Death Valley National Park


California > Death Valley National Park

Named features on maps of Death Valley National Park include the Funeral Mountains, Coffin Peak, Hell's Gate, Starvation Canyon and Dead Man Pass - this is clearly a place with a bad history, reflecting the troubles and misfortunes endured by the pioneers who first traversed, inhabited and mined the region during the end of the last century. But despite the foreboding reputation, visitors today will find a place of amazing beauty with many colorful rocks and canyons, miles of pristine sand dunes, unique evaporative salt features and even a diverse range of wildlife. The park also contains many relics from a hundred and fifty years of history, which give an insight into the harsh life of the early settlers - borax and metal ore mines, ghost towns, charcoal kilns and other ruins. Petroglyphs and ancient foot-trails provide evidence of the Shoshone Indians who lived here even earlier.

The valley is a long, low depression set in largely barren and unpopulated country of desert plains and rocky ridges, east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It is over 130 miles long, but only around 12 miles wide, running roughly north-south near the border with Nevada. From an elevation of 1000 meters at the north end, the land slopes down steadily and for 70 miles the floor is below sea level, reaching a low point of -282 feet (-86 meters) at Badwater, the lowest point in the Western hemisphere. The depth of the depression is partly responsible for the extreme high temperatures, which can exceed 130°F in summer. High, unvegetated mountains of sombre reddish colour flank the narrow valley on both sides; a few are high enough to have snow for many months of the year.

The protected area, proclaimed a National Monument in 1933, was extended in 1994 (by the Desert Protection Act) to include an additional 1200,000 acres, mainly in the little-visited northwest section, and was upgraded in status to a National Park; this now covers 3 million acres, making it the largest in the US outside Alaska. Nearly 550 square miles are below sea level. There are many interesting sites and viewpoints beside the paved roads, and a good selection of short to moderate trails, but the majority of the area is reachable only by 4WD tracks or long cross-country hikes, this latter possible only during winter and spring owing to the high temperatures and lack of water at other times.

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Skidoo Stamp Mill
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Badlands
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Rhyolite

Featured Death Valley Sites and Trails


The South

Badwater
The lowest point in the western hemisphere; probably the most visited location in Death Valley
Baker
The 80 mile southern approach to Death Valley from Baker, via highways 127 and 178
Corkscrew Canyon
Corkscrew Canyon
★★★★★
4.3 miles, 800 feet
Shallow, branched drainage through undulating, yellowish badlands. One fork forms a pretty section of narrows, while another contains an old mine site
Dantes Peak
Dantes View
★★★★
0.4 miles, 300 feet
Dante's View is a spectacular mountain overlook on the west side of Death Valley. A short path leads to a summit (Dante's Peak) a little way north
Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch
Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch
★★★★★
4.3 miles, 700 feet (loop)
Twisting ravines through fantastically colored badlands below Zabriskie Point, toured by a loop path
Natural Bridge Canyon
Natural Bridge Canyon
★★★★★
0.8 miles, 500 feet
Ravine through crumbling, greyish conglomerate rocks, containing dryfalls, short narrow sections and a good sized natural bridge
Slit Canyon
Slit Canyon
★★★★★
1.8 miles, 900 feet
Twisting drainage through colorful rocks at the edge of the Funeral Mountains; contains dryfalls, chokestones, chutes and narrow passageways
Twenty Mule Team Canyon
Unpaved, 2.7 mile side road through colorful badlands and narrow ravines
Willow Creek
Willow Creek
★★★★★
3 miles, 600 feet
Deep, narrow and steeply-sloping canyon containing a stream most of the year, flowing over waterfalls and chutes
Zabriskie Point
Famous overlook of a colorful, undulating landscape of gullies and mud hills at the edge of the Black Mountains

The North

Fall Canyon
Fall Canyon
★★★★★
4.5 miles, 1500 feet
Major drainage leading to 20 foot dryfall, above which are unusual and beautiful narrows through smooth, dark, marble-like strata
Grey Wall Canyon
Grey Wall Canyon
★★★★★
5 miles, 1000 feet
Long, twisting ravine through the northern Grapevine Mountains; shallow narrow passageways bordered by banded igneous rocks
Red Wall Canyon
Red Wall Canyon
★★★★★
4.5 miles, 2600 feet
Colorful wilderness gorge, deep in places, bordered by twisted, igneous rocks
Ubehebe Crater
Colorful volcanic crater, near several smaller craters, towards the north end of Death Valley

The West

Aguereberry Point and Harrisburg
Spectacular, remote, high elevation viewpoint, reached by a gravel road that also passes ruined buildings and mine relics
Darwin Canyon
Darwin Canyon
★★★★
1.5 miles, 500 feet
One of the highest waterfalls in the national park (80 feet), plus smaller falls and cascades, deep pools and a permanent stream
Grotto Canyon
Grotto Canyon
★★★★★
3 miles, 1200 feet
Perhaps the most beautiful narrows in Death Valley - a long succession of enchanting passages through light-colored rocks, polished smooth by floodwaters
Mosaic Canyon
Mosaic Canyon
★★★★
1.8 miles, 1000 feet
One of many ravines on the north side of Tucki Mountain, containing several sections of shallow but pretty narrows through marble-type rock
Skidoo
Old townsite, now completely empty, but near several fascinating mining relics, set in remote, deserted terrain
Stretched Pebble Canyon
Stretched Pebble Canyon
★★★★★
2 miles, 1000 feet
Minor, rarely-explored ravine on the west side of Tucki Mountain, with quite a steep upwards gradient
Wildrose Peak Trail
Wildrose Peak Trail
★★★★★
4.2 miles, 2100 feet
High summit in the Panamint Mountains, rising over 9,000 feet on the west side of Death Valley; reached by a steep but straightforward trail

The East

Monarch Canyon
Monarch Canyon
★★★★★
3.5 miles, 1000 feet
Rocky ravine through the Funeral Mountains, containing a spring and a multi-stage, 110 foot waterfall
Rhyolite
Small but interesting ghost town in the Bullfrog Hills west of Beatty; an evocative and photogenic site

Highlights: Largest NPS preserve outside Alaska; starkly beautiful desert wilderness centered on a 130 mile long valley, 70 miles of which is below sea level. Includes sand dunes, eroded rocks, slot canyons, historic sites, oases, dry lakes, evaporative salt features and peaks up to 12,000 feet
Nearest city with hotels: East side: Beatty, 35 miles. West side: Lone Pine, 80 miles (distances to Stovepipe Wells)
Management: NPS
Location: 36.831,-117.882 (east entrance) 36.369,-117.616 (west entrance)
Seasons: Winter and spring are best for hiking. The park is busy even in midsummer, when the extreme heat is a attraction for some visitors
Weather:

Death Valley - Regions



The South
The most visited section of Death Valley, incuding Artist's Palette, Badwater, Dante's View, Devil's Golf Course and Zabriskie Point
The North
Lonelier, less visited section of the valley but equally scenic as the south. Higher in elevation; slopig up to 3,000 feet at Scotty's Castle
The West
More desert landscapes along the western approaches - Emigrant Pass and Emigrant Canyon
The East
The approach to the national park from Beatty, past the ghost town of Rhyolite
Devils Hole, a flooded limestone sinkhole, is a small unconnected part of Death Valley National Park, within Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada.

Death Valley - General Information



Park Map - map of Death Valley National Park

Weather and Climate - notes about the extreme weather conditions of Death Valley

Death Valley - Photography



Photograph Galleries: QTVR Panoramas:
Death Valley is part of the California Deserts itinerary
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