaurant.
We get it. Hiking and exploring can really make you hungry! And if you’re looking for a place to stop in for a bite to eat, there is a pizza/burger restaurant near Stovepipe Wells that actually looked pretty good. It also has great reviews.
15. Darwin Falls
Darwin Falls Trail is a little tricky to get to, because it sits about 3 miles off the main road. You have to take a pretty bumpy dirt road to get out there, and it takes around 15 minutes of drive time one way.
We were already short on time and by the time we got to the trail head, we didn’t actually have time to hike approximately a mile to get to the falls. Still, the falls look like an incredible view and if you have the time (and the 4-wheel drive!), you should definitely try to do this hike.
16. Father Crowley Overlook
Father Crowley Overlook was the perfect way to end our incredible weekend in Death Valley National Park. Located on the western edge of the park, it’s a great last stop before you leave the park if you live further west (i.e. Los Angeles or San Diego).
A short gravel trail will lead you out to the edge of an overlook where you can see the beautiful surrounding mountains. It’s definitely the perfect spot for a picture or two.
Death Valley National Park has a great array of different landscapes, hiking trails, and sights. It’s the perfect park if you are looking to witness beautiful views just a stone’s throw from the parking lot. It’s also very convenient that you can buy food, eat at restaurants, and gas up–all within the park! Just remember to plan your trip in the Fall/Winter months, and we know you’ll have an amazing time.
Did you like this post? Pin it for later!