"Death Valley, a Park of Extremes" Death Valley National Park by KimberlyAnn

Death Valley National Park Travel Guide: 942 reviews and 2,194 photos

Death Valley is the largest National Park in the United States outside of the state of Alaska. With about 3.4 million acres of wilderness, Death Valley is a desert surrounded with high mountains. 11,049 foot Telescope Peak towers over the valley on the west, and 5,475 foot Dante's View rises in the east. Death Valley is one of the hottest places on the planet, with summer temperatures averaging well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, with a record high of 134 degrees F. It also contains the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, with the Badwater Basin salt pan lying at 282 feet below sea level. As North America's driest spot, Death Valley averages less than 1.96 inches of rainfall each year. The park with its expansive views, is very rugged and barren, with a variety of landscapes including large sand dunes, sculptured rocks, volcanic craters, isolated valleys, and even a few areas of water. Although brown, and dry much of the year, when there is enough rain you may find late March and early April decorated with wild flowers of many colors blooming on the desert floor and hillsides. Sunsets and sunrises can be spectacular, and the areas of sand dunes are ever changing as the light produces shadows across their surface. The origin of Death Valley's name goes back to 1849 when a group of people on their way to the California gold mines left their wagon train to follow what they thought was a short cut out of the desert. They were using a map that was incorrect, and instead they were led into an area that had not been charted. For several months they wandered, lost in the valley. Legend tells us that as they were close to starvation and dehydration, they finally found their way out. Standing on a hill, it is said someone said "Goodbye, Death Valley."

Hiking is one of the favorite past times in Death Valley, but remember that the environment is very harsh, and it can be very warm, even in the winter. Always carry water, and wear comfortable and sturdy shoes.

Step back into history by visiting Scotty's Castle, one of the most popular attractions in Death Valley. The relationship between the three friends, Albert Johnson and his wife Bessie who owned the ranch, and Walter Scott, who many people thought owned the ranch is fascinating. The house itself is maintained in its early glory.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Subtle beauty, and stark landscapes good for exploring when the temperatures are mild.
  • Cons:Summer temperatures frequently soar above 120 degrees F. If you need lots of greenery, you will not like Death Valley.
  • In a nutshell:There are thousands of hiking possibilities in the park, but sometimes it is too hot to hike safely.
  • Last visit to Death Valley National Park: Mar 2005
  • Intro Updated Dec 20, 2005
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Reviews (26)

Comments (4)

  • welbourn3's Profile Photo
    Jan 25, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    Thank you for this information. It was very helpful. I wondered what was the best way to handle the water situation and you gave great suggestions!

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Jul 25, 2007 at 6:19 AM

    A really comprehensive page. Although we love touring the US National Parks we've yet to make it to Death Valley but it looks like somewhere we'd enjoy - though maybe not in the heat of summer!

  • KiKitC's Profile Photo
    Dec 22, 2006 at 4:13 AM

    Wow! Didn't know there was so much to Death Valley. Thank you for the tips (especially about when NOT to go) Hope you have a marvelous holiday!

  • mikelisaanna's Profile Photo
    Dec 4, 2005 at 3:52 PM

    Nice Death Valley page. We were there last year and found it to be definitely worth the effort to get there.


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