Las Vegas, CA 92328
NileGuide Expert tip:
Plentiful rainfall in winter results in spectacular fields of wildflowers in spring.
Death Valley National Park is located primarily in California, but a small portion of the park extends into Nevada. A satellite of the park—the rocky home of the endangered Devil's Hole Pupfish—is in Ash Springs National Wildlife Refuge, which is located just outside of Pahrump, Nevada. Las Vegas visitors can easily drive to Death Valley—if not as a day trip, then as part of their journey to or from Las Vegas. Several tour companies also offer guided tours into the park.
Death Valley is the largest national park in the continental United States. It is the hottest and driest national park. Death Valley got its name from the early pioneers who attempted to cross it—only one pioneer died, but the name stuck to this harsh place. The multi-colored landscape is short on vegetation (except when spring wildflowers bloom), but full of unexpectedly beautiful panoramas at places like Zabriske Point, Dante's View, and Artists Drive.
The early history of Death Valley included many attempts at mining, and the remnants of these efforts can be found throughout the park. The area didn't yield gold, but it did have borax, which was hauled out by 20-mule teams. The Harmony Borax Works has an interpretative trail with information and artifacts connected with the borax mines.
Popular stops in the park include Scotty's Castle, Furnace Creek, and Stovepipe Wells. Scotty's Castle is the site of a historic building. Furnace Creek has an upscale resort. Stovepipe Wells sits just on the other side of a large sand dune field. The ghost town of Rhyolite is between Beatty, Nevada, and Death Valley's eastern border. Many of the Rhyolite's ruins are made of stone, and you may recognize it from movies.
The lowest elevation in the United States is in Death Valley at Badwater Basin, and from there you may be able to see the peak of Mt. Whitney, the highest elevation point in the continental U.S.
Temperatures in the summer are among the highest recorded in the world—so if you choose to visit in June, July, or August, come prepared. Make sure your vehicle is in good working condition, bring water and food, and do not stray off onto unpaved roads. Even in non-summer months, keep in mind that this is one of the world's harshest climates, so let someone know where you will be, and be prepared for extreme conditions.