A Day in Death Valley

A couple weeks ago, Zack and I took another day trip to another national park: Death Valley. Similar to our trip to Sequoia National Park, this one is almost a stretch for a day trip BUT 100% doable, and I’m going to share with you our 1 day itinerary, so the planning is done! Read on, feel inspired, and hit the road!

5:30am Leave Los Angeles

9:00am Arrive at Death Valley // We entered from the west side via Panamint Springs and stopped at the gas station (you cant miss it!) to fill up for the day. There are a few stations within the park, but we wanted to be safe!

10:00am Arrive at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes // After fueling up, we drove about 40 minutes into the park before we arrived at our first destination of the day. The sand dunes were EPIC. There’s a small parking lot, and from there you can just walk out into the dunes. We probably spent an hour and a half wandering up and down the dunes. You definitely want to walk towards the taller dunes – the views are unreal from the top!

12:30pm Head to Zabriskie Point // Drive 30 minutes then park and enjoy the stunning view from the lookout point. The landscape was unreal and so beautiful. We spent about 20 minutes enjoying the view then headed to our car for a picnic lunch.

1:30pm Artists Drive & Artists Palette // The scenic 9-mile drive through canyons and colorful mountains was on the top of my list. It’s a one-way road traveling south to north, and the turnoff is located about 9 miles south of Furnace Creek on Badwater Road. There’s a small sign, but it’s pretty easy to spot. The drive will take you minimum 40 minutes (slow speed limit), but plan to spend about 1-1.5 hours here. Artists Palette is the most popular stop on the drive – the colors are unbelievable. Minty blues and greens,, soft pinks and purples, reds and oranges. We walked up and down the windy trails through the canyons and just took it all in.

4:00pm Sunset at Badwater Basin Salt Flats // Badwater Basin should be at the top of your list – it’s one of the park’s major highlights as it’s the lowest point in North America (282 ft below sea level). We heard that sunset over the salt flats is supposed to be beautiful, so we planned this as our last stop for the day. Sunset was around 4:45, but we wanted to have time to walk out onto the flats and see them with some daylight as well. There’s a parking lot right in front of the boardwalk that leads out to the salt flats, and the “trail” is essentially just a straight shot. The first quarter mile or so is flattened and packed salt, but as you continue straight you’ll come across the salt polygons that seem to go on forever. We probably walked about a mile out before turning around. It’s flat and very easy to walk, but I imagine the heat would be BRUTAL in the spring/summer months. It was only in the 50s during our visit.

5:30pm Head home // By now it was completely dark, so it was time to start heading home. From Badwater Basin it was about a 1.5 hour drive to exit the park.

7:00pm Pull over for some stargazing // Right before we exited the park, we pulled over at a turnout, turned off all the car lights, and looked up at the stars. There were NO other cars or light pollution so it was UNBELIEVABLE how many stars and planets you could see. (Tried to snap a pic with my iphone which actually turned out cool but definitely doesn’t do it justice!) Even as we continued our drive home, we ended up seeing a GIANT shooting star – bigger than anything either of us had ever seen. Turns out it was a Taurid Fireball.

A FEW TIPS // The entrance fee is $30 per vehicle and is valid for 7 days – you can purchase online or at various visitor centers or pay stations throughout the park. The park itself is open 24 hours.

Be sure to check the weather before your trip – it can be extremely hot in the summer months and even into fall, however the winter months can get extremely cold. November felt like the PERFECT time – it was in the 50-60s during they day. It did, however, get quite chilly once it was dark (in the 30s by around 7pm when we pulled over to look at the stars). With that said, be sure the pack PLENTY of water and snacks, sunscreen, and clothes for layering.

It’s also helpful to check sunrise/sunset times if you want to be in a particular area for those.

SOME FUN FACTS // Death Valley is the driest place in the United States, has the lowest point in the US, and is the largest US National Park outside Alaska. It’s also one of the hottest places on Earth.

LAST THOUGHTS // I visited Death Valley YEARS ago – I was probably in middle school, so I don’t remember much, and I’m so glad I was able to visit again – this time with Zack. We honestly could believe how diverse the park was – so many different landscapes. The best way to describe Death Valley is otherworldly. If you ever have the chance to visit – even if just for a day – I say go for it!


– Courtney


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