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Death Valley National Park

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Death Valley National Park

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Often overlooked and passed by purely from name association, the 3.4 million acre Death Valley National Park is not only the largest park in the continental USA but arguably one of the most striking specimens of Mother Earth. Nearly every major geological era is elegantly exposed here in what sometimes appears to be one of her greatest tapestries, gloriously presenting her full spectrum.

The valley itself is 130 miles long, between six and thirteen miles wide and is surround by steep mountain ranges: the Panamint mountains to the west, and the Black, Funeral, and Grapevine mountains to the east. And its 3 million acres of wilderness and rich cultural history make it a lifetime's work to explore all that the valley has to offer.


Environment/Climate Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world. Air temperature over 120 degrees F are common during the summer months of June, July, August and September and ground temperatures are usually up to 50 percent higher. The record high in the park was recorded in 1913 at a blazing 134 degrees F (56.7 degrees C). This is second only to a 136 degree F (57.8 degrees C) temperature taken in Libya in 1922.

Fortunately, temperatures from November through March are mild with highs averaging in the 60s and 70s with winter nighttime lows usually in the 40s. This makes the winter and early spring the best seasons to visit here.

Very little rain falls in the valley, but rainfall in the mountains often sends floodwaters roaring down narrow canyons, scouring boulders, rocks and soil along the way eventually depositing them in the valley. These deposits are evident in the form of the gigantic Alluvial fans seen all throughout the valley. Many of these fans reach over a mile wide and are the product of hundreds and thousands of years of this process. The granular structure of these fans is also interesting to note as you will commonly see the larger boulders near the top of these structures and as you go further and further down, the granularity becomes finer and finer until you are finally left with the salts on the valley floor!

The higher elevations of the Panamint Range reach up to 11,049 feet at Telescope Peak and are usually covered with snow from November to May, making a breathtaking backdrop to this unique desert climate.

Flora and Fauna Animal life is varied, and numerous species of reptiles, birds and mammals populate Death Valley, adapting well to the desert environment. However many of these animals live a nocturnal lifestyle in order to escape the searing climate and can be difficult to spot.

The largest native mammal in the area, and perhaps the best studied member of the fauna, is the desert bighorn sheep. Small herds of sheep are most commonly found in the mountains surrounding Death Valley but at least occasionally visit the valley floor.

Over 350 species of birds are now known to inhabit or visit the area. And even native fish are to be found in Death Valley - several forms of desert pupfish of the genus Cyprinodon live in Salt Creek and other permanent bodies of water.

Add flora

Getting There

The nearest major cities to Death Valley are Las Vegas (which can be accessed by plane, bus and the Amtrak train) and Barstow which can be accessed by bus and the Amtrak train. From these cities you will need to rent a car as there is no public transportation to and from the park nor within, advance reservations are recommended. There is also a small airport for private plane access if you can afford such method of transportation.

The standard route to access the park via the highway is through Highway 190 both from the east and the west. Details for this and other more adventurous ways in and out of the park are listed below.

Main Entrances

  • Eastern
  • Western Entrance
    • Going north on the I395 take SR 190 west from Olancha, through Panamint Springs and over Towne Pass (elevation 4956 feet). This road is steep and narrow along some sections and is slow going for vehicles pulling trailers.
    • Going south on the I395 take SR 136 west from Lone Pine to the SR 190 west through Panamint Springs and proceed as above.
  • Northern
    • From the I95 in Nevada, take SR 267 east 26 miles towards Scotty's Castle.

Many other more adventurous routes into the park are also available particularly for high clearance and 4x4 vehicles. Please reference the park map for details. The route in from the Eureka Dunes in the north is notable along with the route from the Panamint Valley through Emigrant Pass from the southwest and the southern route on the SR 178 west from Shoshone.

Note: Some of the roads in can occasionally be snowed in at the passes may require chains in the winter. Please reference the Death Valley Morning Report for current weather and road conditions.


A seven day pass with unlimited re-entry is:

  • $10 for a standard vehicle (car/truck/van)
  • $5 for each individual traveling on foot, motorcycle, or bicycle (are you crazy!)

However if you are planning to visit many different National Parks in the USA you may want to purchase a National Parks Pass for $50 when you enter the your first park.

Fees for campsites vary and are listed in the camping section.

There is no fee for backcountry hiking but it is strongly advisable to fill out a Backcountry Hiking Form at either the Stovepipe Wells or Furnace Creek rangers station.

Get Around

A vehicle is highly recommended although during the more temperate seasons such as the fall and spring a nice bike ride may be in order. But be forewarned that climactic conditions in the park can be extreme so always check the Death Valley Weather forecast prior to entering and plan your activities accordingly.

It is also important to note that this and most other weather forecasts for the park refer to locations within the low altitude portion of the park and weather conditions at higher elevations can be dramatically different.


  • Within
There are 3 in-park lodging facilities in Death Valley National Park.
    • The Furnace Creek Inn advertises its self as a first class resort with 66 rooms and full amenities. Rates range from $240-$370 per room with $20 per each additional person. 760-786-2361
    • The Furnace Creek Ranch is the ranch style family oriented version of the above Inn with 224 rooms and rates ranging from $85 to $174 depending on the season and type of room. 800-528-6367
    • The Panamint Springs Resort is the most economical lodging option. Although this inn is not in Death Valley it is technically still within the park boundries. Rates range from $65 to $139. 760-764-2002 x234
  • Nearby
    • Shoshone Inn at the Junction of Hwy.127 & 178, 16 comfortable rooms in period style buildings. Colorful, historic mining town. 760-852-4224
    • Beatty
      • Phoenix Inn, 1st Street 800-845-7401
      • Stagecoach Hotel, Rte.95 800-424-4946


  • Furnace Creek - Open All Year
    • Located 196 feet below sea level, Furnace Creek has 136 sites with water, tables, fireplaces, flush toilets, and dump station. Furnace Creek is $16 per night during the winter season and $10 a night during the summer.
  • Mahogany Flat - Closed in winter
    • Mahogany Flat is located at 8,200 feet in the Panamint Mountains and is accessible to high clearance vehicles only. Depending upon road conditions, 4-wheel drive may be necessary. The campground has 10 sites, tables, fireplaces, and pit toilets. Mahogany Flat is free.
  • Mesquite Spring - Open All Year
    • Located at 1,800 feet 3 miles from Scotty's Castle, Mesquite Spring has 30 sites with water, tables, fireplaces, flush toilets, and a dump station. The fee is $10 a night.
  • Stovepipe Wells - Closed in summer
    • Located at sea level, Stovepipe Wells has 190 sites with water, some tables, some fireplaces, flush toilets, and dump station. $10.00 per night.
  • Sunset - Closed in summer
    • Located at 190 feet below sea level, Sunset has 1000 sites with water, flush toilets, and dump station. NO Fires Allowed. Sunset is $10.00 per night.
  • Texas Spring - Closed in summer
    • Located at sea level, Texas Spring has 92 sites with water, tables, fireplaces, flush toilets, and dump station. Texas Spring is first come first served with self registration. From March 17th through April 15th, Texas Spring is designated primarily for tent camping with a limited number of RV sites. The fee is $12.00 per night. For the summer, reservations for the two Texas Springs campground group sites are available by calling (760) 786-3247.
  • Thorndike - Closed in winter
    • Thorndike is located at 7,400 feet in the Panamint Mountains and is accessible to high clearance vehicles only. Depending on road conditions, 4-wheel drive may be necessary. Thorndike has 6 sites, tables, fireplaces, and pit toilets. Thorndike is free. ATTN: Due to extreme fire danger, campfires are prohibited at Thorndike Campground until further notice!
  • Wildrose - Open All Year
    • Located at 4,100 feet in the Panamint Mountains, Wildrose has 23 sites, with tables, fireplaces, and pit toilets. Drinking water is available during the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Wildrose is a free campground.


Backcountry camping is allowed 2 miles away from any developed area, paved road, or "day use only" area. Due to our rough dirt roads, backcountry roadside camping is generally only accessible to visitors with high clearance or 4-wheel drive vehicles.


  • Aguereberry Point
  • Amargosa Opera House
  • Artist Drive
  • Badwater -- At 282 feet below sea level, its the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere
  • Cottonwood Canyon
  • Dante's View
  • Darwin Falls
  • Death Valley Buttes
  • Devil's Cornfield
  • Devil's Golf Course
  • Echo Canyon
  • Golden Canyon
  • Greenwater Ruins
  • Grotto Canyon
  • Marble Canyon
  • Mosaic Canyon
  • Mushroom Rock
  • Natural Bridge
  • Salt Flats
  • Scotty's Castle (Death Valley Ranch)
  • Stovepipe Well
  • Titus Canyon
  • Ubehebe Crater
  • Visitor Center And Museum At Furnace Creek
  • Zabriskie Point

Off the Beaten Path

Available Resources






Although you can get gas in the park it typically costs up to a dollar more per gallon than outside the park. It is recommended to fuel up right outside the park before coming in. But once in the park, dont try to squeak out with just enough gas as the results can be fatal if you are stuck in the wilderness or just plain costly if you need to get gas brought to you by a tow truck.

  • Furnace Creek Gas Station, 8am-6pm on SR 190
  • Stovepipe Wells Gas Station, 8am-6pm on SR 190
  • Scotty's Castle Gas Station, 7am-6pm on SR 267

Stay Safe

Follow Desert Survival guidelines

Other Nearby Destinations

The 395, Mt. Witney, the Sierras, Las Vegas,

External links