There is just something about Death Valley National Park that just draws us. The colors, the unique features, the ever changing landscape. Being the largest national park in the continental US, Death Valley offers something for everyone. Multiple sand dunes, scenic drives, hiking, canyons, sliding rocks and noteworthy features like Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the nation at 282 feet below sea level.
We were going to be working near Death Valley for a few months so we took advantage of being so close and explored this park multiple times. Here is a recap of our adventures:
Golden Canyon: Star War fans, this hike is for you! One can get a map of the different Star War film locations and hiking through this canyon makes one realize why this park was chosen by George Lucas; it really is like being on a different planet! Massive boulders, vast canyons and an ever changing landscape that really reflects the distinct area of Death Valley. Along the way, pano views of the surrounding valley stretch out as far as the eye can see. As with most hikes in this park, hike early and do not hike in the summer as temperatures can reach 120 degrees!
Dante’s View: The drive to this area is off the main road about 13 miles. Slow, winding roads past different rock formations lead one to the parking lot. Warning: no RV’s allowed on the last potion of this road due to the road being very narrow and steep. From the parking lot, one sees pano views of the Black Mountains along with the lowest point Badwater Basin and Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley at 11,043 feet. There is a hiking trail that starts from the parking lot which leads to Mount Perry. We hiked a portion of that 9 mile trail but we had a late start so afternoon winds made us turn around sooner than later.
Ibex Sand Dunes: We were on a mission to find sand dunes without footprints and made the decision to hike one of the less popular sand dunes at sunset to get footprint less photos. It took some planning as we wanted to go during a full moon because Death Valley is a Dark Sky park and boy, it gets crazy dark without moonlight. The last 10 miles of the drive is down an unpaved, rock filled road and one knows they are at the “trail” (there is no real trail) when the “Wilderness Restoration” sign post is seen. It’s about a mile to the sand dunes and we used a compass to mark where we parked because we couldn’t see the car from the dunes and all around us looked the same. The sand dunes were footprint free and looked awesome! We could have spent hours there walking the dunes but quickly found a few good photo spots for me (Jennifer!) to take photos. Definitely recommend this area of the park!
Desolation Canyon: This hike is not a popular hike, even though it’s next to one of the most popular areas in the park, Artist Point. If this hike was called Artist Canyon, it would be very popular! The hike starts off in an open wash and follows along towering multicolored rocks. From green to pink to red, every corner brought new color surprises. Scrambling up a few rock walls and then a steep, short incline lead us to the summit; a pano view of Artist Point, Badwater Basin and Devils Golf Course. Star War fans, the start of this hike is another film location.
Ash Meadows: This is technically part of Death Valley though it’s apart from the main park about 30 miles. This is the last remaining oasis in the Mojave Desert and is home to over 30 rare plants and animal species that do not exist anywhere else in the world! It’s also a protected wetland that was almost destroyed back in the 80’s to be made into a housing development and casino. Three different walkways lead to views of the Caribbean blue spring ponds that shine against the bleak desert landscape. Two fun facts about the water: the water is blue because of the dissolving limestone and this water is called fossil water because it’s from the previous ice age, meaning the water we saw is thousands of years old! This place is a small gem in the desert.
Some worthwhile mentions while we were hanging out in the desert (that were outside Death Valley):
It snowed!! And the snow stuck for most of the day! Residents said the last time it snowed like that was 10 years ago. So cool we had that experience!
We had two visits to Red Rock Canyon to hike with good friends from Grand Teton and California. Two completely different hikes that both showed the diverse nature of this really cool park.
The surrounding area of Mount Charleston is first desert and Joshua trees that turns into pine trees, snow and mountains all at above 8,000 feet elevation. It smelled like Christmas in the forest and made us long for living back in the mountains. The uniqueness of this area is just wondrous.
Mountain Springs gave us a good few hikes that started on the same trail but split in three different directions. We hiked all three ways and it was not only a great workout but surprisingly great views of the desert and surrounding area.
We are off on our next adventure-Grand Teton for the summer! Cannot wait to be back in the mountains and to see our co-workers who are now our great friends.
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