Despite its name, Death Valley National Park in California is far more than just a barren swath of the desert. In fact, it’s one of the most unique national parks in the United States. Death Valley is famous for its one of a kind geologic and scorching heat. The temperature can go up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. So what are the things you can do with 130 degrees?
Arriving in Death Valley
The first steps in Death Valley are an experience in itself. When you get out of the car your face will be slapped by a hot wind. You can compare it with a hair dryer. You immediately start to sweat and want to go back to the A/C in your car. Everywhere you look you see people walking with hats and bottled water, some people even use a wet towel to keep cool. So you get back in your car and drive to the first place of interest: Badwater.
No trip to Death Valley would be complete without a stop at the Badwater Basin. It is known as the lowest point in North America. The basin sits 282 feet below sea level and is located on the south end of the park. It looks like a surreal landscape of salt flats. From the parking lot, you can see the sea level sign that is located 280 feet above you on the adjacent mountain. It puts in perspective how low you are when you see it compared to the mountain. After checking out the sea level sign, you can start to head down to the boardwalk, which leads to the pool and the salt flats.
As soon as you walk out on the platform, you immediately see the huge lake of what looks like snow. Of course this can’t be snow because of the heat in the desert, but it is leftover salt from the evaporated water.
After checking out the Badwater Pool, you can walk out onto the salt flats. The salt flats itself is 5 miles long, so most people do not walk all the way because of the heat. Be careful when you are walking as some of it can be brittle and break. The view is fascinating and the area seems to stretch on and on.
Are you done with the heat? Perfect, you should definitely go to the Artist drive. This is a 9 mile scenic drive through more of Death Valley’s unique landscapes. Artist Drive is a one-way road from south to north. How do you get there? Go North on Badwater Road for 5 miles and turn right onto Artist Drive.
There are many places to stop for a quick photo, but there are two places I think you should definitely see.
First go to the rainbow hills of Artist’s Palette:
These aqua,pink and purple hills are the result of the oxidation of metals in the soil.
Little tip: you should see this when the sun is about to go down. This will increase the golden colour of the mountains.
Devils Golf Course
This quick stop is worth it to see. You can walk out onto the flats, but be careful they can be very sharp and breakable just like the flats at the Badwater Basin. If you decide to walk over the flats it is possible to hear them cracking because of the heat. Very cool experience to hear something in “Death” Valley.
Stove Pipe Wells Hotel
Ever wondered what it is like to sleep in a desert? You can get this experience at the Stovepipe Wells hotel. The hotel is named after the old stovepipe wells, this waterhole is the only one in the sand dune area of Death Valley. The hotel also has a swimming pool and a restaurant. So after a long day in the heat you can “cool down” at the pool, the pool is still 30+ degrees. If you want to cool down you should go to the restaurant, here the air conditioner is always at 22 degrees. And you also can get yourself a cold drink.
Death Valley would not be a American National Park if it doesn’t have its own merchandise. So the hotel owns her own general store across the streets. Here you can buy shirts, mugs, caps, key chains from Death Valley. You should definitely buy a souvenir at this place, so that you are always reminded that you have been in Death Valley.
After you spend the night at the Stovepipe Wells hotel you can drive to the Sand Dunes, it will be a 5 minute drive. Tip: get up very early so you can see the dunes with the upcoming sun. You can just park your car and take some photo’s, but you also can do a hike through the dunes. There is no formal trail to follow, just strike out for the high sands, which are reachable within a half mile. Pack plenty of water and expect to hike at least two miles among the dunes, depending on your ambition. Beware of the high winds, moving sand can be quite stinging and make hiking the dunes less enjoyable.
Do you want to surprise your fellow travellers with something special? Book a night at the Stovepipe Wells hotel or at the campsite and wait for the sun to go down. Pick a large open area (there are some spots at the hotel where you can sit), stay out for at least 30 minutes (this is the time it takes for your eyes to adjust to the night) and take something to drink. Take a look in the sky and be amazed by the large number of shooting stars. This natural phenomenon Is something not many people know. Death Valley National Park has some of the darkest night sky’s in the United States. That dark sky is the key of seeing so many stars. So you want to impress your fellow travellers, wait for the sun to go down and get some beers and watch the beautiful night sky of Death Valley National Park, CA.
So what to do in 50+ degrees?
There is a lot to do in Death Valley. Visit the Badwater Basin to experience what it’s like to be at the lowest point of North America. Done with the heat? Go on the Artist Drive by car and see the beautiful Artist’s Palette and the Golden Canyon. See Death Valley by night, be amazed by the shooting stars and breath-taking sky. And see the sunrise in the sand dunes to start your day again.
I hope with this blog you’ll be able to survive the scorching heat of Death Valley. For more information please don’t hesitate and contact me!
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