Extremely Beautiful – Death Valley National Park, California


To say that California’s Death Valley National Park is a land of extremes is to enter yourself in the Understatement of the Century contest.

Death Valley National Park is the hottest park in the nation. On July 10, 1913 a temperature of 134 °F (56.7 °C) was measured at Furnace Creek Inn, the highest temperature ever recorded in North America. Daily summer temperatures of 120 °F (49 °C) or greater are common. On the other hand, the mercury can dip well below freezing at night in the winter.

Death Valley National Park is also the driest park in the US. In some years the bottom of the valley, at Badwater Basin, is teased with 1.5 inches (38 mm) of rain. Some years it registers no rain at all. Badwater Basin, at 282 feet (-86 meters) below sea level, is also the second lowest point in the Western Hemisphere and the lowest point in North America. Nearby Telescope Peak, by contrast, is the highest point in the park at 11,049 feet (3,368 meters) above sea level.

There’s even an area where the rocks move on their own.

Death Valley National Park is also the largest National Park in the lower 48 states. Part of the Mojave and Colorado deserts UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve, the sprawling park is sandwiched between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Nevada border and contains valleys, canyons, sand dunes, salt flats, playas (dry lakes) and mountains.

In our continuing celebration of National Park Week 2012 (April 21-29), when admission to every National Park, National Monument and National Historic Site in the country is free, we present the extremely beautiful Death Valley National Park.

Death Valley National Park sign

Entering Death Valley National Park in California.

Death Valley panorama from Dantes View

This sunrise panorama of Death Valley National Park was taken from Dantes View. The Badlands Basin salt flats, the lowest point in North America, is seen 5,757 feet (1,755 meters) below. Telescope Peak, the highest point in the park at 11,049 feet (3,368 m), lies directly across the valley.

Death Valley 200 feet below sea level sign

Much of the valley bottom in Death Valley National Park lies below sea level.

Road to Badwater Basin Death Valley National Park

The road snakes its way to Badwater Basin salt flats, seen in the distance, which is the lowest point in North America.

Lowest point, Badwater Basin Death Valley

Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park is 282 feet below sea level, the lowest point in North America.

Badwater Basin salt flats, Death Valley National Park

The surreal landscape of Badwater Basin salt flats in Death Valley National Park in California.

Badwater Basin Death Valley National Park

Karen at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park, the lowest point in North America. The point we’ve highlighted on the rock wall is 282 feet up and marks sea level. The spot doesn’t look that high up in this photo, but that’s because the top of the mountain directly above it is 7,857 feet high, or 8,139 feet (2,481 meters) above sea level. Land of extremes, indeed.

Badwater Basin Death Valley 282 feet below sea level

Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park in California.

View from Zabriskie Point Death Valley National Park

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park in California.

Formations in 20 Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley

Formations in the fabulously-named 20 Mule Team Canyon in California’s Death Valley National Park.

Titus Canyon Road Death Valley

Titus Canyon Road is a one-way 4×4 road that drops more than 5,000 feet from outside the park near the art-filled ghost town of Rhyolite into Death Valley through this slot canyon. We got a flat tire at the beginning of this road.

Borax was mined in Death Valley in the 19th century at the Harmony Borax Works near Furnace Creek. It was very difficult to get the valuable commodity out to market so Frank M. “Borax” Smith created a 20 Mule Team to transport the product. This is what remains of his wagons.

Death Valley Ranch or Scotty's Castle Death Valley

Death Valley Ranch, aka Scotty’s Castle, was once a private home. Now it’s an unexpected sign of human habitation in this harsh environment. 

Mosaic Canyon slot canyon

Karen hiking through Mosaic Canyon slot canyon in Death Valley National Park.

Road through Death Valley

A ribbon of road through Death Valley National Park in California.

Death Valley road

Paved, but still gorgeously desolate in Death Valley National Park.

Read more about travel to US National Parks & Monuments

 

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10 comments on “Extremely Beautiful – Death Valley National Park, California

  1. I remember driving through Death Valley as a kid and not believing my parents about how hot it was until we stopped and opened the door. I think still it’s the hottest place I’ve ever been!

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