Plan your visit to the largest national park in the contiguous United States using this two day Death Valley National Park itinerary! I was blown away by the diversity of this park that could be experienced even in a short amount of time. However, to maximize your time, you will want to do your research and have your itinerary planned.
- Physical Address: PO Box 579 Death Valley, CA 92328
- Hours: Open 24 hours a day, year-round
- Visitor Center: Furnace Creek Visitor Center
- Hours: 8 AM to 5 PM
- Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle (entrance fee is valid for 7 consecutive days)
- America the beautiful park pass is also accepted
What is Death Valley National Park known for?
Death Valley is unique because it is the hottest, driest, and lowest National Park. It contains the lowest point in the United States, Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level. Additionally, this 3.4-million-acre park is the largest National Park in the contiguous United States. These are just a few reasons over 1 million people visit the park every year.
What is the closest airport to Death Valley National Park?
The closest major airport to Death Valley is Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada which is about 2 hours from the park. The next closest major airports are Los Angeles International Airport (~4 hours) and San Diego International Airport (~5 hours).
I recommend Las Vegas as it is the closet major airport and there are often good deals on flights into Las Vegas. It is also the perfect city to fly into for a National Parks road trip. When I visited the park, I combined it with 3 other national parks including Joshua Tree, Zion, and Bryce Canyon.
Where should I stay?
Due to the park’s size, I recommend staying in park lodging if possible. There are a few different options at various price points and there are multiple campgrounds throughout the park.
Stovepipe Wells Park Lodge
This is where we stayed due to the location as well as price. This was nothing fancy, but there were beds to sleep in as well as a private bathroom. Additional amenities by the lodging included a restaurant, general store, and gas station.
The Inn at Death Valley
The Inn at Death Valley is in Furnace Creek. We visited the Inn but did not stay there. From what we saw the accommodation was a significant upgrade from Stovepipe Wells, but it will come at a price. Additional amenities include a restaurant.
The Ranch at Death Valley
The Ranch at Death Valley is also in Furnace Creek. We checked out The Ranch and had dinner at the 1849 Restaurant. Again, from what we saw this also would be a great place to stay if your budget allows. Other amenities include restaurants, shopping, and a gas station.
Panamint Springs Resort
Located in the Panamint Springs area, this is the fourth lodging option within the park. We did not visit this location during our visit. Additional amenities include a restaurant and gas station.
In addition to the lodging above there are several campgrounds to choose from. As you know, camping is not my style so I cannot comment on which campgrounds are best.
When should I visit?
The most popular time to visit Death Valley is in the spring starting in late March through April. The temperature is warm, but not unbearable and wildflowers are also often in bloom. Starting in May temperatures start heating up and continue to rise throughout the summer. It can become unsafe to hike due to the extreme temperatures. Temperatures begin cooling down in late October and remain mild throughout the winter.
We visited the park in early May and could safely hike in the morning and late afternoon. During the middle of the day, the temperatures started rising, and we spent some time exploring in our car as well as visiting some easy to access viewpoints.
How many days should I spend in Death Valley National Park?
This post is a 2-day itinerary, which was adequate time to see many of the park highlights, but there were many areas of the park we didn’t have time to explore. However, if you are short on time, you could take a day trip from Las Vegas to Death Valley, and it would still be worth your time! Additionally, you could easily spend a week or more exploring this park and you still wouldn’t see everything.
All that to say, there is no magic number of days to spend in this park, but I would recommend a minimum of 2 to 3 days for most people to adequately experience the park.
Death Valley National Park Itinerary: Day 1
Arrive in the Park
This itinerary assumes you need to spend at least part of day 1 traveling to the park depending on where you are coming from. We left early in the morning from Joshua Tree National Park which was a 4-hour drive.
Check out the Furnace Creek Visitor Center
Our first stop in the park was at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Here we browsed the merchandise, picked up maps, and talked to the park rangers. One of my favorite parts of the visitor center was a sign with the current temperature.
Enjoy a picnic lunch
Before we left our hotel in Joshua Tree, we had packed a picnic lunch to enjoy once we arrive at Death Valley. One of my go to meals when exploring national parks is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Paired with some chips, beef jerky, and fruit we were ready to keep exploring.
Stovepipe Wells Village
We wanted to check-in to the motel so we could unload our car and rest for a little bit before heading out for the evening. While we were in Stovepipe Wells, we also visited the gift shop to pick up some souvenirs and filled our car with gas.
In the late afternoon we headed back to Furnace Creek to explore more of the park. First, we stopped at Zabriskie Point. Take a short 0.2-mile walk up to the viewpoint for impressive views of Death Valley. This is a popular area for sunrise and sunset but is worth a visit any time of day.
Badwater Basin is a MUST visit at this park. It is the lowest point in the United States at 282-feet below sea level. While you are there, be sure to turn back towards the parking lot and look for the “Sea Level” sign on the side of the mountain. I thought this was such a cool visual, but it was hard to get a good picture of it.
After you get your picture with the sign, you can hike the 1.9-mile out and back Badwater Basin Salt Flats Trail. This area was completely dry during my visit in May 2023, however due to flooding after a hurricane in November 2023 a temporary shallow lake has formed. The area is expected to dry back out in the coming months.
Devil’s Golf Course
The dirt road to Devil’s Golf Course was a little rough. We had a mid-size SUV and were able to slowly drive on it safely. We made this a quick stop. There is no trail to hike here, but you can see crystallized salt formations.
Artists Drive is a 9-mile scenic drive that I highly recommend. There are several places along the road you can pull over to explore and take pictures. It is recommended to visit at sunset, so the colors are even more vibrant during your drive. Unfortunately this road is currently closed, check back on the parks website for more information on reopening.
Dinner at The Ranch 1849 Restaurant
After a full day of exploring, you will be ready to eat! The 1849 Restaurant at The Ranch is the perfect spot for dinner because it is a buffet. We found the food here to be really good and enjoyed our meal.
Stargazing at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
We wanted to make one last stop on our way back to our motel and pulled off at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for some stargazing. This was listed as a popular activity and a common spot, so we were surprised to see only one other group of people there.
Death Valley National Park Itinerary: Day 2
After a jam-packed day 1 we woke up early and had some breakfast in our room before heading out for day 2.
Mosaic Canyon Hike
Mosaic Canyon was one of my favorite hikes of the entire trip! The trailhead was only about 10 minutes from Stovepipe Wells Lodge. We started it early in the morning and had the entire trail to ourselves. This is a 4-mile out and back hike, rated as moderate with just under 1000-feet of elevation gain.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Before heading out of the park consider stopping again at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes so you can experience it during the day. There is no formal trail, but you can walk up to 2-miles out and back on these sand dunes. This area is also popular for sunrise and sunset.
Head for your next destination
We had another long drive ahead of us as we took off for Zion National Park, so we didn’t want to get on the road too late. We enjoyed more views of the park as we drove east and headed for our next park.
What should I do in one day at Death Valley National Park?
A common way to visit Death Valley National Park in one day is to take a day trip from Las Vegas. To maximize your time I recommend using the below one day Death Valley National Park itinerary. The activities listed below are relatively close to each other so you don’t spend too much time driving around the park.
Death Valley National Park Day Trip from Las Vegas
If you are planning a day trip from Las Vegas I would focus on my day 1 itinerary in this post but skip Stovepipe Wells. Additionally, I would add Golden Canyon trail to experience a canyon hike during your visit. See below for an example Death Valley National Park Day Trip from Las Vegas itinerary.
- Drive 2 hours to the park
- Zabriskie Point
- Golden Canyon Trail
- Furnace Creek Visitor Center
- Lunch at The Ranch 1849 Restaurant
- Badwater Basin
- Devil’s Golf Course (optional)
- Artist’s Drive
- Drive 2 hours back to Las Vegas
What should I do if I have more than 2 days?
There is so much more you could explore with more than 2 days in Death Valley National Park. I didn’t get to any of these places during my visit: Darwin Falls, Dante’s View, Ubehebe Crater, Telescope Peak and The Racetrack. Many of these areas, such as The Racetrack, are extremely remote and require high clearance 4WD vehicles with off-roading tires to reach. Telescope Peak is the highest point in the park and is a very difficult 14-mile hike. You will want to do extensive research before visiting many of these areas in the park to ensure your safety.
Overall, Death Valley National Park blew me away! Even though I had researched the park, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when visiting. I loved the diversity of the park’s landscape and the variety of activities to experience. Additionally, how cool is it to say you’ve visited the lowest point in the United States? If you’ve found this post helpful it would mean so much to me if you could share it on Facebook, Pinterest, or even leave me a comment to let me know you enjoyed it!
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The information above was accurate at the time of publishing to the best of the author’s knowledge. Information will be verified and updated periodically. If you are planning to visit this park, I recommend verifying the most current information with the National Park Service website.