The Stark Beauty of Death Valley
Death Valley. The name doesn’t exactly conjure up an inviting vacation destination. Most people think of Death Valley as very hot, very dry and very remote. While all this is true, it is also quiet, starkly beautiful and about as far off the beaten path as you can get for a national park in the lower 48.
The first tip for visiting Death Valley National Park is to avoid the summer. Temperatures of 120 degrees are common. Most of the park services don’t even open until October. In the fall the mercury drops to a more comfortable 95 to 105 degrees during the day and into the low 60’s at night.
A great home base in Death Valley is the Furnace Creek Ranch. It's a spring fed oasis in the middle of the desert. There are palm trees, a swimming pool and the world’s lowest golf course (200 feet below sea level). But when you step outside the confines of the Ranch the landscape turns from green to brown and you may think you’ve stepped onto another planet.
From Furnace Creek it’s a short drive to Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in the western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level. To get more of a bird’s eye view of the area go to Dante’s View (elevation 5,475 feet) located on top of the mountain directly above Badwater. However it’s over 40 miles away by car.
Other areas of interest include Golden Canyon and the Borax mines, the Devil’s Golf Course, and the Stovepipe Wells sand dunes. One of the most bizarre areas in the park is a spot called the Racetrack. Very large stones appear to have moved across the ground on their own. There are tracks from the stones as they scrape across the dry lake bed. Scientists believe that the stones are actually moved by the wind.
A trip to Death Valley is a unique experience. This is an extreme climate. Remember to drink plenty of fluids and wear sunscreen as you investigate this incredible national park.