Following 2 days in Yosemite National Park, the 6th destination of my honeymoon in America took Sarah and I to America’s lowest, hottest, and driest national park, Death Valley. This was planned as a 1 night stop off en-route to Las Vegas! So, in our very sensible and very air conditioned(!) Nissan Altima, we left Yosemite early to make the 350 mile drive to Death Valley.
Day 1 – Driving to Death Valley National Park
The drive to Death Valley was, how do I put this nicely? Incredibly boring!
Now don’t get me wrong, Death Valley National Park IS beautiful. So what do I mean? Well, at first the sights of stretching landscape views and passing through small towns with only a handful of houses in them was interesting however after a while it kinda felt like you’d seen it all before! After all this is desert country so there really isn’t much there!
The weirdest thing that I found driving down the horizon stretching roads was that as there are barely any trees or houses you have no point of reference for anything. This meant a road leading to the horizon which looked about 15 minutes away was in fact more like 30-40 miles! Really strange.
The drive into Death Valley can really be summarised in the following 4 images – basically drive that road, exactly as it looks, for 2 hours straight, seeing a car maybe every 20 minutes or so. Sarah and I had to swap driving as we were both quite literally falling asleep at the wheel!
After an unknown amount of time, an unknown amount of tarmac vibration and an unknown number of rocks passed, we eventually made it to the National Park entrance sign where we welcomed jumping out the car to stretch our legs!
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Having been driving all day we hadn’t planned to do much sightseeing. Not only that but it was getting late and the sun had already started setting. We did however make a stop at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Having seen nothing of interest for well over 150 miles the dunes offered some much welcome visual relief!
Continuing our drive we arrived late at Furnace Creek Ranch after the sun had long set. We checked in and grabbed dinner in the restaurant.
With dinner finished we jumped in the car and headed to the popular Zabriskie Point to see the stars. With Death Valley being so isolated it’s one of the darkest skies around and so offered some of the best views going of the stars and Milky Way. It really was incredible, I’ve never stood under a darker sky.
Now I don’t think I’m going to win any awards(!) but I didn’t think this was too bad as a first attempt at night sky photography which has faintly picked up the Milky Way!
Day 2 – Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point & Dante’s View
We kicked off the second day in Death Valley by checking out of Furnace Creek Ranch (and actually seeing the place in daylight!) and heading towards Badwater.
Golden Canyon Trail
Along the road, we came across the Golden Canyon trail so jumped out the car to take a look. The Golden Canyon trail offers a walk between the rocks as if you were walking through a Canyon. The rocks are also golden, go figure, clue’s in the name right? With the temperature already rising we took a quick look but didn’t follow the route as we had a busy day ahead.
Our next stop was at Badwater Basin which sits on the valley floor 282 ft (86m) below sea level. This is where you can see the vast expanse of salt flats which was really impressive. The environment here was also hot. And I mean seriously hot. Despite it being late morning the temperature was soaring with no shade so make sure you are well stocked up on bottle water!
Devil’s Golf Course
Just a short drive back along the road we turned off the tarmac and made our way along a very bumpy and dusty track, avoiding tyre popping boulders to see the Devils Golf Course. This was a very strange place with razor sharp rock formations due to crystallized salt in every direction (be careful if you head here with children).
Our 4th stop of the day took us to Artist’s Drive and the famous Artist’s Palette. The road, as per nearly all the roads in Death Valley, was in a surprisingly good condition! The long and windy road led us in among the rocks before finally arriving at Artist’s Palette. The geology here is as we expected (a lot of rocks!) but what’s special about Artist’s Palette is that due to chemical compositions in the rocks they are presented in a vast array of colours.
Our 5th stop of the day in the soaring desert heat took us Zabriskie Point. The rocks presented here are all ‘folded’ due to geological activity which created a really interesting landscape to look at. With it being so hot, similarly to the past couple of locations, we took in the views and made a quick step back to the air conditioned car!
Leaving Zabriskie Point behind us we started our drive towards Las Vegas however there was one final stop which we had to make at the famous Dante’s View. This location offered stunning views of Badwater Basin however it was a very long drive off the main road to get there and then a very steep incline to reach the summit! Once at the top however the views were really worth making the detour for.
With Dante’s View visited, that rounded things up after a very long day.
So what is there to say about Death Valley? Well… it’s hot. Really hot. It’s a dry heat too and there’s very little shade to take cover in. There’s some pretty spectacular views, granted, however for the best part it’s little more than arid desert. I really enjoyed having been to Death Valley and seen some of the main sights however 1 night really was enough.
Next stop – Las Vegas!
With Death Valley complete, we got back in the car and made our way to the next honeymoon destination – 3 nights in Las Vegas!