When you think National Parks, you immediately jump to such places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier – let’s face it – America has some incredible parks. What you probably didn’t think was, Death Valley.
Even the name itself doesn’t elicit interest. Death Valley? Turns out, it’s a national park that is often overlooked for the bigger ones. But since we are on a “national park tour” we put it on the list and made the journey up to the California/Nevada border to check it out for ourselves.
Like all of the National Parks, this one is worth the visit.
After we left Joshua Tree (for the second time) we were hit with a pretty large rain system. In California, this is a serious thing. Because of the dry landscape; water hardly permeates the earth and instead of soaking in, it falls down, collects with other rainwater and creates flash flooding.
We made the 4 hour drive up through the rain and were eager to find a place to camp for the next two nights at higher ground to avoid any concern of this issue.
Just outside of the Park boundary was a small abandoned mining camp where you can, of course, stay for free. Left behind are all these perfect concrete foundations that they used for their mobile homes. Even in all my months of staying at campgrounds, I have never had such a place to park. A concrete pad!
This was such a relief as the rain did not slow down one bit, but thankfully we were perched up high, dry and safe from the elements. What an unexpected blessing!
We made the trip into the park the next morning and spent a good hour at the visitor centre. I love visitor centres! You can learn so much from them, and they really set you up for your journey into the park.
Always, always, visit the visitor centre first!
Death Valley is HUGE. It’s the largest park in the lower 48, so we had to narrow down what we had time to see and what we didn’t.
This park is also the lowest, driest and hottest park in the states. It recorded the hottest temperature (134 degrees) on earth in 1913!
Badwater Basin, is 282 feet below sea level! Since it had rained the day before, the honeycomb shapes of the salt created these beautiful pools. Rain in the park is a phenomenon, usually only getting an inch or so total. One year it didn’t rain a single drop!
It was so eerie, yet so magical walking out onto the salt plain watching the sunset over the Sierra Nevada range (the same range we camped on in Sequoia!).
Death Valley might be the lowest place in the lower 48 – but just a few miles away is the highest – Mt. Whitney at over 14,500. What a neat contrast! We had some epic views of Mt. Whitney in Sequoia, so seeing the opposite side of the range where it dips so low was a treat.
Another must see while visiting this park is Artists Palette. Accessed by a 13 mile one way road through the sand and rock formations, are these gorgeous cliffs full of colour. These colours are made from the metals in the soil. The sand was pink, green, blue and turquoise!
Last, but not least, we visited the Mesquite Sand Dunes (the filming location for the first Star Wars, A New Hope). The kids had a blast running up and down the sand and playing make believe. Turns out, DVNP was the filming location for a TON of movies.
We were on a pretty tight schedule that day and when it came time to go, the begged to stay longer.
So we unpacked the picnic basket, found a dune and set up shop. We ended up staying way longer than we intended, but that’s the way it seems to go right? Enjoy the moment.
Death Valley also notes our final time boondocking this calendar year, so we picked up some overpriced wood to have a fire that night. The sky is so clear here in the park, it’s the best view you can get of the stars without actually being in space. We space nerds lapped that up and made a night of it.
Another park done, and done. Next up for us, Sin City!
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