What a surprise! Our image of Death Valley was dry, cracked ground and flat land as far as the eye can see. And it has that, but it’s so much more. Colorful mountains, unique flora and fauna, and breathtaking views are all features that wowed us in Death Valley.
We camped at Stovepipe Wells RV campground which meant we were one of the few RVs in the area with full hookups. It didn’t really matter though since the power was out half the time we were there. Thank goodness for propane and batteries.
We woke up the first morning to light rain and snow on the surrounding peaks. The weather stayed that way throughout our four day stay but it didn’t really stop us from seeing the sites.
Death Valley National Park is the nation’s largest in the contiguous 48 states. We had three full days to explore and only hit the highlights. It would take months (and a good 4×4) to see it all. Our first stop was Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. The surrounding salt flats made for some incredible photos. From there we hit Devil’s Golf Course, where it was once said, “even the devil wouldn’t golf here,” because the hardened salt field is so rough and sharp. Even Mia checked it out.We then hiked to Natural Bridge and drove Artist’s Drive to see Artist’s Palette. The multi-colored rock reflect a variety of minerals within the stone.
See what we mean when we say there is a ton of interesting sites in Death Valley?
On our second full day we wandered the Salt Creek area where the spring fed pools are home to the unusual desert pupfish, descendants of creatures that lived in the basin’s ancient lake 12,000 years ago. From there we checked out the Harmony Borax Works exhibit which is set in the ruins of Death Valley’s first successful borax mine. Twenty Mule Team Canyon is a short but thrilling drive on a narrow one-way road through striking badlands.
Even though the low clouds hindered our view, we made the drive to Dante’s View to see the sweeping vistas of the Valley. At 5400 feet all we got were clouds but it was a nice place to eat lunch. On the way back down to sea level we stopped at the iconic Zabriske Point for another view of the landscape.
To see Death Valley you have to have a car, or better yet, a four-wheel drive vehicle. Distances between attractions are lengthy and many sites are reached via dirt road. And be prepared! Gas is very expensive in the park. Furnace Creek was the only place for us to get diesel fuel and the price was $5.59 a gallon.On our final day in the park we explored the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, which were really close to our campsite at Stovepipe Wells. We’ve walked on a lot of sand in our travels, but it was usually on or near a beach. This sand covers 14 miles of land and provides the opportunity to walk on untouched dunes if you walk far enough. It was Christmas Day and some of the Park-goers got in some holiday sledding on the dunes We topped off our time in Death Valley with a magnificent hike through Mosaic Canyon.
This slot canyon is comprised of polished rock on one side and breccia, or a conglomerate of smaller rocks, on the other side. Round trip it was about three miles with some fun rock scrambling.
If you think Death Valley is all dust and cracked mud, think twice. This National Park is diverse and worthy of at least several days of exploration.