The Mesquite Sand Dunes at Death Valley National Park. PHOTO BY JIM GORDON via WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Death Valley contains millions of acres of wild and scenic land. Tucked into that sprawling landscape are more than a few truly stunning sights, as outlined below.
Badwater is the site of the lowest place on land in North America, at 282 feet below sea level. The scene is much more than an elevation marker. Seeps create small pools of water that dramatically reflect the nearby black mountains. Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley looms majestically, 11,000 feet above and across the valley. Located 17 miles south of Furnace Creek.
Located at an elevation of 5,758 feet directly above the Badwater Basin is Dante’s View. This extremely scenic view spot provides vistas of almost all of Death Valley. One can look straight down to the Badwater Basin and directly across to the Panamint Mountains and Telescope Peak. Far off to the west, are seen the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and to the east, numerous desert mountain ranges of Nevada. Located 25 miles east and south of Furnace Creek. The last few miles of roadway are steep and narrow.
This viewpoint is accessed by a short drive and a steep short walk on a paved trail. The scene overlooks the beautifully eroded and colorful hills referred to as the badlands. Telescope Peak can be seen in the distance as well as the soaring peaks of the Funeral Range. Zabriskie Point is a favorite of photographers, providing perfect opportunities at sunrise and sunset. Located 2 1/2 miles east of Furnace Creek.
Penetrating deep into Death Valley’s Black Mountains is aptly named Golden Canyon. Especially in the morning light, the canyon walls glow magically with a flaxen hue. Golden Canyon is a hike, but one can get an intimate feel for it by walking just a few feet past its mouth. More adventurous trekkers can choose among a number of longer hikes. Located two miles south of Furnace Creek.
One of the few places on the actual floor of Death Valley where water flows, Salt Creek meanders along the surface on and off for several miles. This unique environment also provides habitat for Death Valley’s only native species of fish, the Desert Pupfish. Visitors can follow a wooden boardwalk along the banks of this desert treasure on a self-guided half-mile nature walk. Located 13 ½ miles north of Furnace Creek, then a one-mile graded dirt road.
Mesquite Sand Dunes
Just a few miles west of Stovepipe Wells Village lies one of Death Valley’s most popular attractions, the Mesquite Sand Dunes. Covering over 14 square miles, the dunes provide some of the most dramatic scenery in the park. Sunrise and sunset are both great times to catch just the right shot. Watch for the signed turnout about 23 miles north and west of Furnace Creek.
Badwater Basin as seen from Dante’s View. PHOTO BY ALISHA VARGAS via WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Most visitors are taken aback when they approach the yawning expanse of Ubehebe Crater for the first time. This “Maar” Volcano was created by a steam explosion as recent as only 300 years ago. 600’ deep and over a half-mile across, visitors can take a steep path to the bottom (and back up), walk around its rim and simply stand at the edge of the parking area and take in the overwhelming scene. Located 57 miles north of Furnace Creek. The last five miles are on a narrow roadway.
Wildrose Charcoal Kilns
The Death Valley area has a rich mining history. Silver, gold, borax and talc are just some of the minerals that have been mined here. The 10 Wildrose Charcoal Kilns are located at 7000 feet high up in the Panamint Mountains in a Pinion Pine Forest. These nearly perfect pieces of architecture were built in 1877 to produce charcoal for nearby silver smelters. About 62 miles from Furnace Creek, the last three miles on a graded dirt road.
This scenic one-way, semi-loop paved road twists, winds, climbs and dips its way through some of the most colorful scenery in Death Valley. A highlight of the nine-mile trip is the Artist Pallate, where hues of greens, purples, oranges, browns and yellows blend together in a kaleidoscope of color. Entrance to Artist Drive is located about 10 miles south of Furnace Creek.