A Few Hours In Death Valley
Death Valley National Park straddles the California–Nevada border, east of the Sierra Nevada. It’s about 260 miles from Los Angeles, and around 150 miles from Las Vegas.
I was on my way to back to California from Las Vegas, and decided to check out Death Valley National Park. I had wanted to do some photography out there for awhile, but just never got around to it.
This was my first trip to Death Valley National Park, and I couldn’t wait to see it! I only had a few hours to spend there, which was not nearly enough. There is just so much to explore out there. It’s absolutely amazing, and at times quite surreal!
You definitely get the feeling that you are out in the middle of nowhere!
The size of the park is immense, and the landscape incredible. With over 3 million acres of wilderness to explore, more than one visit is a necessity.
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Death Valley Is A Land Of Extremes
Death Valley’s landscape consists of incredibly, beautiful miles of sand dunes, colorful rocks and canyons, native wildlife and amazing salt flats.
It is the hottest, driest and lowest national park in the United States. Summer temperatures can rise well above 120 F°, and the average rainfall is only around 2 inches per year.
The park’s elevations range from 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin, all the way up to 11,049 feet at Telescope peak.
Badwater Basin is one of the most visited locations in Death Valley, and I can see why. The landscape is totally surreal, and made up of vast salt beds. Many people mistake the thick layer of salt covering the ground for snow.
Photography in Death Valley
Death Valley National Park is photographer’s dream. It has such a diverse variety of landscapes. The conditions are extreme, the colors intense, and textures are everywhere you look. It’s truly amazing.
Best Places For Death Valley National Park Photos
- Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level, and is covered in just about 200 square miles of salt flats.
- The Devil’s Golf Course has large salt crystalline spires across it’s terrain. As the ground temperature rises, the spires release popping sounds.
- Eureka Dunes are the tallest dunes in Death Valley, and all of California, rising up over 680 feet. Once you reach the top of the dunes, you may experience one of the strangest phenomena of the desert: singing sand. It happens when the sand slides down the steep faces of high dunes, a sound like the bass note of a pipe organ can be heard.
- Mesquite Dunes are the largest dune field in the park, and includes three types of dunes: crescent, linear, and star shaped.
- Artist’s Palette is an area on the face of the Black Mountains known for a variety of rock colors. This colorful terrain is the result of explosive volcanic periods millions of years ago.
- Telescope Peak is the highest point in Death Valley. You can see for for over one hundred miles in many directions.
- Zabriskie Point was used in the film, Robinson Crusoe on Mars. It’s jagged landscape is made up of sediment from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up nearly 5 million years ago.
When To Go
Death Valley is open 365 days a year. That however, does not mean all times of the year are advisable.
Summer is considered the off-season at Death Valley National Park. The heat is extreme, and keeps most people away. Fall, winter, and spring are the most popular times to visit. The average temperature in December is 65F°, which is rather pleasant. Just be aware that temperatures can drop below freezing during the winter.
If you are lucky, you may see the wildflowers blooming in the Spring. They need heavy spring rains to bloom, so it’s really hard to plan a visit to see them. Timing is everything! That said, super blooms can occur between March and April.
Staying Safe in Death Valley
- Drink plenty of water – Don’t underestimate how hot and dry Death Valley can be. Make sure to carry plenty of water while hiking, and keep extra reserves in your car. You’ll need at least a gallon per person per day, and twice that if you’re hiking. Be aware of balancing fluid and electrolyte levels.
- Food – Bring more than you think you’ll need. Even if you are only planning on a day trip, it’s good to have extra in the event you get stuck out there.
- Avoid hiking in the heat – Do not hike in the low elevations when temperatures are hot. The mountains are cooler in summer, but may have snow and ice in winter.
- Phone and Internet Coverage – Cell phone coverage is spotty, and in some places in the park you won’t get it at all. You can find phones at Furnace Creek, and wifi at Furnace Creek Ranch and Furnace Creek if you really need service.
- Your Car – Be sure your car is in good working order, especially its cooling system and tires. There aren’t a lot of places to get gasoline in the park, so make sure you tank is full.
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