Death Valley National Park

Location: California

Park Tally: 51/59

Orientation: Located in the Mojave Desert, Death Valley National Park is the hottest, driest, and lowest region in the United States. Visitors are mesmerized by otherworldly landscapes of sand dunes, salt flats, badlands, lake-beds, trickling creeks and fields of wildflowers. Death Valley draws crowds of stargazers, hikers, bikers, runners, photographers, birdwatchers, scientists, artists and road-trippers – it’s quite the eclectic bunch!

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Death Valley is open year-round but most visitors explore the park during winter months. Summer brings very hot (and often dangerous) temperatures, with fall and spring offering more manageable conditions. The park has numerous areas to explore, with Furnace Creek, Panamint Springs, and Stovepipe Wells being the most popular sections.

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Most iconic view:  One of the most visited regions of the park is Badwater Basin. This unique area is situated at the lowest point in North America and can be easily accessed from the Furnace Creek section of the park. Badwater Basin sits at 282-feet below sea level and has a range of options for exploring, including short trails and viewing platforms. Be sure to walk out on the salt flats!

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Accessible activity:  Zabriskie Point is another iconic location in Death Valley National Park, and also one that is accessible to all visitors. Zabriskie Point Overlook can be reached via a paved .1-mile trail, though the slightly steep grade should be factored in for those who are non-ambulant. Zabriskie Point is best experienced at sunrise for incredible views of rolling mountains and colorful badlands. We also enjoyed a short stroll through the picturesque landscape via the Badlands Loop Trail (2.5-miles).

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For the adventurous: Anyone who has completed a sand dune hike knows how tiring it can be! Death Valley has numerous options for dune hiking, with our favorite being the Mesquite Sand Dunes. Best explored in the early morning or afternoon to avoid midday heat, Mesquite allows for a customized adventure. Hikers can wander as far or as little as they please, though should always be prepared with ample drinking water, sun protection, route finding devices/maps, and emergency items.

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Best photo opportunities: Death Valley National Park is extremely photogenic. Astrophotographers come from all over to world to capture the deep starry skies of the park. Our favorite shooting locations for sunrise were Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin and Dante’s Point. The Mesquite Sand Dunes were extremely photogenic at sunset – plus we were lucky enough to capture the full moon rising over the dunes, definitely an unforgettable experience.

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Quick facts

  • Death Valley became a National Monument in 1933, and was later designated Death Valley National Park in 1994.
  • At 3.4 million acres, Death Valley is the largest national park in the lower 48 states and has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve. Approximately 91% of the park is designated wilderness.
  • Death Valley has been home to Native Americans for more than 1000 years, originally known as the Panamint Shoshone but now known as the Timbisha people. Artifacts have been found dating back 9000 years, indicating human presence even before the Panamint Shoshone people.
  • The highest ambient air temperature ever recorded on the earth’s surface was in Furnace Creek in 1913, at 134°
  • Death Valley is considered the driest region in the Unites States, with no rain recorded at all in the year of 1929!
  • Animals found within the park include over 300 bird species, lizards, snakes, road runners, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, and more.
  • Death Valley is a popular movie shooting location, including Star Wars.
  • The cover art of U2’s album The Joshua Tree was taken at Zabriskie Point.
  • In 2016, Death Valley National Park had 1,296,283 visitors according to the National Park Service.

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