When to Go
All-year park. Temperatures from November through February average between 43°F and 70°F. From May through September, average highs range between 100°F and 116°F; overnight lows may top 100°F.
How to Get There
No public transit services serve the park. Most visitors arrive by automobile from Los Angeles or Las Vegas. From Los Angeles, the most scenic route crosses the eastern Mojave Desert via I-15 through Barstow. At Baker it turns north onto Calif. 127 to Shoshone, where Calif. 178 runs west and north along the valley floor to Furnace Creek.
From Las Vegas, take Nev. 160 west 42 miles to Old Spanish Trail (Tecopa Rd.), continuing through Tecopa to Calif. 127, turning north to Shoshone and picking up Calif. 178 to Furnace Creek. You can also take Nev. 160 to Pahrump, turn west on Bell Vista Rd. to Death Valley Junction at Calif. 127, and turn left onto Calif. 190 to Furnace Creek. To include a visit to the early-20th-century Nevada gold-mining ghost town of Rhyolite, take US 95 to Beatty, picking up Nev. 374, which leads to Calif. 190.
How to Visit
Death Valley's remote location and size make an automobile essential. An overnight stay allows time for the valley's vivid sunrises and sunsets and a visit to the Death Valley Museum and Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Plan also to visit the Harmony Borax Works near the Furnace Creek Campground, to walk the one-mile Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail, and to drive to Zabriskie Point for fine views of the valley.
A second day permits exploration of the valley's northern reaches and Scottys Castle, the retreat of an early-20th-century millionaire, and nearby Ubehebe Crater, blasted out during the region's volcanic past. If you are a seasoned hiker, consider the strenuous all-day hike from Wildrose Canyon to sweeping views atop 11,049-foot Telescope Peak, Death Valley's highest point.
Where to Stay
There are nine campgrounds within the park, as well as backcountry camping opportunities that require a permit.
In the heart of the park, Furnace Creek Ranch, once a working ranch, offers cabin (from $124) and standard motel (from $144) accommodations as well as horseback riding and carriage rides. Open year-round.
The privately owned, 66-room Furnace Creek Inn is a first-class option, with a swimming pool, tennis courts, and an oasis-style garden. From $305; not open in summer months.
Nestled inside the west entrance to the park, with views of distant sand dunes and the Panamint Mountains, the Panamint Springs Resort offers hotel (from $79), camping ($15 for tents), and RV park accommodations. The resort claims to be 10-15 degrees cooler than accommodations farther inside the park.
Thirty miles east of Furnace Creek, at Death Valley Junction, you'll find Marta Becket's unique Amargosa Hotel, once part of the company town established by the Pacific Coast Borax Company. Some of the hotel rooms have painted murals of dancers, clowns, and cherubs.
Always bring water with you when hiking in Death Valley—at least two liters for a short winter hike and at least six liters for summer and longer hikes. Some dangerous creatures live in the park, such as rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders. Don't put your feet or hands into any crevices you can't first see into. Don't enter any of the 6,000 to 10,000 abandoned mines in the park: They may be unstable, contain bad air or poisonous gases, or have dangerous hidden shafts.
National Parks Photos
Take in the harsh, desolate, and stunningly beautiful landscapes of Death Valley. Mountain ranges, basins, hot springs, and dunes populate the park's expanses.
National Geographic Guides and Maps
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.