Where is Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is located along the California and Nevada border. The park lies east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and contains Death Valley and sections of Panamint Valley, Eureka Valley, and the Saline Valley. Visitors arriving at the park will find endless hiking opportunities, a visitor center, nine campgrounds, and various backcountry access points. The two closest cities to Death Valley National Park are Lone Pine, California and Beatty, Nevada. The national park is located between the major cities of Las Vegas, Nevada and Los Angeles and San Jose, California. Out of these three cities, Las Vegas, Nevada is the closest city to Death Valley National Park. The Nevada hotspot is located 126 miles and a two-hour drive east of the park. Other nearby national parks include Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Park.
How Large is Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park covers over three million acres and sits upon an interface zone of the Great Basin and Mojave deserts. This interface zone creates a rich area of diverse environments including salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains. The national park is the largest national park contained within the lower forty-eight United States. About 91 percent of Death Valley US National Park is designated as a wilderness zone, and the second lowest point of elevation in the western hemisphere is located in the park. Badwater Basin is located 282 feet below sea level. The two major valleys in the park are Death Valley and a portion of the Panamint Valley.
Death Valley National Park Weather
Death Valley National Park possesses a hot desert climate. The park experiences intense heat waves during the summer, and the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the United States have been recorded in Death Valley. Summer temperatures in the park consistently exceed 100-degree Fahrenheit. The all-time high temperature ever recorded in the park is a staggering 134 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures in the park cool considerably to an average of between 40- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit. Nightly temperatures during the winter can also approach freezing and lower measurements. On average, Death Valley National Park receives less than three inches of precipitation throughout the entire year.
When did Death Valley Become a National Park
Death Valley National Park was originally designated as Death Valley National Monument in 1933. The monument originally was granted two million acres and its designation by President Herbert Hoover. Over the years the park gained additional land and was redesignated a national park in 1994 under the California Desert Protection Act. The park was also designated as a biosphere reserve in 1984 and a dark sky park by the International Dark Sky Association in 2013. Native Americans inhabited the valley and surrounding area as early as 700 BC. The influence of these multiple tribes is still felt across the park today.
Things to do in Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park contains a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. The park contains an extensive hiking system and several opportunities for sightseeing and education. The most popular adventures found throughout Death Valley National Park are listed below:
Sightseeing in the Park
Our National Park Visitors Guide suggest to visitors arriving at Death Valley National Park for the first time should first visit the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to orient themselves with the park and its layout. From here visitors can travel to various points of interest. Some of the more popular points of interest found within Death Valley National Park are Badwater Basin, Artists Drive, Devil’s Golf Course, and Zabriskie Point. Each of these points of interest can be visited and explored through a scenic drive on one of the park’s roads. Visitors looking to tour these places can orient themselves with the help of the park map and/or park rangers working in the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.
Hiking in the Park
Death Valley National Park contains a variety of hiking trails that will accommodate and challenge hikers of all skill levels. Most of the “trails” in Death Valley National Park are not actually constructed trails, but backcountry paths that take visitors up canyons, across the park’s surface, and along the various ridges found in the park. Popular hikes located within the national park include Harmony Borax Works, Salt Creek, Darwin Falls, Panamint Dunes, and Wildrose Peak. The longest trail within Death Valley National Park is Telescope Peak at a length of fourteen miles.
Mountain Biking in the Park
Death Valley National Park contains trails suited for beginner and expert mountain bikers. These trails traverse a variety of terrains including paved roads, grated dirt roads, and loose gravel. Easy biking trails in the park include the Bicycle Path and Salt Creek Road, moderate biking trails in the park include the Hole-in-the-Wall Trail and Skidoo Road, and difficult trails include Artist’s Drive, West Side Road, and Trail Canyon Road. The Furnace Creek Visitor Center contains additional mountain biking information.
Star Wars Tour in the Park
A lot of people are familiar with Death Valley National Park through the Star Wars film franchise. George Lucas used the national park in the first Star Wars film, A New Hope as a backdrop for the planet of Tatooine. Visitors wishing to see where George Lucas and others worked on the Star Wars films can visit several sights in the park including Dante's View, Twenty Mule Team Canyon, and Colorful Desolation Canyon.
Wildlife Viewing in the Park
Death Valley National Park protects a variety of wildlife that has adapted to the desert environment including bighorn sheep, coyotes, and the Death Valley pupfish. Other wildlife present in the park includes bobcats, kit foxes, cougars, mule deer, and a variety of avian species. Birds most commonly spotted within the park are greater roadrunners, wrens, American robins, mountain bluebirds, common yellowthroats, and other songbirds.
Camping in Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park contains nine campgrounds and a variety of backcountry campsites. The nine front country campgrounds contain sites suited for recreational vehicles and tent campers. These campsites can be reserved online through the park’s website and reservation portal. All backcountry campsites in the park require a free backcountry permit, but are first come, first serve. Backcountry permits can be obtained from the park’s visitor center.
When to Visit Death Valley National Park
Visitors can travel to Death Valley National Park during every season of the year. However, the best time for hiking in the park is from November through March. Visitors arriving during these months will find cooler temperatures that are more conducive to hiking, sightseeing, camping, and other forms of outdoor recreation. Summer temperatures in the park can be staggeringly hot. Visitors arriving during the summer should be prepared with extra supplies of water.
Must Have Items to Bring to Death Valley National Park
Visitors choosing to travel to Death Valley National Park will want to bring various items with them to ensure comfort and enjoyment during their visit. List of Parks outlines the following list of items which should be considered when packing and planning for a trip to Death Valley National Park.
Water & High Energy Snacks
All outdoor recreation trips require supplies of water. However, a trip to Death Valley National Park demands those supplies. Summer temperatures in the park consistently exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Dehydration is a real concern in Death Valley National Park. Visitors planning to camp in the park or recreate extensively should plan to bring additional supplies of water to the park.
Sunglass & Sunscreen
Visitors arriving at Death Valley National Park should come prepared with sunglasses and sunscreen to protect themselves from the desert sun. Visitors may also find that bringing a hat along with them to the park has its benefits.
Death Valley National Park contains several points of interest visitors will mostly likely want to document. A digital camera is a great way to document these places and your trip to Death Valley National Park. Visitors planning to camp in the park should bring additional camera batteries or a portable charger to avoid losing a charge during the final days of their trip.
Wildlife Field Guides
Death Valley National Park protects a variety of wildlife species. Visitors interested in identifying and learning about these species will want to obtain a North American wildlife field guide. Visitors interested in the park’s avian species or vegetation can also obtain field guides suited for their interests. The park store frequently has a stock of several notable field guides available for purchase.
Visitors planning to camp within Death Valley National Park may find it necessary to create and utilize their own personal camping checklist. These checklists will allow visitors to keep their camping equipment organized and accounted for during the packing stages of their trip.
Where to Stay Within Death Valley National Park
Visitors planning to camp within the nine different front country campgrounds found in Death Valley National Park should make a reservation for one of the park’s campsites. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website. All backcountry campsites found in the park do not require any reservations. However, visitors hiking into the backcountry will need to obtain a free backcountry permit from the park’s visitor center. Individuals looking to stay outside of the park in a hotel can search for options in Lone Pine, California or Beatty, Nevada.
Food Near Death Valley National Park
Lone Pine, California and Beatty, Nevada contain the closest restaurants to Death Valley National Park. However, each city only possesses a few dining options. Visitors looking for an extended list of options and a larger culinary scene can make the drive to Las Vegas, Nevada or towards Los Angeles.
Airports Near Death Valley National Park
Las Vegas, Nevada houses the closest airport to Death Valley National Park. The McCarran International Airport Las Vegas is located 106 miles and about a two-hour drive away from the park. The next closest international airports to Death Valley National Park are located in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix, Arizona.