Information about Death Valley tours

The Internet is full of various travel guides about the Death Valley. They give you the best options to prepare your Death Valley tour. Most of the information found in them is accurate. However, some of the information can be subjective, due to the fact those people did travel to this National Park. They met people, and they could advertise some of them.

As a French traveler who has never been there -but would love to-, I will summarize all the content found on the Internet in this article. That will help to have a realistic idea about what you can -and can’t- do.

Indeed, I could promise you to see every secret of the Death Valley in one day, but this is not realistic. The Death Valley National Park is 13 650 square kilometers wide, a little smaller than the Connecticut State, which is 14 357 square kilometers wide. It is unrealistic to visit such spaces in so little timespans. Especially because it would make you rush most of the places.

size comparison between connecticut and death valley
Size comparison between Connecticut (in red) and the Death Valley National Park (in blue) made on MapFight.com

Instead, I want you to travel this natural wonder just like I would, step by step. That will give you control over your trip. You will feel less stressed and you will be able to enjoy the landscape way more. I feel like this is what Roots Travelers desire. Let’s prepare our tour in Death Valley together.

Practical details for a Death Valley tour

Duration : how long should you stay?

After many searches, it seems like there are different areas you need to see to say you have really explored the Death Valley National Park from one point to another. By choosing to stay three days, you will be able to visit it all. Like this, you will not feel the urge to come back one day. You can choose to stay four days, but over that number, it may be too long. However, if you want to do the long hikes of the Park, this is a good option.

Where to land?

If you did the first step right, you now have three or four days blocked on your agenda. The next step is booking your flights. The closest airport is Las Vegas McCarren. Landing there is your best option. You should rent a car here. If you live close to the park and prefer to drive here, I will let you put the destination in your app or GPS. If you drive from Las Vegas, you will arrive from Death Valley Junction, which is the last town you will encounter before Furnace Creek.

Where to sleep?

Camping is an option to consider. The park has nine campgrounds. Four of them are free. If camping is not your cup of tea, you can stay in hotels. There are some in Darwin, but you have to plan your arrival because the ride between Las Vegas and Darwin is 3 hours long. If you do several stops on the way, it will be way more. Check the following results Hotellook around the Death Valley National Park.

When to visit?

Spring is the most popular time to visit Death Valley, following the National Park Service of the United States. This is a source we can trust. Indeed, spring days are warm and sunny. If the winter was rainy, you can even have an impressive floral display in late March. Be careful, summer can be too warm for some people.

A step-by-step guide to do your Death Valley tour

Once you land in Las Vegas, you will have to rent a car and drive to the National Park. This will take you around two hours, as you can see on this Google Maps route from Las Vegas McCarran airport to the Death Valley National Park.

the route from mccarran to death valley
The route from the McCarran International Airport of Las Vegas to the Death Valley National Park

There are four main things to see: the Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Devils Golf Course, and the Badwater Basin. Dante’s View is a good way to start your tour. Indeed, from there you will see how huge the area is. That will give you a good taste of the National Valley. Also, it is not on the main road, so it’s good to do it first. This way, afterward, you can stay on the main road to explore the different zones.

brown mountain scenery photo
Dante’s View in the Death Valley National Park. Picture from William Warby

Then, depending on how late you landed, here is what I propose to you. Head to Zabriskie Point to view the hilly badlands. It will take you 30 minutes by car. The best is to go when the sun is rising or setting, so the sun rays are inclined and create great shadows between the hills.

landscape photography of brown mountains in death valley
Zabriskie Point. Picture from Johannes Plenio

The next step is the Artists Palette, 30 more minutes away from the previous point. You will see a series of hills in pastel hues, colored by oxidation & weathering.

colorful rocky mountain under clear blue sky
The Artist’s Palette in the Death Valley National Park. Picture from Jordi Vich Navarro

The Badwater Basin is just a step further to the South, so it is good to do it right after the Artist’s Palette. It’s only 20 minutes away by car. This place may remind you of my article about la Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. Indeed, this salt flat has the same hexagonal forms, check out on the next picture.

gray soil under stormy sky in death valley
Badwater Basin. Picture from Tanya Nevidoma

Considering how late it is, choose either to go to the hotel or to also do the Devils Golf Course. It is on the same road again, but keep in mind that all those stops will take you at least one hour each -except Dante’s View which is only a view to enjoy-. Check out this picture of the Devils Golf Course from Mark Boss.

devils golf course under sunny sky viewing mountains
Devils Golf Course in the Death Valley National Park. Picture from Mark Boss

On the second day, the plan is to start with the Mosaic Canyon Trail. It’s hike narrow canyon slots and geologic museums of polished rock and marble walls. After that hike, you can go to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes by car. You will instantly feel like you are in the desert.

brown sand field in death valley
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Picture from Roan Lavery

The last place to visit today is a volcano: the Ubehebe Crater. To get there, you will have to drive one hour North. Once you arrived at the volcano, you will be able to step back and realize how brittle humans are compared to nature. It’s a good way to end the second day.

The last day is the day you are supposed to take your flight. If your plane is delayed or is late in the evening, you can come back to the places you enjoyed the most, or adjust your plan to do this one in three days. However, I created it in a way that there are two groups of activities. Each group contains places close to each other. Changing the plan can make you drive more. If you enjoy driving, it’s fine.

Be responsible during your Death Valley tour

For both your safety and the preservation of this incredible place, I ask you to travel responsibly. About your safety, the National Valley can be dangerous because of the weather, especially during storms. If you are sensitive to heats, it can also be too warm for you during the summer.

Then, about nature’s preservation, you should not throw waste. The area is so big that imagining to clean it entirely is a bit ambitious.

Now you are ready to do your Death Valley tour.

If you want to explore other USA National Parks, I recommend that you check my article about Yosemite Valley. If you want to incorporate the Death Valley inside a road trip, you should download my e-book: The Best U.S. Road Trip, which goes from Las Vegas to Yosemite Valley. It’s free.

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