Death Valley National Park encompasses more than 5,000 square miles of land in eastern California adjoining the Nevada border, making it the largest national park in the lower 48 states. The majority of this area is federally designated wilderness, but quite a few areas in the park are accessible from roads, and a great deal more from rocky 4x4 routes. For that reason alone it is highly recommended that you read through the different sections below to become better oriented with the park to ensure a pleasureable visit.
Furnace Creek Area
California Highway 190 is the main route through the park, traveling some 50 miles from the southwest to northeast. In the middle of this route is the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Open year-round from 8am to 5pm, the center contains a number of exhibits on the geology, hardy plant and animal life, and human history of the park. Several ranger talks a day cover a wide range of subjects.
North of Furnace Creek is the Stovepipe Wells Village, offering lodging and dining. Striking sand dunes, said to be the most photographed in the world, stretch into the shimmering horizon to the north of here, and Mosaic Canyon to the south is a geologically interesting area of banded rock and jagged formations.
On the south side of Furnace Creek you'll find a number of scenic drives, including the colored rocks of Artists Drive, and a road to the impressive Dante's View overlook. Visitors to this part of the park can continue south on a route through the Black and Owlshead Mountains, or stop by Badwater, which at 282 feet below sea level is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.
Scotty's Castle Area
50 miles north of the park's center you'll find Scotty's Castle, built as a home to one of Death Valley's most colorful prospecting characters. This historic Spanish-style mansion provides daily living history tours that take visitors back to 1939, the heyday of Death Valley Scotty's popularity. Also on site is the Gas House Museum, offering artifacts and exhibits related to Scotty and the Death Valley prospectors. The castle is open daily from 7am to 6pm, and can be reached at 760-786-2392.
Also near Scotty's Castle is Ubehebe Crater, a huge formation caused by ancient volcanic activity. An impressive vantage point near the road and trails around the rim and into the basin are popular diversions for visitors to the northern part of the park.
More than 350 miles of unpaved and 4-wheel drive roads provide access to wilderness hiking, camping, and historical sites. Crosscountry hiking through the backcountry provides access to some of the most remote areas in California. There are literally thousands of hiking possibilities through the millions of acres of ridgelines, mountain peaks, and desert valleys.
Some Other Things To Know
While pets are allowed in the park, their activities are restricted. All pets must be on a leash at all times and cannot be more than 100 feet from a road, picnic area, or campground; they are prohibited from trails, and they must never be left unattended—not even in a vehicle.