Death Valley is located in Eastern California and is the largest national park in the continental U.S. It’s famous for being one of the hottest places in the world during the summer, competing with Africa and the Middle East, with temperatures reaching up to 120 degrees! We went to Death Valley in the beginning of March and the hottest temperature we experienced was 83.
This park is so unique and has such a wide variety of scenery. It was amazing that it all occured in one area. Two areas of the park were closed due to construction and flooding (Scotty’s Castle is closed until 2020 and Dantes View will be opening soon). One area of the park we didn’t visit was the Racetrack Playa/the sliding stones. This is the area where the rocks mysterious move and leave a trail. The road there is long (4-6 hours one way) and the last 26 miles is slow due to driving over razor sharp rocks which have been known to blow tires. And there’s no cell service. Brad and I decided that we will go back one day and either rent a Jeep to go out there or take an ATV.
So, what did we do in Death Valley then? All of this…….
Twenty Mule Team Canyon: Off of the main road is an unpaved one way loop road to view this canyon. At times the road is hairpin tight with the eroded badlands are on either side with contracting colors from cream to dark brown. Borax mining happened in the Death Valley area for 6 years in the late 1880’s and this canyon was named after a mule team, which consisted of 18 mules and 2 horses who would pull a large wagon filled with borax. The trip covered 165 miles and took about 10 days to complete.
Zabriskie Point: An easy walk on a paved path leads to this viewpoint of a great panoramic view of the multi colored hills and rocky mountains. Parts of the landscape are wavey rocks and then smooth stone with the mountain range beyond. The colors change depending on the time of day and we viewed this area at sunset.
Badwater Basin: This is the lowest elevation in the U.S. at 282 feet below sea level. The crazy part is that only 84 miles away is Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental U.S. rising at 14,505 feet! The Badwater basin is a salt flat and is one of the largest protected salt flats in the world. The salt crystals are very fragile so it’s important to remember to stay on the trail and no driving on the flats. The white salt flats are surrounded by towering mountains and it makes for a very cool view.
Natural Bridge: It’s worth mentioning since we didn’t read this anywhere that the road to the hike is unpaved and bumpy. Lucky it’s only a few miles long so it doesn’t take too long to reach the trailhead. The gravel trails leads to a natural bridge, where the narrow canyon walls open up to reveal a 50 foot tall bridge that spans the canyon. Hikers can turn around at this point or can continue on for another little bit to see more of the canyon. We didn’t have much time to explore this area so we hiked up to the bridge and turned around.
Artists Palette: One can spend at least a half a day in this area! A 9 mile loop road took us through the mountainside composed of multiple colored metals, hence the name. One can stop and hike in a couple of different areas with the main parking area being the largest hiking spot. Walking to a washout and crossing it leads to the colored mountainside and depending on the time of day is what colors are seen. One can spend hours hiking through the maze of this canyon to get different views of the colors.
Mosaic Canyon: This was the big hike that we did and it was great! The hike is through a canyon and the first mile is through a wash out. The canyon narrows and impassable boulders jam up the path but there is a hidden trail on the left (and right). The trail continues on and we climb over smooth rock and then head up over the canyon along the rim to avoid another boulder jam. The path continues on until it ends at 25 foot dry waterfall, which is the end point.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: Right after our hike we went to check out the sand dunes. We were both pretty tired from the hike and it was getting very stormy looking. We hiked a little bit into the sand dunes and it was so pretty to see the sand against the mountains. One can spend hours hiking around the dunes but we decided to head back due to us being tired and rain clouds. Once back in our truck, it started to rain! Death Valley gets less than 2 inches of rain a year and we were there to experience it raining, which was pretty cool.
Next up is our time in Viva Las Vegas. Till then!