It is one of the hottest, lowest and driest places on earth. Death valley has a mesmerizing barren scenery that left me in awe of the desert. It is a serene beauty. Something that has stood the test of time. Unchanging and vast. You feel the force of the sun and hear the silence of the night. You can be alone, with only the wind for company. The myriad rocks colors and formations impress you by day and the countless stars dazzle you by night. Free from light pollution, clean dry air and the high elevations of the mountains makes it one of the best places to gaze at the night sky.
Most of the places to see in Death Valley are at their best at sunrise or sunset, when the gentle and low angle sun rays bring out the colors of the landscape.
A few pointers about a trip to Death Valley. Food and gas is expensive. So load up on both before you enter. Always carry extra water in the car. Most trailheads don't have water or restrooms. Do the needful at the campsites. The trails are not very well marked. It can be fun to explore your way around, but at the same time be annoying, when you can't find your way.
A four wheel drive, high clearance vehicle is needed to visit some of the places in Death Valley. Listed below is what can be reached with a sedan if you don't mind a mile or two on gravel roads.
Artists drive – Winding road through a rocky landscape. Good way to get up close to the rocky landscape.
Devil's Golf Course - Must see the ragged landscape resulting from erosion of salt flats.
Badwater (sunset) – The lowest point in North America. Brilliant white salt flats.
Camp at Furnace creek - Nice campground, and you get cellphone service here.
Day 2: Zabrinski point (sunrise) – A great place to see the glorious rocky landscape.
Dante's ridge hike – The length of hike depends on how far you wanna go. We hiked to Mt. Perry which is about 4 miles one way and were treated to stunning views of the valleys on either side of the ridge. Good place to escape the 'drive around' crowd.
Harmony Borax works – Visit only if you are in the area. Good for history buffs.
Golden Canyon (sunset) - Easy hike in a canyon lined by bright yellow sandstone walls. Don't forget to scramble up some of the many gullies along the sides.
Camp at Furnace creek.
Rhyolite Ghost town – Definitely not worth the long drive. But gas is cheap at Beatty, a nearby town. So might be worth the drive just to fill up.
Scotty's castle – Fun place, great stories and a nice break from the barren desert landscape. Also, they have a working Pelton Turbine that's 80 years old!
Ubehebe crater (sunset) – Worth it if in the area. Fun to go down the crater walls, but a pain to come back up.
Camp at Stovepipe Wells – Decent campground, but not as nice as Furnace creek.
Day 4 – Mesquite Flat Dunes (sunrise) – Dunes are a must see. Best to catch them when sun is low in the sky to get the shadows. Morning also means footprint free sand patterns.
Mosaic Canyon – More rock colors and formations and a good place for rock scrambling.
Mesquite Flat Dunes (sunset) – Had to see the dunes from a different angle.
Camp at Wildrose campground – A high altitude desolate campground. Best place to enjoy the night sky. Minimal facilities, but has running water.
Day 5 – Charcoal Kilns – Interesting structures, but not much else
Wildrose peak hike – Did partly. Was fun to walk in a winter wonderland in Death Valley!