Death Valley: 24 Hour Trip

Trip date: Dec 20-21, 2018
Death Valley in 24 hours + 5 sightseeing spots for all levels

The winter is the best time to visit the desert because of the weather. It’s much cooler temperatures during the day (low 70s when I went) and the evenings were amazing temps as well, around 55 degrees at night. I’ve been here once in the Spring and the morning weather was nice, but as soon as noon hit, it got really hot and the desert is super exposed.

I went on a super quick trip to Death Valley National Park with my friend Kara, who I met from GirlsWhoHike LA. We set out from Los Angeles on Dec 20 just before 6 am, drove 4:15 hour north towards the desert, and left the park at 11 am the next day to be back in LA by mid/late afternoon. This was right before the recent government shutdown.

Although our trip was on a Thurs & Fri, you can easily use this itinerary to plan your own quick weekend getaway! 😉

We had no plans for our trip and no sleeping accommodations… we just wanted to be out in nature, so our first stop was the visitor center. Even if you know all the trails/vistas you want to see during your trip, stopping by a visitor center is always a good idea to gather more information, current weather conditions, and camping options/ water source. I usually know exactly where I want to be on my trips, but I always stop by the visitor centers when given the chance.

Badwater Basin

(11:30 am) We arrived at our first stop: Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America resting at 282 feet below sea level. It’s about a 15-min walk to the end where the paved-ish runway ends and you’re surrounded by 360 deg views of salt flats. It’s a very unique site to visit and we spent about an hour out here.

They say a temporary lake can possibly form here after a big rainstorm… how cool would that be?!

Artists Drive & Palette

(1:00 pm) We started our scenic drive through Artists Drive and about 8-10 mins in, you’ll see an obscure right turn where you can pull up directly at the Artists Palette vista. We noticed a few cars pulled over on the side of the road before this right turn to take pictures of the colorful hills, but skip that, drive up to it, and get out and stretched your legs! There’s actually a few short trails that get you up close to these minerals so we hiked around for about half an hour.

Zabriskie Point

(2:20 pm) I’ve always been curious to see Zabriskie Point and I wish we had time to do the Golden Canyon hike that leads here also, but we parked the car at the lot Zabriskie Point lot and walked less than 5 mins to see the view of brown-toned desert layers. This spot gets very crowded so we only stayed 10-15 mins before heading to our last spot for the day, but this spot was recommended to view the sunset.

Dante’s View

(3:10 pm) Dante’s View is another vista you can drive up to. It’s a nice aerial view of Badwater Basin sitting at 5475 ft but if you walk about 5 mins to the left of the parking lot along the trail, you’ll get to see a bit more of it as it opens up. It was very windy up here because you’re driving a tad bit higher, but the valley from below wasn’t windy, just chillier as the evening approached. This is also a good sunset spot.

For the remainder of the evening, we drove all the way back to Emigrant Campground which is the closest free campsite to Furnace Creek/ Visitor Center. It’s still about 40 mins away which was fine because it was near the entrance/exit to the park and by our last destination for the next morning before we head out the next day. This is a first come, first serve campground with 10 sites, open all year round, and we got lucky and snagged the last spot.

The next morning, we stopped by Stovepipe Wells at the market for a snack and cell service so I can get some quick work done before continuing on our last adventure for this trip.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

(9 am, Fri) Stepping in virgin sand is really a special feeling – it’s the same feeling as when you are the first to step on fresh snow powder, and we were on a search for this experience at the nearby Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. The wind from the previous day wasn’t strong enough to “clean” the sand dunes from the thousands of footprints and we walked 30+ mins all the way out and still no fresh ridges. It’s still worth going to and we spent about 2 hours out here before beginning the journey home. It’s very exposed so start early or late – it’s also the best time for shadows from the dunes for photo ops.

Views heading home…

Thanks for reading 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below & let me know if you have any questions!

*Don’t forget to practice Leave No Trace*

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