Guest Author - Gregory A. Kompes
Visiting Death Valley
All year long, there are reasons to visit Death Valley National Park. In addition to the hundreds of miles of roads that cut across this massive national park, there are also dozens of excellent hiking trails that include a natural rock bridge, the racetrack, peaks, canyons, dunes, and more.
Death Valley is home to the lowest (below sea level) point in North America: Badwater Basin. 282 feet below sea level. There are also several mountain ranges with Mahogany Flat’s rising to 8200 feet above sea level.
The park has 300 miles of paved roads and another 300 miles of improved roads making adventures possible year round. There are several camping sites and hotels at most of the park entrances (Pahrump, NV, Baker, CA, etc.) Hiking is not recommended in the summer, unless you’re in the mountains. Daytime summer temperatures average 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are plenty of hiking trails, from easy hikes like the Natural Bridge and Glower Gultch to more intense, longer hikes like Grotto Canyon with its high scrambles and pour-overs. Death Valley is a dangerous place to hike because of the extreme temperatures, wildlife dangers (scorpions, black widow spiders, rattlesnakes, coyotes, and bobcats), and great contrasts in terrain. Be sure to pack in at least a gallon of water per person per day. We always have several extra gallons of water in the car, even when we drive through for the spring wildflowers. If you get off the paved roads, you never know when someone will come by and find you.
In the spring, especially if it’s been a rainy winter, Death Valley explodes in spring flower colors of white, yellow, purple, and gold. There are also two informative visitor centers, one near the center of the park and another at Scotty’s Castle in the north.
There are fees to enter the park, additional fees for the tours (Scotty’s Castle and Lower Vine Ranch), and some of the campgrounds charge a permit fee (although there is some free camping, too (Emigrant, Thorndike, Mahogany Flat’s, and Wildrose).
For Camping Reservations, call 1-877-444-6777
For more information, visit http://www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm