Guys, Death Valley is really freakin’ cool. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I set out from the Las Vegas airport at 7am on a Saturday morning, and I was truly astounded by the variety of natural features and the grandeur of the national park as a whole. There were canyons, sand dunes, salt flats, the Funeral Mountains, and so much more. It also amazed me how accessible and kid-friendly all of the stops I made were. Here’s my list of the coolest spots I visited during my day-long visit so you can recreate the trip and experience Death Valley and all it has to offer on your own:
1. Zabriskie Point
I drove into the National Park via 190 and continued north. I must have stopped 20 times alongside the road before I even reached Zabriskie Point because of the gorgeous sand and rock formations. Zabriskie Point is a great quick photo stop. You simply walk to the top of the hill (with the inevitable crowds of people) and you get a panoramic landscape view that was one of my favorite sights in the park. I highly recommend enjoying your Taco Bell at this point. Extra points if you take photos of yourself eating a taco with your selfie stick while confused tourists look on.. Or at least that’s what I did.
2. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
The sand dunes are such a sight to behold. They seem to roll on forever and are a real trip to run around on. I found walking along the ridges of the dunes particularly satisfying. The best part is that you literally walk right onto the dunes from the parking area and don’t have to go far at all to enjoy them. However, I will say that the further you go from the parking area along the dunes, the more pristine the sand and the less cluttered with other tourists.
3. Mosaic Canyon
Mosaic Canyon was my first real hike of the day. The whole route through the canyon is 4 miles out and back, beginning with some light scampering up the smooth marble that compose the canyon. About 1.3 miles into the canyon, you will come upon a boulder jam across the path. Crawling past the boulders allows access to further canyon routes. My favorite park of this hike was being able to observe the gorgeous layering and colors of the rock. Make sure you look for the Mosaic Canyon Breccia, a formation made up of tiny fragments of rock held together with natural cement.
4. Golden Canyon
I followed my Mosaic Canyon hike with the two mile out and back hike through Golden Canyon. The hike through Golden Canyon really showcases the various types of rock formations that can be seen throughout Death Valley National Park. At the end of the hike, you come to a rock formation known as Red Cathedral. It’s massive and the red color is very apparent.
5. Badwater Basin
Badwater Basin was my favorite place that I visited on my day trip. The fun fact is that it’s the lowest point in North America at 282 ft below sea level. Though I think ever more fun is the fact that you pretty much have to take your shoes off and squelch through the muddy salt to get out to the most beautiful and reflective pars of the salt flats. The salt flats cover almost 200 square miles and I found it so interesting that you can see how the salt dries into the polygonal shapes that you see in pictures.
6. Natural Bridge
As the sun was setting, I hustled to fit in the hike to see Natural Bridge. It’s a two mile out and back hike with a rewarding view of a natural arch that extends across the canyon. The arch was formed via differential erosion. This is another great hike that allows you to take in the amazing naturally colored rock. I would like to note that the path to the bridge is very gravelly, which makes it slippery.
That was my day in Death Valley National Park! I already have my list of features that I want to visit next time, including Eureka Dunes, Artists Drive, and Devils Golf Course. I can’t wait to explore this beautiful park again. And now for my obligatory Taco Bell review, because yes, I did have to fuel this action-packed journey somehow.
Taco Bell Critique
This review is for the Taco Bell at 571 NV-160 in Pahrump, NV. You read that right. This Taco Bell stop was particularly exciting for me because I finally got the chance to sample the limited edition Naked Chicken Chalupa. It tasted like heaven. If you aren’t familiar, they turned a chicken patty into a taco shell and added the usual taco fillings. Highly recommend. As for the overall quality of my visit, I rank the Parhump Taco Bell as follows:
- Ambiance: 8/10
- Service: 7/10
- Food: 9/10