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Posted by on Nov 28, 2012

Feeling Alive in Death Valley


Adventure and exploration are alive and well in Death Valley National Park. Craters, canyons, salt pans and sand dunes only scratch the surface of the largest park in the United States.  Our camping trip to Death Valley was the one thing I was most looking forward to on our USA Road Trip and it did not disappoint.

Park entrance

Visiting in the late fall brought perfect weather, hitting the high 70s during the day and low 50s at night.  We fell in love with this mystical place after just a few days.

Father Crowley Vista

This is the first vista point when entering the park on Highway 190 from the west.  The parking lot leads to a short road which you can walk or drive down to the ultimate viewpoint.

Father Crowley Vista on the west side of the park

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

After driving a number of miles through the park, we came upon these amazing sand dunes.  Spanning 50 square miles, they seem fitting for a desert park.  The sand was so light it felt like powder and it was surprisingly cool under my feet.  A perfect picnic spot.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Ubehebe Crater

On the far north end of the park lies Ubehebe Crater.  The 600-foot crater is mesmerizing and hiking along the crater in volcanic ash felt like we were walking on the moon.  Well worth the far drive through the park.  We wish we would have known you could hike around the entire crater (we realized after we did the uneventful hike to Little Hebe, skip that).

Ubehebe Crater

Titus Canyon

Titus Canyon is situated in the eastern Grapevine Mountains.  The narrows of the canyon wind you through the four mile canyon with walls that are hundreds of feet high.  The smallest narrow is 15 feet wide.  I got dizzy from constantly looking up at the incredibly tall walls.  Getting up close to the rock walls reveals the different layers of rock left from millions of years of erosion.

Titus Canyon

Furnace Creek

At 190 feet below sea level, Furnace Creek is the hotbed of Death Valley and its claim to heat fame.  It is typically more than 100 degrees at this point in the park during the hotter summer months.  We camped at the Furnace Creek Campground for $18 a night.  Perfect location and great sunsets and sunrises.  We were there during a near full moon so our star gazing was limited, but the moon views were awesome.

Moon rising over Furnace Creek Inn, the nicest lodging in the park.  Not where we stayed!

Zabriskie Point

A popular spot for sunrises and sunsets, Zabriskie Point is other worldly. With barren hills stretching down to the basin, sitting atop the view point brings you to another place.  The Gower Gulch hike was on our list, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to hike down through these hills.

Zabriskie Point

Natural Bridge

A short walk up this canyon reveals one of the largest natural made bridges above the canyon walls.

Natural Bridge Hike

Badwater Basin

The lowest point in Death Valley (and the entire U.S.) is a stark, blinding 17 miles of barren land.  The white of the salt pan stretches are just like an ice rink and it felt like I should be wearing ice skates rather than hiking shoes.

Salt pans in Badwater Basin at -282 feet below sea level

Words do no justice to this incredible natural land in our country.

We often felt like ants marching, the mountains and canyons constantly dwarfing us.  We did all the above things in just two and a half days (it helped that the roads are wide open for cruising through the park).  It remains the highlight of our trip so far. We did all of the above activities in just two and a half days. It’s easy to get around the park, but 4-wheel drive is recommended for some of the dirt roads that connect to the main highway through the park.

I bought the Hiking Death Valley book at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center and it was a great purchase.  I’d highly recommend anyone going to Death Valley with the intention of exploring to buy it.

Note: cell phone coverage in the park is non-existent except for some slight service near Furnace Creek.



  1. Jill – I am so glad I subscribed to your blog….keep these amazing posts coming! I really enjoy them and hope to do a trip like yours at some point myself. While I am sure your posts will be just as amazing once you leave the US, there are so many places in this great country that we have to see. Enjoy every minute! The team misses you already! ~Amy

    • Thanks Amy, it’s been such an incredible trip already. There is sooo much to see in our own country! Thanks for following 🙂

  2. Jill, you two saw things in Death Valley we didn’t know about when we were there. Now I really want to go back.
    So thrilled we get to follow you two all over the world. We miss you and are so happy for your adventures.