Visitor Guide to Death Valley National Park in California

Badwater Salt Flats before Sunset
David Toussaint / Getty Images

Death Valley National Park is one of the world's hottest - lowest - places and one of the best places in the United States for star-gazing. With scant rainfall, it's a landscape laid bare, full of geological oddities, towering sand dunes and the homes of some pretty quirky former inhabitants.

What can you do in Death Valley? Quite a lot, as it turns out. See the ideas below to find things that appeal to you.

Start your trip planning by finding out why you should go, learn when is the best time to visit and get some practical tips for your trip. They're all in the Death Valley visitor guide.

01 of 04

Death Valley National Park Weather

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©2014 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

You've probably heard of Death Valley California, but you may not know a lot about it.

The most important thing to know is that Death Valley earned its name because pioneers almost died trying to cross it in 1849, but that was in the winter.

Sadly, people still die there when they get lost or stranded in summer's scorching heat. In fact, it holds the world record for the highest temperature ever recorded on earth. That was 134 °F, which was measured at Death Valley in July 1913.

According to the National Park Service, the highest ground temperature at Death Valley was 201°F at Furnace Creek on July 15, 1972. The maximum air temperature for that day was 128°F.

Before you visit, it's helpful to find out what typical Death Valley weather conditions are like by month.

02 of 04

How to Get to Death Valley National Park

USA - Death Valley - Car tourist consults a map
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

If you don't know where Death Valley is - or you only have a vague idea of its location, now's the time to find out.

Learn why the answer to the question "Where is Death Valley?" is sometimes dead wrong, how far it is from other places and how to get there.

Las Vegas is the closest major city to Death Valley. If your trip starts from there, check out the various ways to get from Las Vegas to Death Valley.

03 of 04

Where to Stay in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley Swimming Pool at the Furnace Creek Inn
Robert Alexander / Getty Images

If you're staying overnight in Death Valley National Park, it's best to plan ahead to be sure there's a bed waiting for you. Options for lodging inside the park include:

If you like to go camping, you'll also find places to do that. Use the Death Valley camping guide to explore your options.

04 of 04

Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

Mesquite Sand Dunes at Death Valley

Betsy Malloy Photography

In Death Valley, you can stand on the rim of an extinct volcano, see evidence of rocks that move around without any human intervention, stand 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level, or visit the Devil's Golf Course (or his cornfield) — all in a single day. Explore all the top things you can do on your visit in this helpful guide.

In fact, there's so much to do in Death Valley that you must make sure you use your time wisely. The Death Valley weekend getaway planner can help you do that.

Do you remember the desert landscapes of Tatooine in the Star Wars films? Many of those famous scenes were filmed in Death Valley, and you can visit them using this handy guide.

If you want to take a guided tour of Death Valley — or create your own — use these Death Valley tour ideas. You can also use the Death Valley photo tour guide to make your way around the park.

Even if all you have time for is a quick drive through the park, the drive from the town of Shoshone to Stovepipe Wells is one of the most scenic drives in California. Beware that if you choose the wrong road, this trip will be more disappointing than jaw-dropping. You can find the scenic route on this Google map.

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