Death Valley National Park, California
According to travelationary, Death Valley’s formation began about 3 million years ago when forces from within Earth broke the surface into blocks, creating an alternating pattern of mountains and valleys. Lakes formed in the basin during the Ice Age. In doing so, they left various layers of mud and large salt deposits that are still visible today. Indigenous people have lived in this area for 9,000 years and called the region “Ground Afire”. The region received the rather eerie name “Death Valley” relatively recently: When in 1849 a group of pioneers and gold prospectors set out from Salt Lake City to follow the old Spanish route to California, the participants arrived after several separations completely exhausted in search of shortcuts – but alive – their goal. They named the area “Death Valley” but took more into account the desolate and desolate landscape. Despite the arduous three-month journey, there was only one fatality within the group.
The valley impresses with its spectacular, colorful wasteland, the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains and the sand dunes and canyons. Rain clouds are extremely rare here. When it actually rains, the desert turns into a blooming garden. Despite the adverse environmental conditions, more than 1,000 different plant species can be found in the park. They were able to adapt to the local climatic conditions. As soon as the sun goes down, the temperatures drop quite quickly due to the dry air. In July, the desert warms up to 47°C – despite this, almost a million visitors come here. You usually take the 210 km long road through the national park.
At the turn of the century, the mineral borax was found in the Death Valley area. The Borax Company built the roads on which the legendary teams of 20 mules pulled wagonloads weighing up to 40 tons.
Location and Size
Death Valley National Park is located in the Mojave Desert, east of the Sierra Nevada, mostly in California and to a lesser extent in Nevada. The lowest point of the valley is 85.95 meters below sea level. The park covers an area of 12,000 km².
- The main road running east to west through Death Valley National Park is California Highway 190.
- On the east side in Nevada, US 95 runs north-south parallel to the park, connecting to the highway at Scottys Junction (SR 267), Beatty (SR 374), and Lathrop Wells (SR 373).
- From the west , SR 14 and US 395 lead to Ridgecrest, California, from where SR 178 heads east into the park. Further north on Hwy 395 in Olancha, Hwy 190 enters the park, or north at Lone Pine, California, Hwy 136 also becomes Hwy 190, heading east into the park.
- To the south of the park, I 15 runs through Baker, California. SR 127 runs north from Baker to Shoshone and Death Valley Junction. From Shoshone, SR 178 leads into Death Valley National Park and from Death Valley Junction, Hwy 190.
From Las Vegas
- From Interstate 15 South, exit onto Hwy 160 West
- then 60 miles to Pahrump, Nevada. Turn left onto Bell Vista Road (3 miles north of Hwy 372).
- another 30 miles to Death Valley Junction, California. Turn right onto Hwy 127
- Approximately 100 meters, then turn left onto CA Hwy 190
- After about 50 km you will reach the Furnace Creek Visitor Center
Opening Hours and Seasons
Furnace Creek Visitor Center & Museum
The Visitor Center is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
It is located in the Furnace Creek area on California Hwy 190. Furnace Creek is 48 km from Death Valley Junction and 38 km from Stovepipe Wells Village.
By Vehicle USD 30 for 7 days. This permit allows all occupants of a non-commercial vehicle unlimited access to the park for 7 days.
Motorcyclists pay USD 25 for 7 days.
People entering the park on foot or by bicycle pay USD 15 for 7 days unlimited access.
America the Beautiful Annual Pass
The annual pass costs $80 and entitles you to visit over 2,000 US federal recreation areas and national parks for one year from the date of purchase. The entrance fee applies to the driver and all passengers of a private, non-commercial vehicle (or up to a maximum of 4 adults in total if per-person entrance fees are charged). Children under 16 are free. If you visit more than 4 national parks, it is usually worth buying the America the Beautiful Annual Pass.
The pass can be purchased at many stores across the US and is also available in advance from various tour operators.
Campground Furnace Creek Campground
is the only National Park Service (NPS) campground in Death Valley that accepts internet/phone advance reservations. Reservations can only be made for the winter season from October 15th to April 15th. Furnace Creek Campground Reservations are available six months in advance by calling (001) 877-444-6777 and visiting www.recreation.gov. Group campsite reservations can be made as early as 11 months in advance. The campsite is open all year round. In summer, places are allocated according to the principle of “first come, first served”. The site is 60 meters below sea level and has 136 sites with water, tables, fire pits, toilets and sewerage.
Climate and Weather
Death Valley is generally sunny, dry and clear year-round. Winters, from November to March, are mild with occasional winter storms. Summers, on the other hand, are extremely hot and dry. Summer temperatures often reach more than 48 degrees Celsius.
|Average temperatures in Death Valley in °C|
Comfortable clothing that also serves as sun protection and a wide hat are highly recommended in summer. Winter calls for warmer clothing and light to medium weight jackets. Sturdy shoes are important all year round.
October to April is the best time for hiking. Summer temperatures can be dangerous, especially at lower elevations. Even in spring and autumn, the heat can be unbearable for many people. Hiking on the salt lake or anywhere below sea level should be avoided at all costs, especially when it is hot. Hikes in the lowlands are only recommended in the winter months. The high peaks are a pleasant respite from the heat of summer, but are mostly snow-covered in winter and spring.
Loneliness is common in the park’s backcountry, but popular hiking routes are often crowded during spring and weekends.
Some of the easier tours are the “Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail” with a length of almost 2 km, the “Badwater Salt Flat” tour (approx. 8 km), the “Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes” trail, which is approx. 3 km to the highest dune leads. More information about hiking tours in Death Valley: www.nps.gov/deva/