Where to Go in Death Valley National Park

For such a supposedly barren landscape, Death Valley is absolutely full of places to go and things to see. The area’s long and interesting history has left behind a plethora of old mining towns and related locations to explore, and the isolation of Death Valley has given rise to some truly haunting phenomena. On the more natural side of things, its landscapes are incredibly unique and fascinating to experience.

Metals oxidizing on the volcanic rock of the Artist’s Palette in Death Valley, California.
The Artist’s Palette is a scenic viewpoint along Artist’s Drive. The colors are caused by the oxidizing of different metals on the volcanic rock. Photo © Joerg Hackemann/123rf.

Furnace Creek and the Amargosa Range

Iconic views, short hikes, and easy access make Furnace Creek and the Amargosa Range an excellent introduction to Death Valley. The village of Furnace Creek serves as the park headquarters, with a plethora of services—lodging, campgrounds, restaurants, and even gas. The most popular sights are in this region, including Badwater Basin, Artist’s Drive, Devil’s Golf Course, and Natural Bridge.

The Amargosa Range provides opportunities for in-depth hiking, biking, and rock climbing. Dig into Death Valley’s mining past by traveling the West Side Road to the rugged canyons of the Panamint Range, the orchards of Hungry Bill’s Ranch, or the bubbling oases of Hanaupah Canyon. An easy two-hour drive to the park’s lightly visited Southeastern Corner yields scenic springs, ghost mines, and pristine dunes.

Sand dunes in Death Valley, California.
The Mesquite Flat sand dunes are just one of the attractions near Stovepipe Wells. Photo © Mariusz Jurgielewicz/123rf.

Stovepipe Wells and the Nevada Triangle

Stovepipe Wells and the Nevada Triangle are home to steep alluvial fans that lead to the wind-sculpted and colorful canyons of the Cottonwood and Grapevine Mountains, including Mosaic Canyon. The tiny visitor hub of Stovepipe Wells occupies a central location on Highway 190, with the scenic Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes within sight.

The Nevada Triangle serves as a jumping off point to the spectacular—and popular—Titus Canyon drive, as well as the haunting ghost town of Rhyolite. Nearby Beatty, Nevada, offers services in this tiny corner of the park.

Scotty’s Castle and the Eureka Valley

The Eureka Valley is the most lightly visited park region. There are no services, so a trip here means roughing it, but you’ll be rewarded with solitude and natural wonders. The exception is popular Scotty’s Castle; thousands of visitors come to this 1920s mansion tucked in the folds of the Grapevine Mountains.

Note: Scotty’s Castle is closed for repairs until 2020. Check nps.gov for updates.

The Eureka Dunes are the main draw in the Eureka Valley, towering more than 600 feet above the valley floor. In the secluded Racetrack Valley, hardy souls make the long, difficult drive to The Racetrack, a dry lake bed scattered with the mysterious trails of rocks that skate across its surface.

desert landscape with joshua trees
Lee Flat has the highest concentration of Joshua Trees in the park. Photo © Marcie Blough.

Panamint Springs and the Saline Valley

Panamint Springs and the Saline Valley are filled with creeks and springs, historic mining roads and camps. Old cabins and ghost towns, like Skidoo and Panamint City, are scattered through the wrinkled folds of the western Panamint Mountains, which are home to Telescope Peak, the highest peak in Death Valley. The village of Panamint Springs is the region’s hub, with lodging, a restaurant, and few services.

The Saline Valley brings it back to the basics with sheer quiet remoteness. The long washboard Saline Valley Road offers rough access to the Lee Flat Joshua Tree Forest, rarely visited Saline Valley Dunes, hot springs, and the remains of the Salt Tramway.

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