The Best Things to Do in Death Valley National Park (By Region)

There are endless things to do in Death Valley National Park which is the largest national park in the contagious United States. Due to the size of the park you will want to ensure you do everything in one region of the park before heading off for another area to avoid unnecessary driving. If you’re looking for an itinerary check out my 2 day Death Valley National Park itinerary. However, if you want to learn more about things to do in each region of the park and plan your own itinerary continue reading this post!

Death Valley National Park entrance sign

Death Valley National Park – Essential Information

  • 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 con
    • America the beautiful park pass is also accepted 

In addition to the above essential information, I’ve also covered 10 things to know before visiting Death Valley National Park in a previous blog post that you might also want to check out!

Death Valley National Park Regions

I’ve broken the park into four main regions listed below. Please note as you read this post there have been many road closures due to a major flash flood that occurred in August 2023 from Hurricane Hilary. In a single day the park received the same amount of rain that it typically receives in one year. I have tried to note closures as I was able, but I recommend checking current conditions with the Death Valley National Park website if you are planning a visit.

  • Furnace Creek
  • Stovepipe Wells
  • Panamint Springs
  • Scotty’s Castle
Badwater basin nature

Furnace Creek Region: Things to Do In Death Valley

Furnace Creek is in the southeast section of the park and includes popular sites such as Badwater Basin, Artist’s Drive, and Zabriskie Point. This is the most popular region of the park and the visitor center, lodging, restaurants, gas, and shopping can all be found here.

Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center

The visitor center is one of the best places to start any national park visit. You can pick up a map and talk to the park rangers. The park rangers can answer any questions you may have about the park as well as provide updates on any current conditions visitors should be aware of in the park.

Borax Museum

Discover the history of Death Valley National Park by walking the 0.25-mile interpretive trail at the Borax Museum. There are some displays to see outside, although the inside if the museum is not currently open. This can likely be a quick stop before continuing to explore the park.

Zabriskie Point

A popular stop in the park is at Zabriskie Point. After a short 0.2-mile walk up to the viewpoint you can take in the impressive views of Death Valley. This is a popular area for sunrise and sunset but is worth a visit any time of day! It was very windy at the top of viewpoint when we visited.

Me sitting on the rock ledge smiling at Zabriskie Point with the mountains in the background

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin is a MUST visit while in Death Valley. It is the lowest point in the United States at 282-feet below seal level. Take your picture by the sign and make sure to look for the “sea level” sign on the mountain to really get a perspective of how low you are! There is also the Badwater Basin Salt Flats Trail which is a 2-mile out-and-back trail.

Me smiling by the Badwater Basin sign with the sun and mountains in the background

Artist’s Drive

This is a popular 9-mile scenic drive. There are multiple places you can pull off the road to walk around and take in the view and see the multi-colored rocks. Sunrise or sunset tend to make the colors of the rocks more vibrant which is why these are popular times to take the drive.

Artists drive mountains

Devil’s Golf Course

Drive along a 1 to 1.5 mile unpaved road to the parking area for Devil’s Golf Course. This is a great place to stop either on your way to or from Badwater Basin to see crystallized salt formations. There is no official trail here, but if you do choose to walk around, BE CAREFUL. The crystallized salt is very sharp!

Crystalized salt formations at Devil's Golf Course

Golden Canyon

This is one of the more popular hikes in the Furnace Creek region. The hike can be completed as a 1-mile out and back trail to Golden Canyon or if you prefer to extend the trail to Red Cathedral be prepared for a 3-mile round trip. The trails are rated as moderate, but the trail will become more difficult past Golden Canyon on your way to Red Cathedral and requires some scrambling. If you still haven’t had enough, on your way back you can head to Gower Gultch.

Dante’s View

Dante’s View provides terrific views of the park to better understand the just how big this park really is. This is another popular sunrise or sunset location. The viewpoint is over 5,000 feet and provides breathtaking views of the Death Valley. Dante’s Ride Trail is a total of 8-miles to reach Mount Perry, however you can also hike just 1-mile to reach the first summit without completing the full trail.

Natural Bridge

One last place you should consider checking out in the Furnace Creek region is the Natural Bridge. I wouldn’t consider this a “must do”, but if you have the time consider walking the 0.5 miles to the natural bridge or you can continue an additional 0.5 miles to the canyons end for a round trip of 1 to 2 miles.

Stovepipe Wells Region: Things to Do in Death Valley

Stovepipe Wells is in the southwest section of the park. Popular sites in this region include the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Mosaic Canyon, and Salt Creek. Stovepipe Wells makes a great central place to stay in the park. Amenities in this area of the park include lodging, restaurants, general store, and gas.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

This is a popular area for watching the sunrise, sunset, or stargazing. The sand dunes can also be visited during the day. There is no formal trail, but you can walk about 2-miles round trip out to the highest sand dune.

The night sky as Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park

Mosaic Canyon

This trail requires some scrambling, but is worth checking out. The trailhead is about 10 minutes from Stovepipe Wells Lodge and is a 4-mile out and back trail. We completed this hike early in the morning and had the trail to ourselves.

Mosaic Canyon narrow trail

Salt Creek (currently inaccessible)

This was a short 0.5-mile boardwalk interpretive trail that led to Salt Creek which is the only habitat in the world for the Salt Creek pupfish. Unfortunately, a flash flood in August 2022 destroyed the boardwalk, parking area, and changed the structure of the creek itself. According to the park website, the park is researching options for repairs to open this area back up to the public in the future.

Panamint Springs Region: Things to do in Death Valley

Panamint Springs is found in the western side of the park. The most popular attraction in this region is Darwin Falls. Amenities in this region include lodging, restaurants, and gas.

Darwin Falls

A year-round waterfall is a natural attraction in one of the driest places in the United States. Darwin Falls could previously be accessed via an unpaved 1.2 mile road. Unfortunately, the road was destroyed in recent flash flood and the park estimates it will not be reopened until Fall 2024 or later. The park website does note that you can park along CA-190 and walk in, however I’d double check with a ranger on current conditions and the distance of the hike. Some All Trails reviews note the walk along the closed road is 2-2.5 miles to reach the trailhead (one-way) and the hike to the waterfall is around 2-miles out and back. This would make the total hike between 6-7 miles.

Telescope Peak

The road to Telescope Peak is currently closed, however the website states repairs are currently being made and anticipate opening as early as February 2024. This is a very strenuous hike at 14-miles round trip reaching 13,000 feet elevation which is the highest point in the park. The trail begins at the Mahogany Flat Campground which can only be reached with a 4×4 vehicle.

Conditions on this trail are much different due to the drastic change in elevation compared to many other areas of the park. This trail is only recommended for experienced hikers typically in the summer or fall. Check with park rangers on current conditions of this trail.

Scotty’s Castle Region: Things to do in Death Valley

The final section of the park is the northwest portion which takes you to Ubehebe Crater and Scotty’s Castle (closed since flooding in 2015, not expected to reopen until 2025). This is one of the more remote areas of the park and some roads will require off-roading 4×4 vehicles. Please research this area of the park before planning your visit for your safety.

Ubehbe Crater

Another unique thing to see in Death Valley National Park is Ubehbe Crater which was created from a volcanic steam explosion. The volcano is no longer active. However, this crater is impressive to see at 600-feet deep and approximately 0.5 miles wide. You can view the crater from the parking area or you can hike a 1.8-mile loop that follows the rim of the crater. Additionally, some visitors to choose to hike into the crater, but keep in mind it is much more difficult to hike back up the crater walls.

The Racetrack

This is an excursion that will require advanced planning. The Racetrack is an area where large rocks appear to slowly move across a dry lakebed. The road to access The Racetrack requires off-roading 4×4, high clearance vehicles. Consider renting from Farabee Jeep Rentals if this is on your list to visit. The drive to the Racetrack from Stovepipe Wells is estimated to take around 3 hours, so plan accordingly.

Are you ready to explore Death Valley National Park?

I hope you have found this post helpful to plan your trip to Death Valley National Park. Having a plan before you arrive to the park will prevent you from unnecessary driving back and forth to different regions of the park. Which region are you most excited to explore? Comment below and let me know!

Me smiling with the sun shining in the background at badwater basin

Looking for other National Parks to visit?

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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.

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