From the sounds of it, Death Valley seems like it would be the worst place to visit. And that’s kind of how I’ve felt about visiting it until recently I saw some beautiful pictures of Death Valley. My friend and I had the brilliant idea to take a day trip to Death Valley from LA just because. Mind you it is a 4-hour drive both ways, but was actually a very do-able trip. In total, it was a 19-hour trip. We left exhausted, but feeling accomplished since we had seen virtually everything we set out to see.
In the past, I was not one to think the desert and sparse lands to be pretty, but man am I a believer now. Death Valley was absolutely beautiful. It was amazing to see how many different types of environments exist there. One moment you can be standing hundreds of feet below sea level and the next you could be standing at the top of mountain overlooking beautifully colored rock. From sand dunes to salt flats, Death Valley has so much to offer. I’ve put together my list of 5 reasons you should visit Death Valley now. And by now I mean now before it gets too hot. The hottest temperature ever recorded was in Death Valley.
MESQUITE FLAT SAND DUNES
I’ve been wanting to go to Sand Dunes and these ones didn’t disappoint. At first they look a little short. I was expecting something a little taller, but as you start walking on the dunes you realize they are deceivingly higher than expected. You can get quite a workout trying to get up some of the dunes. Your feet start sinking in the hot dunes like they’re in quicksand. If you hike out far enough the dunes seem tall enough to slide down. We even saw a guy walk out with his skis. There are other areas that have larger sand dunes like the Eureka Valley but those are a lot harder to get to.
I was so surprised at how much I enjoyed this view. These mountains don’t look like your typical mountains. They look like a bunch of crazy ripple formations that are a large range of colors. We caught the sunset here and it was definitely breathtaking sight to see. If you’re up to it, once you hike to the top (which only takes a couple of mins), take the dirt path just to the right to walk down to the cliff lookout. If you time it right, you can get an epic picture by yourself with these badlands.
BADWATER BASIN SALT FLATS
This salt flat lays 282 feet below sea level. It’s actually the lowest point in North America. When you walk out onto the salt flats there’s actually a sign on the hill above showing where sea level is. I was really hoping to see the cool hexagonal shaped honeycomb patterns in the salt flats that I’ve heard about but unfortunately I think the amount of people walking on them maybe has caused them to disappear. If you walk a little ways out, you can get some really awesome pictures. It's pretty trippy because it looks like your walking on snow, but it's really salt. And it is indeed very salty. My friend may or may not have kept eating the salt during our walk.
On the way to Badwater Basin take this 3-mile one way scenic drive. It takes you past Artist’s Palette, which is a section of the mountain that has naturally come to look like a giant painter’s palette. You can get out and take a short walk to see it closer, but honestly the view from the road is pretty similar and there are plenty more colorful mountainsides along the drive. It felt like we were on the log ride or splash mountain while on Artists Drive, minus the splash and substituting with high speed winds. Parts of the road were literally just paths carved straight through the mountainside. Such an adventure!
If you want a place to actually see the stars with virtually no city lights, this is the place to do so. We posted up in the parking of the Mesquite Sand Dunes. There was literally an unobstructed view of the entire sky. It was beautiful! The only thing that made it hard to see some of the stars was how brightly the moon was shining!
And if you get a chance, head to
Here you can see the infamous Sailing Stones of Death Valley. It’s probably a good day’s trip so if you’re trying to do a daytrip like I did, this would be the only thing you’d get to see (which is why I unfortunately had to skip). It is a few hours out of the way each way and I’ve read that you need a jeep or SUV to get to it as the path is not a paved road like the rest of Death Valley. The massive boulders seemed to slide across the flat desert floor leaving trails behind them all on their own. There is a scientific explanation as to why but I think it’s more fun to think they magically move on their own.
As I mentioned, it can get extremely hot in Death Valley. Make sure you have tons of water and actually consume a ton of water while you’re here. I was actually worried about drinking too much water and not having any bathrooms nearby, but each destination had outhouses with toilets and toilet paper. Dehydration and sun stroke can hit you hard if you’re not careful. Also, some of the areas can get crazy windy. At Artists Palette and Zabriskie Point, I actually felt like I could lean into the wind and it would hold me up. I also was wearing a hat that almost blew off multiple times. So, fair warning, it gets windy!
Short checklist of things to make sure to bring to Death Valley: water, more water, snacks, sunscreen, hat, and jacket. There aren’t many places to stop for food in the area. The main area to go is Furnace Creek for sustenance and cell service. You won’t have service most of the time. If you’re driving east of Furnace creek, there’s a small Indian reservation that has some good Indian tacos and shave ice. Also, make sure to bring a jacket since it’s a desert the temperature can be hot during the day and chilly at night.
Yours Truly // Shannon