Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth. Recently, on August 16th, 2020, a temperature of 54.5 °C (130.1 °F) was recorded at the Furnace Creek weather station. Death Valley is a desert valley situated mainly in Inyo County, California. Death Valley National Park, which was established in October 1994, encompasses a large portion of Death Valley on the border of California and Nevada. The National Park regulates and protects the vast range of territories in the valley, including salt-flats, canyons, and sand dunes as well as the wildlife that inhabits these environments.
History of Death Valley
More than 1000 years ago, the Native American Timbisha Tribe inhabited Death Valley, and they continue to live there today. In 1849, during the California Gold Rush, the valley was given its current name when a number of those who sought to cross the valley in search of goldfields died in the blistering heat.
It was President Herbert Hoover who originally put the area under federal protection in 1933, and declared the area a National Monument. In 1994, the protected area was expanded and upgraded to Death Valley National Park.
Reasons to go
Despite the inhospitable temperatures, there is plenty of wildlife to observe in the Death Valley National Park. Many of these animals, like bighorn sheep and kangaroo rats, have evolved to be able to go days at a time without water. The area is also home to other rare animals like roadrunners and desert tortoises. If you are looking to find some unique animals, you have come to the right place.
Given the remoteness of the Death Valley National Park, there is an opportunity to stargaze in the absence of light pollution. For the clearest views of the stars, visit the new moon when the sky is darker. This will make it easier to see a variety of constellations. Also, make sure you give yourself enough time, as your eyes can take around 30 minutes to adjust to the incredible darkness. Some of the best places to view the stars from in Death Valley include Harmony Borax Works, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and Badwater Basin.
Death Valley is an excellent location for keen hikers and beginners alike, though you better bring plenty of water. There is a huge array of terrains and trails of varying difficulties, so regardless of your experience you can find something suitable. For a moderate trail, take a look at Golden Canyon and Gower Gulch, which is a 6-mile round trip hike that takes you through a breathtaking canyon and past borax mining ruins. For a much more strenuous hike, there is Telescope Peak, which takes you up to the highest point in Death Valley at 11,331 feet. This 13-mile round trip is not for the faint-hearted, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views at the top.
Take a drive
A popular activity is to take a road trip through Death Valley, as it gives you the opportunity and freedom to discover all this landscape has to offer, all in the comfort of air conditioning. With the flexibility to visit salt-flats, the Badwater Basin, or the Devils Golf Course, you can design an itinerary that suits you. When driving through the Valley, it’s important to be prepared with enough water and gas to sustain you. Also, be sure to visit at a good time of the year. October through April tends to be ideal, with warm days and cool nights.
If you want to cycle through the valley, you have plenty of options. Bikes are permitted on all park roads that are open to public vehicular traffic as well as on some paths. If you are planning to cycle through the valley, make sure you plan your route as there is over 785 miles of suitable road available to cyclists. For an easy mountain biking road, take a look at Salt Creek Road, or for the more experienced cyclists, there is Artist’s Drive.
For those that want to stay the night in Death Valley, there are plenty of accommodation options including 12 campgrounds. In the center of the park are campsites Furnace Creek, Texas Spring, and Sunset, all of which provide water and flush toilets. Camping in Death Valley is a unique experience and gives visitors the opportunity to experience what it’s like to live in one of the hottest places in the world.
How far is it from Las Vegas?
The fastest route by car between Las Vegas and Death Valley National Park is 120 miles and takes approximately 2 hours.
When is the best time to visit?
The most popular time to visit Death Valley National Park is in the spring. The warm days and blooming wildflowers make it an attractive time to visit. In the summer, the heat in Death Valley is unbearable for most visitors, though some still brave the sun. In autumn, the number of visitors swells again with warm days and clear skies, which allows tourists to participate in a number of activities like hiking and cycling with relative comfort. In the winter, expect a few cool days and beautiful snow-capped mountains. Typically this is the least popular time of year to visit.
Is it safe to visit in the summer?
If you take the right precautions it is safe to visit Death Valley in the summer. You need to ensure you have plenty of water with you and in the instance that your vehicle breaks down, you should stay with it until help arrives.
Death Valley National Park is one of many incredible landscapes that you can visit from Las Vegas. Despite its vast and arid landscape, there are plenty of things to see and do. If you are in Las Vegas and Death Valley is on your bucket list, be sure to take the opportunity to visit this extreme environment.