November 17 – 19, 2014: Leaving Red Rock Canyon State Park we drove through great expanses of desert and nothingness and entered Death Valley National Park from the west. I don’t think either of us was quite sure what to expect but we were both completely mesmerized by the landscape.
We drove up and over mountains and back down into valleys; but not green lush valleys – the landscape was badland-esque and beautiful.
Our first view point was just before the town of Panamint Springs where we stopped at Father Crowley Vista Point. It was a basic viewpoint that started to give us a taste of the rock formations and landscapes we would be encountering over the next two days. We then stopped at Mosaic Canyon, before the town of Stovepipe Wells, for a hike where we walked through a canyon containing gorgeous flaky rock formations. We moved on to Mesquite Dunes where we encountered yet another change of scenery and walked around on sand dunes. Our last stop the first day was the general store, affiliated with the ranch resort in Furnace Creek, for some groceries. We spent the night at the Texas Spring campground where we built a fire, cooked some burgers, potatoes and vegetables, before staring up in awe at the night sky. The Milky Way was visible stretching across the entire sky!
The next day we did the Golden Canyon hike – two miles round trip through a wide canyon with flaking walls. The highlight was viewing and climbing the Red Cathedral – a towering canyon wall structure in red hues complete with spires. We then visited Devils Golf Course – a surreal salt flat of rough terrain. This set the stage for Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at -282 feet below sea level. This area was a touristy boardwalk that served as a viewpoint over the salt flats. It is also possible to walk out onto the salt flats.
We then drove the nine mile one-way road called Artist Drive. The road winds through canyons and hills of spectacular colors – purples, reds, yellows, blues, and turquoise. There’s a viewpoint aptly named Artists Palette because of the view of the colors splashed onto the cliffs and hills. These colors are the result of volcanic eruption and the mineral deposits that are left behind. This drive and its views were so super stunning and definitely one of my favorite places we’ve ever visited.
Zambinski Point was our next stop to check-out views and enjoy the sunset. The landscape we were viewing is considered badlands. I found the terrain interesting when we first viewed it in North Dakota and here, in Death Valley National Park, I still find it stunning and different from anything I’m used to seeing. Our last night was once again spent at the Texas Spring Campground. We enjoyed a campfire, dinner, s’mores, and the night sky.
On our way out of the park the next day we did the Twenty Mule Canyon scenic drive. The route is named after the wagon team that operated for six months hauling borax out of the area. Once you enter the one-way loop, soft rock hills surround you and it feels like you’re driving through another planet. A planet made of chalk. This is yet another absolutely amazing short drive in Death Valley National Park.
Our last stop in the park was Dante Point, a scenic overlook at over 5,000 feet with views across Death Valley including all the way down to the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (-272 feet) at Badwater Basin. The view was an appropriate summation of the breadth of the Death Valley experience as you’re able to make out the spectacular colors of Artists Drive as well as the surreal salt flats of Badwater Basin. This park is absolutely amazing and needs to be at the top of your United States National Park bucket list!