Death Valley Pictures, California, USA

Death Valley road, Nevada, USA

Heading for Badwater in Death Valley National Park, California.

Driving Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is something of a surprise. Firstly is a lot bigger than most people may imagine, bigger than most of the USA’s other parks, so don’t take a drive lightly, especially if you choose the long, less travelled north/south route. There are also a number of steep mountain roads involved and air-con can play hell with your engine power, gas consumption and with the motor’s ability to keep cool.

Death Valley salt flats, Badwater, Nevada, USA

Badwater salt lake.

Secondly the scenery is a lot more diverse and attractive than you would think, with mountains and rock outcrops in differing shapes and hues, scrubby ‘corn’ rows, sand dunes, salt pinnacles and the famous salt lake Badwater.
There’s also a surreal mansion, Scotty’s Castle, that’s popular with tour groups, and a visitor centre at Furnace Creek.

Death Valley salt crystals, Nevada, USA

Huge salt crystals make this water truly bad.

The hottest place on the planet due to its location. Elevation is a couple of hundred feet below sea level, there is very little water or vegetation, and the  valley averages 112F (45C) in summertime so if that’s when you visit, try to go in the early morning or late afternoon. Alternatively spring and autumn will be a lot more user-friendly.
And don’t forget to carry plenty of water!

Hikers in Gower Gulch, Death Valley, Nevada, USA

Just the place for the old folk to go for a stroll, Gower Gulch in Death Valley. Photo by Finetooth.

Actually only one person died here during the California Gold Rush of 1849, but mules stubbornly refused to drink the water and plenty of them went to that great pasture in the sky.

Death Valley is, of course, open all day, all year, but the visitor centre at Furnace Creek opens 8 a. m. to 5 p. m. on California Highway 190. Furnace Creek is 30 miles from Death Valley Junction and 24 miles from Stovepipe Wells Village.

How was our Death Valley experience?

Colored rocks in Death Valley, Nevada, USA

We arrived on the perimeter of Death valley all pinky and perky after a couple of good nights in our RV in Yosemite National Park, en route for Las Vegas. The plan was to hit Death Valley central west and turn right to Vegas. Easy.
We went across the narrow bit of the valley and fooled around a bit, looking at salt crystals and checking out information posts. Then back onto the valley floor. . . And discovered it just goes on and on and on. . . Nothing but barren dead soil and toxic water. And Las Vegas is suddenly a long way, even if you are in an RV (which is low on fuel and battery power)…

Getting there

The main road crossing Death Valley from east to west is California Highway 190.
In east Nevada, U. S. Route 95 parallels the park from north to south with connecting highways at Scotty’s Junction (State Route 267), Beatty (State Route 374), and Lathrop Wells (State Route 373).
The most direct route from Las Vegas goes via Pahrump, NV).
From the west, State Route 14 and U. S. Route 395 lead to Ridgecrest, CA where State Route 178 heads east into the park.
In the south, Interstate 15 passes through Baker, California on its way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. State Route 127 travels north from Baker to Shoshone and Death Valley Junction with connections to the park on State Route 178 from Shoshone and connection with California Highway 190 at Death Valley Junction.

Using GPS

GPS Navigation to sites to remote locations like Death Valley are notoriously unreliable. Numerous travelers have been directed to the wrong location or even dead-end or closed roads. Travelers should always carry up-to-date road maps to check the accuracy of GPS directions.
DO NOT DEPEND ONLY ON YOUR VEHICLE GPS NAVIGATION SYSTEM.