Living in Las Vegas has given me great opportunities to visit many national parks. We are a few hours from the magnificent parks in Utah, and less than two hours away from Death Valley National Park in California. Over the past decade, I have taken various road trips visiting many of the wonderous natural sites on this side of the country, and every place was special and momentous.
Death Valley National Park was one of those special places that exceeded my expectations. The variety of landscapes, hikes, and history of this area was fascinating and intriguing. It is more than a barren desert valley, which is what most people expect. There are beautifully sculpted hills, colorful painted landscapes, sand dunes, historical mining remains, and a classic Mission revival home, called Scotty’s Castle.
Death Valley is a hikers paradise, and offers trails for all fitness levels. There are not many constructed trails here, and the landscapes in Death Valley seem to create their own paths. Most hiking trails inside this park are cross-country, up canyons, or along ridges.
For Death Valley hiking Trails – Hiking – Death Valley National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
The best time to hike in Death Valley is definitely not in the summer time. You can but it is not advisable, and considered very dangerous. Even in the Spring and early Fall, the heat in this below sea level region can be unbearable for many. The best times are from November to March, for cooler temperatures all around. We had visited in January, which we found the perfect time to visit as the temperature was in the mid 60s .
Whatever time of year you go, make sure to wear appropriate weather clothing, closed shoes, and bring plenty of water.
— Badwater Basin —
Badwater Basin located inside Death Valley is noted as the lowest point in North America and the United States. The depth is measured at 282 feet below sea level, and as the name implies, has bad water. There is a high accumulation of salts in this basin, which made it undrinkable for horses or those passing through Death Valley in the early years.
Near by to this pool are hexagonal honey comb shapes of salt. Water is not always present at the surface, and the repeated freeze–thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push the thin salt crust into these shapes. In my photo above, you can see piles of accumulated salt where the water thins out on the surface.
The shallow waters and desert sun in Badwater Basin, create incredible reflection shots for those who enjoy photography.
— Natural Bridge —
The hike to Natural Bridge is very easy, and takes about 45 minutes round trip, approximately one mile out and back. This peaceful hike is unpaved, and great for all ages and fitness levels. Remember to wear covered and comfortable walking shoes as the ground is rocky, although the path is short and simple.
Once you arrive to the bridge, walk to the other side, and turn around. Viewing the rock formation bridge from the other side gives another beautiful vantage point of this natural wonder. Keep walking further, and you will find the remains of a dry waterfall.
— Sand Dunes —
The sand dunes of Death Valley was a definite favorite during our visit. These hills of soft sand are an accumulation of bits of erosion over time. All the sandy pieces of eroded rock landed in several locations in Death Valley, which created these incredible scenic dunes.
The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes were magnificent movie locations to get low-cost Sahara like landscape for films. Death Valley is less than a five hour drive from Hollywood, so it made for perfect film locations throughout the 20th Century.
There are five sand dunes located inside Death Valley, and only account for less than 1% of this desert. For more information on the dunes, please visit Sand Dunes – Death Valley National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
— Borax Museum —
The word borax always brings me back to elementary school, when as school children we used borax soap in the bathrooms. It was a white chalky powder that came out of a wall dispenser with “Borax” written in black bold print. I can still remember it. This was not too long ago, it was in the early 1980s and in Glendale, California, a Los Angeles suburb. Although borax soap is no longer used in public restrooms, thank goodness, it is still used in ceramics, pottery glaze, and preservatives.
The Borax Museum located in Furnace Creek is an interesting look into the past mining of borax in Death Valley, during the late 1800s. Inside and outside the museum you will find machinery used for mining, stage coaches, and artifacts of those times. Be sure to step inside the museum to pick up a brochure, which will explain everything from the famous Twenty Mule Team to the reasons why mining had stopped.
— Scotty’s Castle —
Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley, California is an intriguing look into the luxurious lifestyle of the wealthy during the roaring 20’s. What is even more intriguing is the story behind this classic Mission Revival style home in the midst of nowhere. It was the secluded winter hideaway for Chicago millionaires Albert and Bessie Johnson, from the 1920s and on.
👩🏻💻 For my blog with pre-flood photos ➡ Scotty’s Castle- Death Valley National Park | Exploring California
Please note: Scotty’s Castle will not re-open until further notice, There was extensive flood damage several years ago and I was fortunate to visit right before that flash food. There are “Flood Recovery” tours in place, but this historic villa will not be open for regular touring until at least December 2022.
— Accomodations —
When I had visited Death Valley it was an overnight trip, and we stayed at Furnace Creek Inn. This luxury resort is a comfortable oasis in the middle of the harshest of deserts, and is located by Furnace Creek Ranch. Furnace Creek Inn also offers fine dining, a cocktail lounge, spa services and a spring-fed pool.
For more information and reservations, please visit The Inn at Death Valley | (oasisatdeathvalley.com)
For those looking for more casual accomodations, there are neighboring campgrounds and the Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel – Death Valley Hotels | Stovepipe Wells Official Site | Death Valley National Park
For Death Valley National Park information and entrance fees, please visit Death Valley National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
— Photo Journal of Death Valley National Park —
Harmony Borax Works
Blessed are the curious, for they will have adventures…
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre