With autumn approaching, it’s the best time for sightseeing in Death Valley, where the temperatures can be extreme, to say the least. The highest temperature in the entire world was recorded at Furnace Creek at 134°F in 1913. Even fall can see very warm temperatures, but as long as you are prepared, Death Valley National Park is a unique and fun destination.
Covering nearly 3.4 million acres, Death Valley is the largest national park in the United States. The park is located in the states of California and Nevada, east of the Sierra Nevada.
At more than 5000 ft. above the valley floor, the view here is considered to be the most stunning vista in Death Valley. There is a ridge along the top, which combined with the cooler temperatures and breezed at that height, as well as the panoramic 110 mile-long view, make it a popular location for short walks and photo ops of the Badwater Basin far below.
This is a 9-mile, one-way drive, dipping, curving and looping through ravines and colorful craggy volcanic hills. The section called “Artist’s Palette” is not to be missed from late afternoon to dusk when the light splashes off the mineral hills, making them appear iridescent yellow, green, coral and blue.
The word to describe Zabriskie Point at sunset… spectacular. A bit windy, but worth the short uphill walk, the view is otherworldly as you look down on the vibrant labyrinth of badlands.
Zabriskie Point will always have a special place in my heart. Just four months after my horrible, near-death South African car crash, this was my first foray into traveling again. To get to the viewpoint would take a ¼ mile walk to the crest, which may not seem like much, but with my newly-healed pelvic fractures and steel plates holding my left femur together, it looked daunting from my perspective. But I was not going to miss this famous viewpoint! So with crutch in hand, I slowly and carefully began the ascent, stopping at a rest-bench (bless you, park rangers!) at the halfway mark. I am nothing if not tenacious, and by Job, I did it! One huge milestone and an almost immeasurable sense of accomplishment and future motivator.
At 282 feet below sea level, the shimmering basin is the lowest point, not just in Death Valley, but in all of North America. With the Black Mountains in the background, you can walk out on the bone-dry, slippery salt flats. In the winter, the flats become a temporary pond that is four times saltier than the ocean.
Looking down from the rim of this amazing site, it’s hard to believe it was created just 2000 years ago by a loud volcanic steam explosion. The 600-foot deep crater was what remained. There are three major trails at the crater. Winds at the rim of the crater can be strong with gusts above 50 mph.
In the northern area of Death Valley, just a short drive from Death Valley National Park is Scotty’s Castle. “Death Valley Scotty” was a con man who claimed he built the Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style villa from gold from his mine. However, it was nothing more than an elaborate but clever hoax. The estate belonged to wealthy friends, and he used it to scam unwitting investors into giving him money for his gold prospecting scheme.
Death Valley is an amazingly beautiful place, worthy of a weekend of auto touring and/or hiking. Be sure to take plenty of water – perspiration on a 110°F day will wick away about one liter of water per hour – even more, if you’re hiking. Lightweight, protective clothing, sunglasses and hats are also a key to health and comfort.
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