Death Valley National Park
Things to Do
The size of Death Valley National Park (1.5 times larger than the state of Delaware) and the distances between its major features make the use of a motor vehicle essential. Be sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition and that your fuel tank is full before you begin each day's tour. Within the park, gasoline is sold only at Furnace Creek, Scotty's Castle, Panamint Springs Resort and Stovepipe Wells Village. Carrying extra water is not a bad idea either, especially if you plan to hike.
The following auto tours indicate points of interest at far-flung locations throughout this enormous park. It can also be useful in planning your itinerary, entrance and exit routes for your visit to Death Valley National Park.
Map is active and can be used to select a tour.
|Southeast: California Route 178|
|East: California Route 190|
|Northeast: Nevada Route 374|
|North: Nevada Route 267|
|West: California Route 190|
|Southwest: California Route 178|
Death Valley has a network of unpaved and primitive backcountry roads that can be used by 4-wheel drive or light trucks. Many of these roads are not recommended for sedans or oversize vehicles. Check at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center or ranger stations for conditions before venturing onto them.
A few primitive roads are unsafe except for vehicles with 4-wheel drive This includes the scenic and spectacular Titus Canyon Road, which runs one-way, east-to-west from near Rhyolite, Nevada (off Route 374). A vehicle with high-clearance will be necessary for all of the roads described, but four wheel-drive may also be required to traverse some of the rougher roads. Maps showing the locations of 4X4 roads are available at the Visitor Center and at ranger stations.
Backcountry camping is restricted to certain areas, please check in at the Visitor Center before planning an overnight trip and fill out a voluntary Backcountry Camping Permit. Be sure to carry plenty of water; never rely on backcountry water sources. Please stay on established roads and drive carefully.
Please remember that collecting rocks or plants or disturbing any historical or archeological site is not allowed. Here are some stories from people who have taken trips on Death Valley 4X4 roads.
Piercing the Heart of the Panamints via Goler Canyon
Ghost towns of the Mojave desert
4-Wheeling the Lippincott Mine Road
Life & Lore Abound on Death Valley 2-Day Excursion
Death Valley Reprieve
The Racetrack Playa
Titus Canyon Tour
Death Valley Winter Washout
A few points of interest are easily accessible for the casual or seasoned walker. Although formal trails do not always exist, it is fairly easy to find your way about. The Harmony Borax Works lies about 1.2 miles north of the campgrounds at Furnace Creek. Harmony dates from 1883 and was the first successful borax plant in Death Valley.
Golden Canyon is about 3 miles south of Furnace Creek. Drive, walk, or bicycle there. Then spend an hour or so exploring this canyon of colorful rocks below Zabriskie Point. Mosaic Canyon can be reached from Stovepipe Wells by a 2.5-mile walk or drive up an alluvial fan. Immediately above is 1/2-mile stretch of polished marble narrows.
The Sand Dunes, east of Stovepipe Wells Village, offer abundant opportunities for a casual stroll or an all-day jaunt. Photographers will find the lighting on the dunes at its best at dawn or in the late afternoon.
Golden Canyon Trail -- moderate, 2-mile round-trip (2 hours). Starts from Badwater Road 5 miles south of the Visitor Center. Gradual uphill through colorful badlands. Extend to Zabriskie Point (see below). Best light in late afternoon.
Harmony Borax Works -- easy, 1/4-mile (1/2 hour) round-trip. Starts on Highway 190, 2 miles north of the Visitor Center. Hard-surfaced trail circles adobe ruins, equipment, and a 20-mule team wagon for the 1880s. Click Here for the history of Borax in the park
Salt Creek Nature Trail -- easy, 1/2-mile (1 hour) round-trip along intermittent, spring-fed Salt Creek where Desert Pupfish can be seen in the spring. Starts 1 mile off Route 190, 23 miles south of Visitor Center.
Sand Dunes -- moderate, 1/2-mile round-trip (or longer) improvisational walk across sand dunes. Start either 2 miles east of the Village of Stovepipe Wells or from San Dunes Picnic Area, 19 miles north of the Visitor Center. Best light at dawn and dusk. Keep sight of your car since distances can be deceiving in the desert.
Wildrose Charcoal Kilns -- easy, 1/8-mile round-trip exploration of beehive-shaped kilns formerly used to produced charcoal for ore smelters in the Argus Range. Located 7 miles east of Wildrose Campground, high in the Panamint Range at the western edge of the park off Route 178.
Scotty's Castle Walking Tour-- easy, 1/2-mile (30 minutes) round-trip through the grounds of Scotty's Castle, 53 miles north of the Visitor Center on Route 267.
Windy Point Trail -- moderate, 3/4-mile round-trip from Scotty's Castle, 53 miles north of Visitor Center on Route 267. This nature trail climbs 160 feet to Scotty's grave overlooking his Death Valley ranch.
Tie Canyon Trail -- easy, 3/4-mile round-trip leads to a canyon near Scotty's Castle used to store building materials.
Golden Canyon to Zabriskie Point -- moderate, 5-mile (1/2-day) round-trip unmaintained trail winds over ridges to Zabriskie Point and returns along drainage to Badwater Road, then continue north to Golden Canyon parking lot. Can be reversed; starts 3 miles south of Visitor Center on Route 190.
Natural Bridge Canyon -- moderate, 1.5-mile (2 hours) round-trip. Gradual uphill walk past unique geological features past the bridge. Starts 3 miles off Badwater Road (Route 190), 15 miles south of Visitor Center.
Keane Wonder Mine -- very steep, 2-mile round-trip along historic aerial tramway to mine. Provides sweeping views of the valley. Do not enter tunnels or hike beyond the top of the tramway. Begins 3 miles off Beatty Cut-off Road, 16 miles northeast of Visitor Center.
Titus Canyon Narrows -- difficult, 11.1-mile round-trip. Constant uphill walk through deep gravel. Klare Spring and petroglyphs are 5.5 miles from the start. Watch for oncoming vehicles in the narrow canyon. Begins 2 miles off Route 267, 37 miles north of Visitor Center.
Mosaic Canyon -- somewhat difficult, 1- to 4-mile round-trip. Begins 3 miles off Route 190, just west of Stovepipe Wells Village. Constant, gradual uphill trail winds through the canyon and requires scaling some dry falls at upper end.
Wildrose Peak Trail -- moderate, 8.2-mile round-trip begins at the Charcoal Kilns, 7 miles east of Wildrose Campground off Route 178. Moderately steep trail winds through Pinyon and Juniper to sweeping views of Death valley. Best in the afternoon.
Telescope Peak Trail -- strenuous, 14-mile (all day) round-trip begins at Mahogany Flat Campground, 9 miles east of Wildrose Campground off Route 178. Steep trail winds through Pinyon and Juniper to Telescope Peak, the highest point in the park at 11,049 feet. Telescope Peak also offers breath-taking views of both Death Valley to the east and Panamint Valley to the west. Here, also, is a stand of rare Bristlecone Pines, which can live to be very old. The age of the Bristlecone Pines in Death Valley is not known.
Hikers walk both cross-country and along backcountry roads to enjoy the park. Topographic maps, hiking guides and voluntary (but recommended) backcountry registration are available at the Visitor Center.
Water sources in Death Valley National Park are unreliable and sometimes unsafe to drink. Bring plenty of water, at least one gallon per person per day. Some hikers cache water ahead of time along their route.
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