Top Sights To See In Death Valley National Park
Holding the record for the hottest air temperature ever recorded at 134 °F, it’s no wonder why they call it "Death" Valley. Situated east of the Sierra Nevada and in-between the Great Basin and Mojave deserts is truly a land of extremes. It’s one of the most extreme environments on earth with an average rainfall of less than three inches, and in true death valley fashion some years have actually received none.
However, despite its record droughts a great diversity of life manages to survive in valley. Like an occasional wildflower that can be seen sprouting through the ground, or a lush oasis harboring tiny fish and refuge for wildlife. Death Valley grew in popularity during the California Gold Rush, with the influx of prospectors crossing the valley on their way to the gold fields. Many of these prospectors died and eventually civilization disappeared from this area. It’s easy to spot this past once you stumble upon the thousands of abandoned mines, which might just get the hairs to stand on the back of your neck.
Located 1/4 of a mile west of Stovepipe Wells Village, is a two mile gravel access road leading to a remote parking area. From there it's just a short walk into Mosaic Canyon. A path of canyon narrows where the surrounding rock walls are made up of smooth, water-polished marble. Mosaic Canyon is considered a geological wonder, and as part of the National Park System, all of its features are protected by law — rock collecting is prohibited.
Zabriskie Point is an elevated overlook of colorful, jagged gullies and mud hills at the edge of the Black Mountains, just a few miles east of Death Valley. From this viewpoint, you can spot the flat salt plains on the valley floor in the distance. Most people do little more than briefly admire the scenery (which is best at sunrise) but you can also climb some of the adjacent hills to get a better overall view, or wander down amongst the dunes.
Badwater Basin in Death Valley is the lowest point in the United States and the second in the entire western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. This site itself consists of a small spring-fed pool of "bad water," but the accumulated salts of the surrounding basin make it undrinkable — hints the name. Next to the pool, where water is not always present at the surface, repeated freeze, thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push the thin salt crust into hexagonal honeycomb shapes.
MESQUITE FLAT SAND DUNES
The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are at the northern end of the valley floor and are nearly surrounded by mountains on all sides. Due to their easy access from the road and the overall proximity of Death Valley to Hollywood, these dunes have been used to film sand dune scenes for several movies. Just beware of how far you wander, some dunes might seem as if they are fairly close but in reality they can be several miles out — make sure you have plenty of water.
MORE DEATH VALLEY SIGHTS
An area on the face of the Black Mountains noted for a variety of rock colors. These colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals, creating a unique landscape unlike any other.
NATURAL BRIDGE CANYON
This canyon is found on the east side of the park and one of the few canyons with an official trailhead. It's located four miles south of the Artist's Drive scenic loop, and contains a natural stone bridge, accessible after a fifteen-minute walk from the parking area.
Nestled in a remote valley between the Cottonwood and Last Chance Ranges, the Racetrack is a place of stunning beauty and mystery. The Racetrack is a dry lake bed known for its strange moving rocks. Although no one has actually seen the rocks move, the long mysterious tracks left behind in the mud confirm their activity.
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About The Author
In 2015, Founder of TMDE Paul Martinez left a career in sales for a life of exploring. In just a matter of months he had visited over 10 countries, 30 cities, 10 states, countless national parks, taken thousands of photographs, and did a ton of soul-searching. His search uncovered a deep passion for exploration; which he now believes to be the essence of the human spirit, and led to the birth of The Modern Day Explorer. You can follow him on his personal journey by visiting his Instagram, and hopefully continue to support TMDE by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.