What to see in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park 1

Death Valley National Park: A review of 4 great sites to see!

By Kristi Westberg

My wife Catherine and I went on our first camping trip together in March of this year. When we first met I remember her reminiscing about her many years spent working on archaeology digs in Ireland. She would explain the systematic method of digging holes, how she was always wet or merely damp if she was lucky, and how occasionally she would need to camp on the site. I always listened to these stories with interest and amazement. While also thinking to myself….”digging holes outside in the rain….camping as part of your job…..nope”.

From the time we first met, I’ve always been the one looking up hotel prices and shaking my head at the idea of caravaning (RV-ing for my fellow Americans). We moved to California in Fall of 2015, a move I was VERY excited to make. It was a big adjustment for both of us, but after a year or so we started to really feel the good vibrations as it were.

One thing I will say about Californians is they LOVE the outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that people in every state love the outdoors too, but for some reason, it seems a little more in your face here. My theory is that it’s because California is a “vacation state”. And when you live in a vacation state why not vacation all the time.

This brings me back to our March camping trip. One of Catherine’s dreams has been to go to Death Valley. To be truthful I didn’t necessarily share this dream at first, but after doing a little research I was kind of excited.

Choosing Death Valley National Park as your inaugural camping trip may sound scary…I’ll admit it was a little worrying to willingly drive to a place with DEATH in the name. However, the prospect of seeing lost lakes, sand dunes, volcanic craters and maybe even a fish was too much to resist. If you’re still a little on the fence about visiting Death Valley, allow me to tempt you.

 

4 Things to See in Death Valley:

 

Badwater Basin:

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Make sure to visit the lowest point in North America. At 282 feet below sea level, this unreal landscape will mesmerize your senses with salt flats that stretch out as far as the eye can see. If it’s a little too toasty you can even see them from inside your car, although I wouldn’t recommend it. Walking out onto the snow white pathway and seeing the dry cracked landscape will remind you that this whole area was once under water!

 

Devil’s Golf Course:

Death Valley National Park 3

So-called because “only the devil could play golf on such rough links”. I’m not much of a golf enthusiast, but this endless stretch of rock salt is one of the strangest landscapes I’ve ever seen. After a bit of offroading, you can park further in the course to get a real sense of it surrounding you. According to the park newspaper, you can hear billions of tiny salt crystals bursting apart, making pops and pings. I’ll admit I didn’t hear any myself, but next time I’m there I might put my ear to the ground.

 

Ubehebe Crater:

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Known as a maar volcano, Ubehebe and Little Hebe craters are the result of steam and gas explosions. Unlike an asteroid crater or a volcanic eruption, maar volcanoes are created by steam and gas explosions. As hot magma rises to the surface of the earth it comes into contact with groundwater. The hot magma flash-boils the water creating steam that expands until it reaches the point of explosion, blasting the earth out of its way resulting in a crater. Looking down into the 600 foot deep crater you can see many layers of color within the rock as well another smaller nearby crater, Little Hebe.

 

Artist’s Palette Drive:

There’s nothing quite like a gently curving road with beautiful views to calm the mind. A drive through the deep canyon cut into the Black Mountains will do just that and give you a chance to cool off. Enjoy a southwest palette of colors including, pinks, reds, yellows and greens thanks to the oxidation of metals in the in the rock. This drive is a one-way system which helps even the driver to have a chance to take in the views…while safely keeping their eyes on the road of course.

 

Visiting Death Valley was not on my list of top places to visit. Of course, my close proximity to the desert makes it much more achievable, but after going myself I can honestly say that it’s worth the trip no matter where you are coming from. It’s a strange landscape with lots of quirky character that tells the story of our ever-changing world.

 

Blogger & Multiple Contributor at | Website

Kristi Westberg is a writer, indoorsy camper, hiker and bookworm living in Pasadena, CA.

She is the creator of “Indoorsy Camper” a blog that helps scaredy-cat’s like herself gain the confidence and bravery to get outside.

A self-professed “indoorsy” person, Kristi tries to make camping, hiking and backpacking approachable for everyone.

50 thoughts on “What to see in Death Valley National Park

  • January 3, 2019 at 5:02 am
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    The Death Valley National Park has some amazing places. The landscapes at Badwater Basin and The Devil’s Golf Course seem truly out of this world. The salt flats of Badwater Basin remind me of a similar landscape in the Rann of Kutch, India.

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    • January 5, 2019 at 12:43 am
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      Exactly! The Devil’s Gold Course is totally out of this world! I wouldn’t want to trip and fall in there!

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  • January 2, 2019 at 11:51 am
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    Great post! You made me laugh when you said you weren’t too keen on driving willingly to a place with the word DEATH in it! I’m Chinese so stuff like that don’t sit well with me….very superstitious! I’d love to find out more about how this landscape came to be. I mean, so many strange formations in one single place! Love how because of another person, you got to exprience this since it wasn’t high on your list of places ot visit. I think its very cool!

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    • January 5, 2019 at 12:42 am
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      Thank you! There’s lots of info on the National Parks website about how the landscape came to be, plus at the park there’s a great visitor’s center with really good exhibits. Thank you so much for your kind comment and for your enthusiasm!

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  • January 2, 2019 at 11:06 am
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    I’ve only done camping in areas where there were lots of other people. I know my husband would love this. I have been afraid to consider camping there but your pics and this post have changed my mind.

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    • January 5, 2019 at 12:45 am
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      Fantastic! There were quite a few other campers while we were there. Unless you’re going to backpack deep into the park you should be ok 🙂

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  • January 2, 2019 at 9:57 am
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    I have never thought of visiting Death Valley before, it doesn’t sound very welcoming, does it? But actually after reading this, it sounds quite fascinating . The Artists Palette Drive looks stunning .

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    • January 5, 2019 at 12:48 am
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      I know, it’s a pretty scary name. BUT you are completely right, the drive through the Artists Palette is really beautiful.

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  • January 2, 2019 at 7:23 am
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    I love to know and see unusual landscapes, so death valley is perfect for me. Can’t believe why I never read or heard about it before from my friends living in the US. The lowest point in North America, the crater, the artist’s palette and devil’s golf course – all of them are unique. I have never heard of or seen places like this before.

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    • January 5, 2019 at 12:49 am
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      I’m so glad you’ve hear of it now 🙂 It’s a pretty amazing place.

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  • January 2, 2019 at 1:07 am
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    I thought Cappadocia in Turkey had weird landscapes but Death Valley beats it hands down. Never seen anything like Devils Golf Course. Ubehebe Crater looks like something from Mars. Definitely a destination I would consider when we visit the US next.

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    • January 5, 2019 at 7:34 pm
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      Oh good! I’m glad it made it on your to visit list! I was very impressed!

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  • January 2, 2019 at 12:14 am
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    This looks amazing, the scenery is absolutely beautiful! My boyfriend and I are the same (I’m the backpacker/couchsurfer type while he’s a hotel traveler) I feel like the Death Valley would be a great place to merge our interests-just wild enough but not too off the beaten track!

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    • January 5, 2019 at 7:35 pm
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      Yes! It could totally work as a middle ground destination 🙂 plus there’s several hotels to stay at inside the park if things go south :).

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  • January 1, 2019 at 5:00 pm
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    I never knew that there was such diverse scenery in Death Valley. Like you, I always associated it with just a barren “nothing” type desert. It’s definitely higher on my list now.

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    • January 5, 2019 at 7:36 pm
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      Yes! I was shocked! And amazed to say the least.

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  • January 1, 2019 at 4:25 pm
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    I have once mentioned this place to my wife. Guess what? She immediately said NO because of the word “death” as it sounds negative and scary. But after reading your post, I am once again intrigued to visit this place. Will try my luck again to get her permission.

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  • January 1, 2019 at 3:52 pm
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    Wow, these photos are amazing!! I’ll definitely have to see it for myself one day!

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  • January 1, 2019 at 3:14 pm
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    I would love to visit this place. Love the pictures. I have few friends that’s been to this place and they love it .

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  • December 28, 2018 at 6:54 pm
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    Artist’s Palette Drive seems straight out of a movie it’s so beautiful! My family and I will definitely have to take a visit to go see. Thanks for sharing this post! ?

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    • January 5, 2019 at 7:38 pm
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      You are very welcome! And thank you for giving it a read. I’m kind of shocked, but it’s turned into one of my favorite parks.

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  • December 28, 2018 at 6:40 pm
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    This looks so cool. Great pictures! I’d love to visit someday!

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    • January 5, 2019 at 7:39 pm
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      You should! I hope you make it there someday.

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  • December 26, 2018 at 12:21 pm
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    Some of our good friends went last year and had the best time! Not my kind of trip but seems cool

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  • December 25, 2018 at 4:39 pm
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    I remember driving through Death Valley years ago with my family, but we never stopped to visit the park. And what a pity!! It looks incredible, especially the crater, and the basin. I’d love to visit any salt flats in the world! And thanks for the RV translation, I never knew what it was until now!!

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    • January 5, 2019 at 7:41 pm
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      Oh good! Glad to help. Hopefully you’ll be near the park again at some point so you can stop :).

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  • December 24, 2018 at 6:53 pm
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    I hadn’t realized there was so much to see in Death Valley. It’s amazing how many reminders we have of what the earth looked like thousands of years ago. The Badwater Basin is worth getting out of the car and exploring too. Need to add this if I’m in California.

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    • December 24, 2018 at 9:39 pm
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      Yes! It’s a definite add to the bucket list kind of place! I was a little skeptical when we headed out, but now I’m a total convert to desert camping.

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  • December 24, 2018 at 6:00 pm
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    I keep getting all expense paid trips to Ridgecrest so I really should go to Death Valley one of these times. I think I am most interested in seeing the sailing stones. This is where it looks like the rocks are moving across the desert floor. I have to agree that Californian’s love the outdoors. We recently moved from San Diego to Florida and it’s a little different here. (like all those darn plastic bags people hand out like candy). Enjoy your time in California and keep camping.

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    • December 24, 2018 at 9:41 pm
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      Thanks! I want to go to the Racetrack (where the moving stones are too). You need an SUV or you can rent a Jeep inside the park to get there. Sadly we drive a regular car, so we would have got stuck if we ventured out there. Next time. I know what you mean about the plastic bag thing….I grew up in Texas.

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  • December 24, 2018 at 11:51 am
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    Some really cool spots! The salt basin looks the best to me – I’d love to take some pictures there and interesting to know that it’s the lowest spot in North America! Devil’s golf course is a very creative name, I’ve to say! Ubehebe Crater is quite intriguing as well!

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    • December 24, 2018 at 9:43 pm
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      Yes! There are some really great names in Death Valley NP. My favorite is the Devil’s Golf Course. It is a very surreal place.

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  • December 24, 2018 at 11:48 am
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    I have heard so much about Death Valley from my friends. It seems like a must-visit place. I would particularly be interested in visiting the Badwater Basin. I had no idea it is the lowest point in North America.

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    • January 5, 2019 at 7:42 pm
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      Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I had no idea either until this trip. I highly recommend a visit.

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  • December 24, 2018 at 10:03 am
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    What a stunning place to visit! I’d love to visit there one day – it’s on my bucket list for sure!

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    • December 24, 2018 at 9:47 pm
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      Yes! It’s so stunning. My one recommendation is to go in winter or early spring.

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  • December 24, 2018 at 7:44 am
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    I heard about Death Valley but never made plans about visiting it. This post, however, made me want to go pack and go there like right now! The landscapes remind me of Ladakh in India and I definitely would want to explore this destination.

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    • December 24, 2018 at 9:47 pm
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      Great! I’m glad it inspired you to add it to your travel list. Now I need to check out Ladakh! Thanks for the tip!

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  • December 23, 2018 at 8:23 am
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    Oh wow. You made me want to go there like right now. So many unique landscape features! I can’t believe that the Badwater basin is 85 meters below sea level!

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    • December 24, 2018 at 9:46 pm
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      I know! It’s crazy! I think my favorite part of the whole park is how you learn so much about the age of the earth and how dramatically things have changed.

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  • December 22, 2018 at 5:25 pm
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    I would love to go and visit there! My camera and I would have a blast! I do not like the heat, but would brave it for this!

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    • December 24, 2018 at 9:45 pm
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      Your camera would LOVE it in Death Valley! My recommendation is to go in the winter. It gets cold at night but the high temperatures are much more bearable.

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  • December 22, 2018 at 7:58 am
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    The national park is so incredible. The pictures you have clicked on the Palette Drive is crazy. Also the Badwater Basin that is below the sea level seems to be very interesting to me among the others. I would surely love to visit this one when in the States.

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    • December 22, 2018 at 4:24 pm
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      It’s a pretty incredible place, I would highly recommend adding it to your bucket list.

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  • December 22, 2018 at 6:30 am
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    Its time to take a drive to Death Valley now. We have something similar landscape wise in Leh Ladakh, India, but need to check out the deepest point in the USA for sure. The Ubhebe crater seems like an interesting place too.

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  • December 21, 2018 at 11:43 pm
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    In deed! It’s a really stunning place filled with weirdly wonderful sites to see.

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  • December 21, 2018 at 1:51 pm
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    Have always heard abut Death Valley. But this is the first time I read the post . What an adventurous place to be .. Should defnitely be high on the list of all those visiting California

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    • December 22, 2018 at 4:25 pm
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      Agreed! It’s very visually interesting with lots of wild west stories.

      Reply

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