15 Best Things to Do in Death Valley, CA

Death Valley, CA
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Located in eastern California, this desert valley with a humorous name is the land of extremes, with its record summer heat and lasting droughts.

Death Valley may sound like an intimidating place, especially since its name comes from a group of pioneers who lost their lives in this valley more than a century ago.

The record-breaking temperatures at this valley have made this destination in North America one of the hottest places on Earth!

Despite how frightening this sounds, Death Valley is home to desert wonders and the top national park in the entire country.

Here are the 15 best things to do in Death Valley, CA:

Go Sandboarding at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Scenic view of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
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Death Valley is complete with lovely scenery and views of dunes that you can admire and explore, such as the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes!

Your trip to this desert would be incomplete without a trip to these dunes since they are a popular attraction for first-time visitors to Death Valley.

When the sun's rays hit the dunes at just the right angle, the shadows and contrasts create a truly breathtaking sight.

A person walking along Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
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You also can climb these dunes and explore or take pictures with them as a backdrop.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is one of the few dunes that allow sandboarding, a desert sport you should try.

Sledding and sand skiing are also other options.

Morning light over Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
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Check Out Badwater Basin

Name sign of Badwater Basin
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Towards the southern end of Death Valley sits Badwater Basin, a shallow lake rimmed with salt and other minerals.

This basin is also the lowest point in the entire continent, sitting at 282 feet below sea level.

This lake gets its name from the occasional water, depending on the weather, though its water isn’t entirely “bad” – just very salty.

Salt crust formations on Badwater Basin
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Despite the high sodium content in the water, various organisms and life thrive here, including snails native to Death Valley.

This basin fills with water during certain months of the year, allowing tourists to paddle out and explore this salty lake.

Badwater Basin provides a unique and exciting sight that you won’t want to miss while visiting!

People exploring the Badwater Basin
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Solve Death Valley’s Enduring Mystery at the Racetrack

Visible stars over the Racetrack
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The Racetrack is Death Valley’s most enduring mystery since it contains what people call “moving rocks.”

These rocks weigh as much as 700 pounds, making it a mystery how these rocks move in the first place when they’re supposedly sedentary.

Daytime view of the Racetrack
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Some of the largest rocks have moved as far as 1,500 feet, shown in the miles-long dent in the sand.

The Racetrack is home to one of the world’s most mysterious enigmas before two cousins solved it in 2014.

The roads surrounding this desert area are rough and rocky, so travel with care and caution!

Admire the Sunrise and Sunset at Zabriskie Point

Sunrise illuminating the ridges of Zabriskie Point
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Zabriskie Point is a surreal landscape of colorful ridges, especially against the rays of sunlight that shine on them.

Named as one of the iconic vistas in Death Valley, this point has become a popular tourist attraction where individuals can admire the sunrise or sunset.

Scenic view of the sunset from Zabriskie Point
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Let Zabriskie Point take your breath away through the surrounding sights, including the badlands below, the yellow and brown hills on either side of the point, and Manly Beacon.

You can also find a paved trail that stretches over 7.8 miles in case you’re looking for a place to walk, hike, and explore.

It’s best to drop by either during sunrise or sunset time (or both!) to see everything all at once.

Milky way over Zabriskie Point
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Take Family Photos at Dante's View

Gorgeous view from Dante's View
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At Dante's View, you can get one of the best views of the entirety of Death Valley that will make your photos stand out!

At its peak at 5,575 feet, you can view the valley below, the sun and clouds overheads, and the surrounding mountains.

People admiring the view from Dante's View
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Dantes View has become a favorite destination for photographers and individuals who can’t help but admire and appreciate the scenery.

The temperature here is also much cooler than most places in Death Valley, which can cool you down!

Don’t forget your cameras when dropping by!

The landscape of Dante's View
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Visit a Colorful Hillside at Artist's Drive and Artist's Palette

The road of Artist's Drive
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If you drive up to Artist’s Drive, you’ll go on a winding road where you get amazing sights of the surrounding canyons and mountains.

The drive is about nine miles, giving you all possible views of each section of the mountains.

This scenic road leads you to Artist’s Palette, a colorful hillside with mesmerizing and jaw-dropping colors.

The colorful hills of Artist's Drive
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From red to purple, blue, green, and even pink, this hillside gets its name from the array of colors tinting the hills via the oxidization of metals and elements in the ground.

Despite the long drive, Artist’s Palette provides a one-of-its-kind sight that you can only see here.

Almost every color comes through on these hills and mountains, making it a must-see for all visitors, which you can marvel at!

Colorful hills of Artist’s Palette
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Listen for Popping Tiny Salt Crystals at Devil's Golf Course

Road sign of Devil's Golf Course
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Devil’s Golf Course is a field of jagged boulders and sharp salt crystals, creating a very bumpy and uneven surface.

Despite its name, you can’t play golf on this serrated land, but it gets its name because “only the devil could play golf on such rough links."

Jagged salt formations at Devil's Golf Course
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If you stay quiet, you can also hear tiny salt crystals popping caused by the heat.

Though there isn’t much activity you can do here, the vastness and the quietness provide solitude for a beautiful experience.

The unusual sigh at Devil’s Golf Course is something you wouldn’t want to miss!

Amazing crystal formations at Devil's Golf Course
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Visit the Historical Harmony Borax Works

An old water tank car at Harmony Borax Works
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When Death Vally was discovered in 1881, Harmony Borax Works was a central feature of this desert valley.

Around 1883, William T. Coleman built what is known today as the Harmony Borax Works, which processed ore.

The remains of Harmony Borax Works
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This factory became the sole producer of borax, manufacturing over three tons of borax each day.

However, only after five years, this operation ceases due to the intense heat that disallowed the borax to crystallize.

More than a century later, this factory is now the symbol of the borax industry in the entire country and is on the National Register of Historic Places, given its cultural significance.

Daytime view of Harmony Borax Works
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Go on a Scenic Drive at Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Aerial view of Twenty Mule Team Canyon
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Twenty Mule Team Canyon is named after the 20 men who previously worked at Harmony Borax Works and transported the borax-filled wagons out of the valley.

This scenic road gives you a glimpse into the lives of the men who traveled through the valley.

This road stretches over 2.7 miles between the mountains and the canyons, providing a fantastic view for all who take this scenic route.

Dirt road of Twenty Mule Team Canyon
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Avid fans of the movie “Star Wars” should also drop by Twenty Mule Team Canyon where they filmed several scenes from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

Though movie filming has now been prohibited in Death Valley to protect park wilderness, you can spot the iconic desert dunes in the backdrop of Star Wars!

This scenic drive through this canyon can also give you a break from all the exploring on foot.

Daytime view of Twenty Mule Team Canyon's road
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See the Remains of Keane Wonder Mine

Tramway towers at Keane Wonder Mine
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This historic structure in Death Valley gives tourists a glimpse into the long mining history of this valley.

Keane Wonder Mine began its operations in 1907, transporting several tons of gold during the production season.

After almost 35 years, this mine had to close due to the summer temperatures that restricted the workers and a lack of raw material to continue mining.

An open wooden door at Keane Wonder Mine
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Though previously closed for restoration, Keane Wonder Mine was reopened to the public in 2017 as a way to tell the public about the mining history of Death Valley.

Guests who visit this mine park can see the remaining buildings and structures, including an aerial tram!

Be careful as some structures are pretty unstable, and you might fall down open mine holes and shafts across this park!

Visit Keane Wonder Mine to explore its history, admire the ingenuity of the engineers who built this place, or take a hike up the mountain to see the tramway up close!

Wooden framework of a building at Keane Wonder Mine
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Explore Ubehebe Crater

Scenic view of Ubehebe Crater
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Ubehebe Crater is the site of a half-mile wide and 400 feet deep crater from a volcanic explosion.

It is one of the few craters you can find in the entire valley that appeared about 2,100 years ago.

Mile marker of Ubehebe Crater
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Guests can explore the crater further and get up close and personal with it by walking down its rim.

Though the walk down is relatively easy, getting out of the crater is difficult due to unstable ground and loose footing.

The crater is pretty large, giving you a lot of ground to cover and explore, so wear the right shoes to ensure comfort and safety!

Ubehebe Crater's view point
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Face Your Fears at Rhyolite Ghost Town

Daytime view of Rhyolite Ghost Town
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Rhyolite Ghost Town is an abandoned mining site that supposedly hosts ghostly figures at the edge of town.

Found towards the edge of Death Valley, Rhyolite once had a thriving community complete with children who played on the streets.

Unfortunately, due to a financial crisis, this town shut down in 1916.

Looking through Rhyolite Ghost Town's windows
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Guests who visit this ghost town can see the remnants of this once bustling metropolis, including old bank buildings, and a portion of the old prisonhouse.

Paramount Pictures has also refurbished the building known as the Bottle House.

Though there have been no reports of ghostly or paranormal activities (yet) at Rhyolite Ghost Town, this old town still carries the memories of the residents who once lived here.

An old mercantile at Rhyolite Ghost Town
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Check Out Stunning Rock Formations at Natural Bridge

Daytime view of the Natural Bridge
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As its name suggests, Natural Bridge is a rock formation resembling a bridge.

This stunning geological rock formation is behind some of the tall canyons of Death Valley that will require some walking.

The view from under the Natural Bridge
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This bridge stands about 35 feet, and if you keep exploring, you’ll find various dry falls, vertical chutes, and hanging canyons.

Though no official paved trail will lead you to this bridge, Natural Bridge is the perfect hiking destination for those who love rocks and simple hikes.

Don’t forget to wear the right shoes since the trail is rocky!

Walk through a Flower Field at Wildflowers

Death valley's flower field
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Flowers don’t seem to belong in a desert, given the lack of moist soil and direct heat from the sunlight; however, wildflowers bloom in large pockets and clumps once a decade.

During wildflower season, these beautiful flowers bloom, which is an excellent but rare sight in Death Valley.

A pretty flower at death valley's flower field
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This season makes this valley a hotspot destination for locals and tourists who wish to see them bloom on these rare occasions.

See yellow, white, and even purple carpets line the valley floor, with species such as the Desert Gold, Desert Marigold, and the Mariposa Lily.

Guests can walk in the open field; just don't trample these flowers!

Close view of death valley's flowers
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Take Photos at Devil's Cornfield

Daytime view of Devil's Cornfield
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Like the Devil’s Golf Course, this cornfield isn’t precisely a cornfield but instead gets its name from the clumps of weed that appear as shocks of corn that only “the Devil can eat.”

These clumps of vegetation stretch out across the field, giving you a unique, exciting sight.

Arrow weed growing on Devil's Cornfield
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Depending on the season, these shrubs also change color between shades of green and brown over time.

It gets pretty hot in this field, especially during the midday, so carefully schedule your visit in the early morning.

Photographers and scenic admirers will enjoy the views at the Devil’s Cornfield with its exciting formations.

Final Thoughts

Death Valley seems like an intimidating place to visit, but if you give it a chance, you’ll find many things you can see and do!

There’s so much to explore in this desert valley, from sand sports to exciting rock formations and scenic views.

Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy their visit here.

You'll spend much of your day under the sun exploring all the natural wonders across Death Valley.

Book a trip now!

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