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Death Valley earned its unfortunate moniker when a group of pioneers decided to trek through on their way to California. One member of the party died while they were travelling through Death Valley, but the others all made it safely to their destination. As legend has it, one of the pioneers turned as they exited the valley and said, “Goodbye, Death Valley.” The name stuck, and even today one of the most stunningly beautiful national parks in the world bears this ironic name. Luckily, as long as you are prepared, a trip to Death Valley is no more dangerous than a trip to any other natural wonder in the world. As well, the valley offers seven unique experiences you may not find anywhere else.
Getting to Death Valley
Death Valley is four hours by car from Los Angeles, California, and just over two hours away by car from Las Vegas. Getting to Death Valley is best accomplished by making use of California Highway 190 and a set of road map (not GPS) directions. Death Valley is that wonder among national parks — remote yet accessible via state highway. If you are anywhere in the vicinity, this makes it a fabulous choice for last minute vacations.
7 Death Valley Wonders
These attractions offer you seven unforgettable reasons to visit Death Valley.
Have Your Photo Taken at the Lowest Point in North America
At 86 metres below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America. Right next to the basin is towering Telescope Peak, rising 3,368 metres above sea level. This makes Badwater Basin the perfect spot to have your picture taken for your vacation memory book.
Visit the Valley’s Towering Sand Dunes
Death Valley offers five different sand dune sites you can visit. At certain times, park rangers also offer guided moonlit tours so you can experience the dunes at night — and perhaps enjoy a face-to-face with the wild nightlife they attract.
Gawk at Epic Erosional Landscapes at Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point is named after the entrepreneur Christian B. Zabriskie, who oversaw the expansion of borax operations in the early 19th century. Today it is surrounded by gorgeous badlands and the view is world famous. Zabriskie Point is a favorite destination to watch the sunrise and sunset.
Enjoy the Delightful Desert Blooms
With more than 1,000 plant species on display throughout Death Valley, you can be guaranteed a vision of unique plant life no matter when you visit. However, wildflower season, which starts in mid-February and continues through early June, promises a profusion of spectacular blossoms you won’t see anywhere else.
Visit a Real Ghost Town
Rhyolite is a ghost town that sprang to life when quartz miners found gold in the nearby hills. It sits just outside the boundary of Death Valley itself. One of Rhyolite’s most famous former owners was financier Charles Schwab, who plunked down several million dollars to purchase it in 1906. Today it is a shadow of its former self. Its ruins are a reminder of how easily the tide of fortune can turn.
Encounter Lively Desert Wildlife
More than 400 species of wildlife lives within the perimeter of Death Valley National Park. From giant tortoises to leaping bighorn, roadrunners to butterflies, the wildlife of Death Valley will delight and amaze you.
Soak in the Natural Hot Springs
Saline Valley was absorbed into Death Valley in 1994 when the park perimeters were expanded. The hot springs are in the northeastern part of Death Valley. There are several different hot springs points within the area of Saline Valley. The springs are also sacred to the Timbisha Shoshone Indian tribe, which was displaced in 1933. The springs are sectioned into upper, middle and lower areas and regular water flow is still recovering from the 2005 earthquake. The hot springs are surrounded by spas and other tourist attractions. In addition to their supposed healing waters, the hot springs are an incredibly beautiful natural landmark in their own right.
When planning a trip to Death Valley, you will now be equipped to make the most of your time there and see all of the amazing sights this unique national park has to offer.
About the Author: Karina Ines was just a girl the first time she visited Death Valley. She was scared of the name, but when her family arrived she forgot her fear and was captivated by the views instead.