25 Things to Do in Death Valley → A Local’s Adventures

Two women standing on top of a mountain in death valley.

Welcome to the hottest place on Earth! 🔥 Death Valley National Park is an arid oasis straddling southeastern California and Nevada.

There are incredible things to do in Death Valley National Park, and I’m here as your local guide, maximizing your time and adventure!

Known as the hottest, driest, largest national park in the contiguous US, visiting Death Valley is super popular, so be sure to plan your activities ahead.

Quick Picks for Your Stay

On your visit to Death Valley, you’ll want to start your adventure right away, not spend hours online booking activities. I highly recommend you book your hotels and activities in advance:

And here are the best hotels: Falcon Cottage (luxury), Holiday Inn Express & Suites Pahrump (mid-range), K7 Bed & Breakfast (budget)

Not enough options for you? Check out our extensive article on the best areas to stay in while visiting Death Valley National Park.

1. Photograph the unique geology at Zabriskie Point

Death valley national park, california.

Visiting Death Valley National Park is all about the views, and the photography of the stunning landscapes is a popular choice among things to do in Death Valley.

Zabriskie Point is an iconic destination for capturing dramatic vistas like breathtaking panoramas of the colorful badlands.

Try the Badlands Loop (see trail map) for an incredible hour-long moderate hike through this vast desert.

Definitely stop to photograph the colorful Desolation Canyon visible from Zabriskie Point. The intricate weaving of eroded rock formations shows an incredible blend of reds, yellows, and golds.

During sunrise or sunset, the canyon’s vibrant hues create a surreal and ethereal atmosphere – any photographer’s dream.

Revel in the views from Zabriskie Point, offering one of the most iconic vistas in Death Valley National Park. The viewpoint overlooks the Golden Canyon badlands, with the Panamint Mountains in the background.

If you love taking photos of these dramatic landscapes, engage in photography workshops and tours. There are countless photography-themed tours of the park for every skill level!

TOUR PRICE: from US$285 per person

Book your photography tour

2. Camp at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

A woman sits on top of a sand dune looking at the sky.

What could be cooler than to camp under the desert stars?

With minimal light pollution, you can witness the Milky Way and catch tons of shooting stars from Mesquite Flat Dunes! Seriously, there’s no better place to camp under the stars than at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.

I personally like the VIP treatment, so I usually go with a stargazing tour like this awesome one that gets you to the sand dunes for sunrise and sunset!

Wander the mesquite sand dunes at sunrise, the soft sand glows in the early morning light, creating a magical ambiance.

Delight in a sunset at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes – this is a spectacle nothing short of awe-inspiring, as the sun dips below the horizon, the sand dunes shine with hues of orange, pink, and purple.

TOUR PRICE: from US$260 per person

Go stargazing

3. Marvel at Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America

Death valley national park, california.

While you’re visiting, one of the coolest things to do in Death Valley includes exploring unique geological formations like Badwater Basin.

This place is located an incredible 282 ft (86 m) below sea level, clocking in as the lowest point in North America!

Delve into the depths of Badwater Basin by walking out onto the flats, which resemble a vast, cracked mosaic just begging for photos!

Navigate through the surreal Salt Flats, and you’ll feel like you’re traversing an alien planet.

To get the full experience, consider taking the Badwater Basin Boardwalk (see trail map), a short trail that leads to the heart of the salt flat.

4. Explore the Ubehebe Crater’s vastness

A crater in the middle of a desert.

The main crater stretches over 0.5 miles (c. 1 km) and nearly 800 feet (244 m), making it one of the largest volcanic craters in the United States!

As you can see, visiting Death Valley NP means you are in for some big adventures!

Don’t miss the chance to check out Ubehebe Crater, an immense carve-out in the earth formed by a powerful volcanic explosion thousands of years ago.

Hike amidst volcanic tuffs in Little Hebe Crater (see trail map), a smaller but equally cool crater offering a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the volcanic terrain.

The trail takes you through a landscape of ash and rock, revealing the remnants of past eruptions – it’s really cool!

5. Watch the sunset at Dante’s View

A man and a child standing on a mountain overlooking a valley.

One of the most beautiful things to see in Death Valley National Park is marvel at the vastness from Dante’s View – one of the most breathtaking vistas in Death Valley National Park.

At an elevation of 5,475 ft (c. 1,670 m), Dante’s View gives you an unparalleled panoramic perspective of the park.

The view here extends for miles. Expansive flats of Badwater Basin, the winding course of the Black Mountains, and the distant peaks of the Panamint Range.

Dante’s View is known for its clear skies, making it another gem for stargazing at night!

6. Admire the salt flats at Devil’s Golf Course

A deserted area with rocks and a blue sky.

When you visit Death Valley, make time to visit the Devil’s Golf Course’s unique formations for a glimpse into one of the most rugged and surreal landscapes within Death Valley National Park.

These flats at Devil’s Golf Course, located near Badwater Basin, stretch as far as the eye can see and have been sculpted by wind and weather over thousands of years.

The result is a jagged and serrated terrain. The idea is, it’s so inhospitable that only the devil himself could play golf here!

Discover unique rock formations at The Devil’s Cornfield – a section of the flats featuring bizarre salt-encrusted hills that resemble the stalks of corn in a field.

7. Explore the beauty of Mosaic Canyon

A man is walking through a narrow canyon.

You’ll love this narrow slot canyon, located in the western portion of the park, with incredible sculpted rock formations and stunning landscapes.

Another must-stop when you visit Death Valley – make sure to explore the Mosaic Canyon’s smooth walls and take your time on your hike drinking in all of the surroundings.

Mosaic Canyon is renowned for its polished, narrow walls, where the smooth surfaces show off millions of years of erosion.

As you venture deeper into the canyon, you’ll be surrounded by the cool, shaded walls that rise high above you.

You can take this trail deeper and deeper into the canyon and look for a phenomenal mosaic effect up above!

8. Attempt a challenging hike at Wildrose Peak

The view from the top of a mountain overlooking a desert.

When you visit Death Valley, you have to experience the Wildrose Peak Trail (see trail map), taking you through some of the most diverse landscapes in the park.

You’ll begin at Charcoal Kilns and gradually ascend towards the summit of Wildrose Peak. During certain times of the year, you’ll witness wildflowers during rare blooms along the trail, and it’s absolutely epic.

You’ll love the diversity of ecosystems here – dense forests near the trailhead and high desert vistas at the summit. At the peak, you’re rewarded with a sweeping perspective of Death Valley, it’s awe-inspiring!

9. Visit Furnace Creek, the oasis of Death Valley

building with a temperature indicator in front of it

Ready to turn up the heat? 🔥

One of the hottest things to do in Death Valley is experiencing the heat at Furnace Creek, the heart of Death Valley National Park.

Explore one of the hottest places on Earth with the highest ever recorded temperature at a crazy 134º F (56.7º C) in 1913.

Don’t miss the incredibly fun Oasis at Death Valley, with restaurants, dining, accommodations, and golf all at your fingertips.

Explore the mysteries of Scotty’s Castle, a super cool historic Spanish-style mansion, also known as Death Valley Ranch.

You can take a guided tour through this architectural gem and drool over the unique blend of 1920s luxury and rustic desert surroundings.

Navigate the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail (see trail map), which is an amazing opportunity to explore the park’s unique ecology.

A short boardwalk trail will wind you through a salt-flat oasis – look down and check out the unusual desert pupfish!

While at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, take a photo with the giant thermometer – it’s a must!

If you want to stay overnight – Furnace Creek Campground is the only campground in the park that allows reservations.

10. Visit the historical Borax Museum

A group of old train tracks in a dirt field with mountains in the background.

With all that adventuring, you’re going to need a little reprieve!

Visiting historical sites such as the Borax Museum adds to the things to do in Death Valley that allow you to kick back a little bit and learn about the history of borax mining in the region.

Learn history at the Borax Museum, housed in a historic structure and part of a bygone era when borax mining played a crucial role in Death Valley’s economic development.

Exhibits, artifacts, and informative displays help you uncover history at Harmony Borax Works, a historical site with well-preserved ruins of the borax processing plant from the late 19th century.

This stop will allow you to brush up on your area’s history while also taking a break from the heat and unrelenting sun! ☀️

11. Drive through Artist’s Drive

colourful rocks in death valley

Next on the adventure is a little car exploration as we explore the natural wonders of Artist’s Palette, a breathtaking geological phenomenon in Death Valley National Park.

You’ll love this scenic route, opening up to a spectrum of colors painted across the rocky mountains.

If you’re wondering, the hues, like the reds, pinks, greens, and purples, are the result of different mineral deposits over many, many years.

Drive the serene stretch of Artist’s Drive, a 9-mile (14 km) one-way loop winding through the heart of the Black Mountains.

Make time to stop at the viewpoints along the way; the best time to stop for photos, in my opinion, has to be late afternoon as the sun is setting and the lighting on the mountains is incredible!

Artist’s Drive is really popular with photographers, so you’ll often see them at the viewpoints with long lenses. It’s definitely one of the coolest things you can do in the park. Try this awesome photography tour paired with a wine tasting, with pick-up options available from Las Vegas, and explore your raw talent – it’s perfect for beginners!

If you love nature and discovering the wildlife of the area, enjoy birdwatching at Saratoga Springs, a hidden gem nestled within Artist’s Drive.

TOUR PRICE: from US$285 per person

Save your spot

12. Take a short hike to Natural Bridge

A man standing in front of an arch in a desert.

This is the perfect hike for any skill level, and it’s a valuable reward!

Natural Bridge hike (see trail map) is an easy 2-mile (3 km) round-trip trail that opens up to unique sandstone formations that gradually lead you through an enticing, narrow canyon of multi-hued rocks.

The highlight of the hike, without a doubt, is the awe-inspiring Natural Bridge, spanning an impressive 50 feet (15 m)!

Don’t miss the chance to take some jaw-dropping photo ops here! 📸

13. Explore the mysteries of the moving rocks at Racetrack Playa

A rock in the middle of a desert with mountains in the background.

Another must-visit is the enigmatic Racetrack Playa, a unique and peculiar phenomenon in Death Valley National Park.

Famous for its mysteriously moving rocks, leaving long tracks in the cracked mud surface, this stop will leave you scratching your head.

These large boulders, some weighing hundreds of pounds, leave trails behind them as they move across the playa’s surface. It is absolutely wild! 

Scientists say it’s a combination of rain, wind, and ice. Whatever it is – it’s AMAZING!

Be forewarned: the road out to the playa is rugged, uneven, and pretty bumpy.

Feel like you want to see all these cool things but don’t want to drive yourself? Opt for a guided tour, like this epic 4×4 Jeep adventure through the park!

TOUR PRICE: US$290 per person

Book your Jeep adventure

14. Hike Golden Canyon for breathtaking views

Death valley national park, california.

I’m always up for a good hiking adventure, and Golden Canyon never disappoints!

Hiking trails like Golden Canyon Trail offer thrilling things to do in Death Valley for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers, and even better, the trailhead is easily accessible from Badwater Road.

Hike the rugged terrain of Golden Canyon on a well-marked trail curving itself through a narrow and twisting canyon. When you finally make it, you’ll be shocked by the towering rock formations and colorful mineral deposits all around you.

Try the hike to the famous Red Cathedral (see trail map), which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding badlands.

For an added bit of adventure, consider extending your hike to the mesmerizing Darwin Falls in the Panamint Springs area, with a year-round waterfall in the middle of this arid oasis.

15. Encounter the mesmerizing Eureka Dunes

The sand dunes in death valley national park.

Feel like a princess from Disney’s Aladdin, exploring the vast, sandy, towering dunes of Eureka Valley. 👑

Standing at an impressive 680 feet (208 meters), these dunes are amongst the tallest in North America!

The ascent will have you huffing and puffing – BUT, when you reach the summit, the sweeping views of Eureka Valley and the distant Inyo Mountains offer a panoramic view that will take your breath away.

16. Trek Telescope Peak

A trail leading up to a mountain covered in snow.

Up for a little exploration?!

Visit Telescope Peak (see trail map) for panoramic vistas and a hike to the highest point in Death Valley National Park.

Standing at an impressive 11,043 feet (3,366 m) above sea level, the trail to the summit takes you through a transition of environments, from desert scrubland to pine and fir forests.

Hiking Telescope Peak is super challenging as the trail gains extreme elevation. With that, it offers stunning panoramas of Death Valley, the Panamint Range, and beyond.

Really popular during spring and early summer when the wildflowers are blooming in the high-altitude meadows – you’ll want to keep this in mind for your planning!

17. Take a guided tour with park rangers

December through March, Death Valley National Park has a unique program where you can join a guided tour of the valley with park rangers.

Experience the Echo Canyon’s rocky trails on a ranger-led hike, where you’ll explore one of the park’s coolest canyons with unique geology and rock formations.

Discover Native American petroglyphs etched into the rocks, offering a glimpse into the cultural heritage of the indigenous people who once inhabited the area.

Join a guided tour of the valley and delve deeper into the unique features and diverse ecosystems within the park.

18. Enjoy stargazing in one of the darkest places in the USA

milky way viewed from death valley

We already talked a little bit about how cool it is to camp under the stars, but to actually stargaze in the designated Dark Sky Park – well, that’s taking it to a whole ‘nother planet!

With its low light pollution and clear desert skies, designated as a Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association, Death Valley National Park is ideal for astronomers and stargazers.

The absence of artificial light sources in the park allows for unparalleled visibility of the night sky, and also one of the darkest places in the country!

Catch the Milky Way stretching across the sky, as well as constellations, planets, and even distant galaxies with the naked eye.

19. Take a scenic drive through Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Death valley national park in california.

Another break from the heat: don’t miss the drive through the scenic Twenty Mule Team Canyon, a route that immerses you in the rugged landscape of the park, taking you through a picturesque canyon in the heart of the desert.

Named after the teams of mules that were once used to transport borax from the nearby mines, you’ll actually be following in the footsteps of early pioneers and explorers.

A well-maintained one-way road that winds through the narrow and winding canyon, this drive will give you close-up views of the layered sedimentary rock that makes this region famous.

20. Visit the charcoal kilns

A row of stone cone constructions in the mountains.

A really cool stop and deserving of a spot on your things to do in Death Valley list, explore the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns that once played a vital role in the region’s mining industry.

These well-preserved kilns are a testament to the craftsmanship of the time in almost mint condition!

The cone-shaped kilns, built in the late 19th century, were used to convert wood into charcoal and then transported to nearby mining operations, like Panamint City silver mines.

Located high up in the mountains, this stop, accessible by car, is another wonderful vista viewing point.

21. Learn about Native American history at Timbisha Shoshone

Death valley national park in california.

One of my favorite things to do in Death Valley is explore the Timbisha Shoshone Cultural Center and Museum, showcasing the Native American history and culture of the Timbisha Shoshone people of Death Valley.

Learn about the Timbisha Shoshone’s traditional ways of life, customs, and artistry of the tribe. It makes you feel like you are actually stepping back in time.

The exhibits feature artifacts, photographs, and informative displays offering insight into the tribe’s history, language, and spiritual beliefs.

Each moment I spent in this museum, I felt closer to the land and the history, it’s really amazing!

The cultural center also hosts events and programs that provide opportunities to engage with members of the Timbisha Shoshone tribe and learn directly from their perspectives so the exhibits stay up-to-date and relevant.

22. Walk around the abandoned ghost town of Rhyolite

An old building in the middle of the desert.

Ready for some goosebumps?! 👻

Discover the ruins of Rhyolite ghost town, and learn the boom-and-bust history of the American West.

Located just outside the eastern boundary of Death Valley National Park, Rhyolite was a bustling mining town during the early 20th century.

Stroll through the remnants of Rhyolite town, and you’ll see well-preserved buildings and structures, like the Cook Bank Building, the Bottle House, and the ruins of the old railroad depot.

Rhyolite’s decline was as rapid as its growth – the town was largely abandoned by the end of World War I.

23. Eat local at one of Death Valley’s restaurants

All this adventuring is bound to leave you starving!

Don’t worry. There are restaurants and grab-and-go eateries scattered throughout the park. Many of the menus are inspired by regional and Southwestern flavors, offering dishes that highlight the local cuisine.

When you’re in this part of the country, be prepared for a bit of Southwestern American flavor paired with some Mexican cuisine. Yum!

Two of my favorite stops for grinds while in Death Valley, the Furnace Creek Inn and the Stovepipe Wells Village Restaurant, offer hearty food to fill you up and keep you moving!

24. Discover the power of Saline Valley Hot Springs

A small stream in the desert.

All this hiking and adventuring will have your muscles feeling pretty grim – so make sure to allot some time to enjoy the Saline Valley Hot Springs.

This unique area offers tons of relaxation and rejuvenation at an elevation of approximately 1,000 feet (305 meters).

The hot springs are remote, which adds to their allure, as does the stunning backdrop of the Inyo Mountains

So you’re prepared – waters range in temperature from comfortably warm to luxuriously hot.

25. Shop for souvenirs at local stores

A market sign in front of palm trees.

Okay, did you really experience it if you didn’t bring back a souvenir?! Stop at one of the many local stores and gift shops throughout the park, where you can shop for artisan mementos from the valley.

Grab a hat or T-shirt with Death Valley logos, or bring home some books about the park’s history and ecology.

There are also a variety of desert-themed gifts, including minerals and gemstones, Native American artwork, and handcrafted jewelry to bring back to your loved ones!

One of the iconic souvenirs in Death Valley is a vial of Badwater salt crystals from the salt flats at the ‘lowest point in North America.’

🏛️ Best museum:Borax Museum
🏞️ Top paid attraction:Death Valley Stargazing Tour
🚶 Best hike:Golden Canyon
🌻 Best free attraction:Zabriskie Point

Where to stay in Death Valley

There are great places to stay around Death Valley National Park, and I’ve shared my top picks in every budget range below.

collage of 3 images with: a bedroom, front desk house and pool area with gazebo and wooden chairs

Luxury (US$215 and up)

  • Falcon Cottage – located in Pahrump, this luxury hotel offers air-conditioned rooms, a stunning crystal blue swimming pool, and spacious guest suites.
  • Sun Angel House – another luxury gem in Pahrump, this huge home has 4 bedrooms, a large living area with a fireplace, and incredible views.

Mid-Range (US$150 – US$200)

Budget (up to US$100)

  • K7 Bed & Breakfast – the country, rural vibe of this B&B is so charming, with free continental breakfast, private bathrooms, and free Wi-Fi. It’s a great budget option near the park.
  • Death Valley Inn & RV Park – although this spot has a slightly lower rating than I typically recommend, it’s a great budget option, clean, close to the park, and has awesome amenities like a hot tub and pool.

Check the rates

FAQs on things to do in Death Valley

A man standing in the middle of a field of rocks.

🐾 Can I bring my pets to Death Valley National Park?

Yes, you can bring pets to Death Valley National Park, but only to developed areas like campgrounds and paved roads.

📆 How long should I spend at Death Valley?

1 – 2 days is enough time to visit Death Valley’s main sites.

💸 What are the best things to do on a budget at Death Valley?

The best things to do in Death Valley on a budget are to visit Zabriskie Point, catch a sunset at Dante’s View, and take a scenic drive through Artist’s Palette.

♿ Is Death Valley accessible for those with disabilities?

Yes! Death Valley is accessible for those with disabilities, including ADA-compliant campgrounds, walkways, and restroom facilities.

Conclusion

a highway in the middle of a desert with mountains in the background

Hot, dry, and always an adventurous time, there are countless incredible things to do in Death Valley!

Whether you love to hike and explore or prefer to sit back and take some scenic drives, Death Valley is the perfect place to plan a trip.

If you have a trip coming up, don’t wait – book your hotels & activities in advance! You don’t want to miss out on these amazing desert adventures!

And as always, I’ll be waiting patiently for your comments!

Hayden


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