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Death Valley is located in the Mojave Desert of California in the United States. Although Death Valley basically refers to the valley floor itself, it's actually part of the much larger Death Valley National Park which is covered here. It is a place of extremes with the driest, hottest, and lowest place in North America. Oddly enough, it is not that far from Mount Whitney, which is the highest point in the lower 48 states. It is a popular camping destination and features many great hiking trails and natural wonders. Though these activities surely are not recommended in the hot summer months unless you plan to hike early in the morning.
The park was home to several different nomadic groups starting around 7000 BCE. With its hot climate, harsh terrain and little life the Timbisha arrived around 1000 AD and thrived until the mid 19th century moving between the low valley's in the winter and the mountain during the summer. Currently the Timbisha have a reservation located within the park and a community center, called Indian Village, near the park.
In the 19th century arrived western miners looking for riches, originally gold then other precious metals. These early miners gave the valley it's name Death Valley. With the discover of borax the area went through a mini boom. But after World War I, and the discovery of other borax deposits, the opportunity cost of hauling borax out by 20 mule teams couldn't compete. The owners seeing the profit in mining and charcoal dwindling pushed for tourism and pressured the federal government to designate Death Valley a National Monument in 1933. The area was expanded and upgraded to a National Park in 1994. To this day you can find amazing artifacts of the early history of Death Valley perfectly preserved by the arid desert climate.
Death Valley is open year round, though the summer months are too hot for most visitors and it's advised that during that time you adjust to the heat and take it easy. There are several visitors centers throughout the park that offer useful information to guests, presentations, and tours.
Commercial Entrance Fees:
Entrance Fees for commercial vehicles are based on the capacity of the vehicle.
Remember when approaching Death Valley from Las Vegas that the kiosk for paying the entrance fee is automated. Directions are offered in several languages and the kiosk accepts all National Park Passes. You put the pass into the machine and it prints you a ticket to put in the window of your car.
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Death Valley's climate is extreme. It's the hottest and driest place on the continent. Average high temperatures from June to September are between 106 °F (41 °C) and 115 °F (46 °C) with an absolute record of almost 135 °F (57 °C), which (because the 'official' record in Libya is questioned) is regarded the highest temperature ever recorded on the planet. During July temperatures often hover around or above 120 °F (50 °C) and although this surely is not the best time for a visit, a growing number of travellers comes to experience these extreme (dry, like people like to tell you) heat in relatively comfortable situations (good roads, aircon everywhere). Nights during these months often don't dip below 86 °F (30 °C) and once a minimum temperature of 102 °F (39 °C) has been measured!
December and January are around 68 °F (20 °C) during the day with relatively cool nights (frost is common). February to April and October and November are perfect months with warm weather but not overly hot. Precipitation is low with only around 2.4 inches (60mm) a year.
To give you more idea of the constant heat in summer, here are a few facts:
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The nearest Amtrak station is in Barstow. Visitors will need to find another way to get from Barstow to Death Valley as there is no shuttle service between the two locations.
The main way to get to Death Valley is car. Located in a very remote part of the country even if you can get to the park by public transportation and hitch hiking there is really no way to get around unless you have a car. Remember that gas inside and near the park is extremely expensive, almost twice the price as it is normally in Nevada or California. If at all possible try not to fill your care up at these expensive stations.
From Southern California you can take the I-15 and turn on to CA 127, then head north to CA 178 which leads directly into the park and to the southern end of the valley. From Nevada you can access the park by using State Route 374 from US Highway 95 from the north, or CA 190 from Death Valley Junction, where CA 127 and 373 merge.
In the north, you can als excess the park on State Route 267 from US 95. Coming from the west, the main entrance route is CA 190 from Highway 395.
Basically, without your own wheels it's difficult to get around. All sights are easily reached though by car and few people come here without theirs. There are also some sights which can only be accessed by unpaved roads. Although roads are generally fine, it's recommended not to travel along these roads in summer, as the car easily gets overheated much quicker than one paved roads.
If your planning on camping, cooking will be your main option. The grocery purchasing options inside or near the park is quite horrible. The food will be extremely expensive without many options, unless you want peanut butter and ramen. Stock up on food before entering the park. Also use a camp stove as most of the campgrounds do not have fire pit options. It is easy and free to get water inside the park so have water containers to fill up.
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Inside the Park:
Outside the Park:
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