Death Valley is known for its hot drought, dry scenic land. Our 2 Week US Road Trip route took us right through the Death Valley National Park in our 2nd week. The desert has been recorded as one of the hottest places on earth during summer months. Plus it’s also the driest in America, so the car was filled with lots of water during our September visit. We only touched the surface of things to do in Death Valley – which is why we will one day return! During our planning, we looked into what could be seen in a day and picked out a few things. While keeping in mind our time schedule, we headed to Lake June and Bodie State Park before closing times.
Our first impression of Death Valley was from this viewpoint. The Zabriskie Point is part of the Amargosa Mountain Range which is made up of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake. A lake that dried up more than 5 million years ago. The views were amazing at 9:30am in the morning – so peaceful with already a warm breeze.
Death Valley Devil’s Golf Course
Devil’s Golf Course was second on the list to visit from Zabriskie Point. Blown away with emptyness, a big contrast from our previous 4 days at Las Vegas. Full of salty rock formations in all shapes and sizes at the bottom of the valley. This area, also known as a basin, was once a great lake reaching a distance of 40miles / 65km.
Since we had arrived before 10:00am so the sun was still warming up. This allowed us to hear the salt rocks crackle as they expanded in the sun. We were facinated with the shapes that the salt rock had formed. It was like standing on a rough piece of DIY sanding paper, all dry and dusty. We stayed for a little while taking the view in and we were completely alone, until some more road trippers arrived to join us and explore.
Death Valley Scenic Route
Next was the scenic 2.5mile route through the rock formations. The one way route was fully tarmacked allowing us to cruise along slow and peacefully, admiring the different colours and landscape. We took our time since there was no one else here during this section. We did stop and hike a few points, but with the surface heating up we didn’t stay too long at the viewpoints. This route includes the Artist’s Pallet, a location of different coloured rock that has been caused by different metals in the earth.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
These dunes are the easiest dunes to visit on Highway 190. With a height of only 100 foot/30 meters, they are not the highest in the valley – but just as unique. It was the hottest part of the day so we didn’t actually stop here. But were still mesmerised from the cold air conditioned car while driving past. In the distance we could see beautiful Mesquite trees that create shelter for the wildlife.
Pit Stop at Stovepipe Wells
Our car was starting to make noises at this point, it seemed to be struggling so we made a stop for a fresh drink and a snack at Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station in Death Valley to let the car relax. Stopping at the store only, we picked a cold drink and some chocolate. Not sure why I fancied chocolate in 40°c degrees though! Resting in the shade we reorganised ourself with the next part of the road trip. Checking the directions and our supplies, the car was ready again for the next section.
It was a nice place to stop, which we discovered there was also a motel, restaurant, gas station and gift shop in the location.
From here we headed straight north through the sand dunes and back up into the mountains on the other side towards Yosemite. It was smart that we had extra water stored in the boot of our car too, as it got to 40°c degrees. However by the time we had driven a few hours north to Lake June and Bodie it was under 10°c degrees and we were more interested in a warm drink. You can read all about our stop at Bodie State Park here!
After travelling to Zion National Park and Grand Canyon it was great to drive through and experience the different landscape at Death Valley. We could have spent longer there to really see it all, but our planning was a little tight and we had to skipped the rest. No regrets though as we feel we have a pretty good impression of what Death Valley is like in a day!
In Death Valley we also spotted an unmanned (and we think armed) military drone fly over us too! Not sure if that is normal over Death Valley, but we found it interesting. Our guesses were that it was being used for training. But maybe they were following us after our intimidating mission to Area 51!
- Take spare water with you – easy to get dehydrated!
- Pay attention to your car in extremely hot conditions
- Take your time to take it all in
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Have you visited Death Valley before? We’d love to go back and stay longer. Share your stories in the comments!