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Death Valley

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Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California Death Valley

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Introduction

Death Valley Road, California

Death Valley Road, California

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

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.

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History

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.

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Opening Hours

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.

  • Furnace Creek Visitor Center & Museum - Open Daily (8:00am to 5:00pm Pacific Time). Phone: (760) 786-3200
  • Scotty's Castle Visitor Center & Museum - Open Daily (Winter - 8:30am to 5:30pm; Summer - 9:00am to 4:30pm). Phone: (760) 786-2392

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Cost

  • Vehicle Entrance Fee: $20 for 7 Days
  • Individual Entrance Fee: $10 for 7 Days
  • Death Valley National Park Annual Pass: $40 for one year
  • National Parks Pass: $80, especially recommended when visiting at least 4 of the more expensive parks, like Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park.

Commercial Entrance Fees:

Entrance Fees for commercial vehicles are based on the capacity of the vehicle.

  • Vehicle capacity 1-6: $25, plus $10 per person
  • Vehicle capacity 7-15: $75
  • Vehicle capacity 16-25: $100
  • Vehicle capacity 26 or more: $200

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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Sights and Activities

Death Valley

Death Valley

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

  • Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the western hemisphere. Badwater Basin at -283 feet or -86 metres below sea level, is located south of Furnace Creek (the main place to stay).
  • Scotty's Castle is in the north of the park, not far from the border with Nevada. $11 tours are mandatory.
  • Ubehebe Crater is a 3,000-year-old crater of about 800 feet (240 metres).
  • Devil's Golf Course is the crystalline salt spires on the valley floor.
  • Zabriskie Point is just off of route 190, great views.
  • Dante's View is located about 5,400 feet (about 1,650 metres) above sea level, and is a great way to escape the heath in summer. From here, you have great views across the valley as well as the mountains. Take route 190 from Furnace Creek and follow the road signs that lead up to the top. The last part is steep and trailers and RV's are not allowed.
  • Wildrose Charcoal Kilns are the old charcoal kilns, one of the early industries in the valley.
  • Racetrack Playa
  • Severa ghost towns, like Rhyolite, Ballarat, Panamint City and Leadfield
  • Artist's Drive and Palette is off of the main road between Furnace Creek and Badwater. This one-way loop take you through great mountain scenery and multi-coloured rockformations.
  • Death Valley Museum in Furnace Creek
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are just west of Stovepipe Wells along route 190 are these low but easy accessible sand dunes.
  • Eureka Dunes is in the far north at the end of a rough 4wd route are the highest sand dunes in the park, up to more than 200 metres.
  • Harmony Borax Works, just north of Furnace Creek.

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Weather

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:

  • In 2001, Death Vally experienced the greatest number of consecutive days with a maximum temperature of 100 °F (38 °C) or above: 154 days!
  • The summer of 1917 had 52 days where temperatures reached 120 °F (49 °C) or above with 43 of them consecutive.
  • The summer of 1996 had 40 days over 120 °F (49 °C) and 105 days over 110 °F (43 °C).
  • The period from July 17–19, 1959 was the longest string of consecutive days where nighttime low temperatures did not drop below 100 °F (38 °C).

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Getting There

Death Valley Road, California

Death Valley Road, California

© All Rights Reserved Utrecht

By Plane

The nearest airport with many connections throughout the US, is in Las Vegas, about 2 hours away from the park.

By Train

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.

By Car

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.

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Getting Around

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.

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Eat

Restaurants

  • The Inn at Furnace Creek Dining Room is the lodge restaurant at Death Valley and the restaurant is open from mid-October to mid-May. It has nice food at moderate prices with breakfast from $5 to $15, lunch from $10 to $20 and dinner from $10 to $40.
  • The Ranch at Furnace Creek Dining
  • Wrangler Buffet features a casual daily self-service, and American style all-you-can-eat breakfast and lunch buffet. It has several hot and cold options. Breakfast: 6:00am - 9:00am Daily, October - May. Breakfast: 6:00am - 10:00am Daily, May - October. Lunch: 11:00am - 2:00pm Daily.
  • Wrangler Steakhouse is a casual sit down western style steakhouse with full bar, with California wines. The mains cost from $15 to $40 and there is a children's menu. 5:30pm - 9:00pm Daily, October - May. 6:30pm - 10:00pm Daily, May - October. For up to date menus consult the The Ranch at Furnace Creek Dinning webpage.
  • 49'er Cafe is a casual family restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant has a full bar with dinner mains from $10 to $30. Breakfast: 7:00am - 10:45am, October - May. Lunch & Dinner: 11:30am - 9:00pm, October - May. Dinner: 4:00pm - 9:00 pm, May - October

Cooking

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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Drink

  • Corkscrew Saloon, open from 11:00am to midnight year round, is a casual restaurant and bar. It has a wide variety of beer, wine and top shelf liquor. They also have a menu of bar food and pizza ranging from $5 to $15 for snacks and from $10 to $35 for mains. After 9:00pm only items from the Lite Bar Menu are provided.

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Sleep

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Cynthia's Guest House and Hostel2001 Old Spanish Trail HighwayHostel-

Camping

Salt Flats

Salt Flats

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Campgrounds Free:

  • Emigrant Springs is an undeveloped campground, open year round, located at 2,100 feet (640 metres) above sea level making it an ideal place to camp in the summer. It only has 10 sites but due to the lack of visitors during the summer it rarely fills up. It is only a short walk to the water spout and bathroom down a small trail. There is no shade provided but there are picnic tables. Even at this elevation it gets hot during that day and the ground will reradiate heat upwards late into the night.
  • Wildrose is an undeveloped campground with 30 sites, open year round and located at 4,100 feet (1,250 metres) above sea level. It has water from April to November, picnic tables, fire places and pit toilets.
  • Thorndike is an undeveloped campground located at 7,400 feet (2,255 metres) above sea level with 6 sites open from March to November. There is no water at this campground however there are tables, fire places and pit toilets.
  • Mahogany Flat is an undeveloped campground located at 8,200 feet (2,500 metres) above sea level with 13 sites open from March to November. There is no water at this campground however there are tables, fire places and pit toilets.

Campgrounds Pay:

  • Furnace Creek
  • Mesquite Spring
  • Stovepipe Wells
  • Stovepipe Wells RV Campground
  • Sunset
  • Texas Spring

Mid-Range

Inside the Park:

Outside the Park:

Upscale

Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 36.455556
  • Longitude: -116.866667

On Travellerspoint

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This is version 32. Last edited at 11:22 on Mar 5, 12 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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