We Got Rained on in Death Valley

In the beginning part of January, my [then] girlfriend and I decided that we would drive out to Death Valley for a while to go camping and hiking. You might know of Death Valley National Park as the hottest place on Earth (134 F), the lowest place in North America (282 feet below Sea Level), and the driest place in North America (average annual rainfall 2″). In the winter though the park has nice weather. It isn’t all just valley floor, salt flats, and mysterious moving rocks either.

Death Valley Floor

The valley floor is extremely dry.

Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 States with 3.4 million acres. It encompasses a variety of landscapes the most popular of which is the most radical one, the valley floor. This is where all the crazy barren pictures you see are taken [and where select scenes from the orginal Star Wars where filmed]. This is where the the hottest temperature was recorded. Oh, and in the summer this is where crazy people run a marathon! But the park also boasts mountain ranges, old mines, a mansion called Scotty’s Castle, sand dunes, slot canyons, and even an underwater cave.

Devil's Golf Course Death Valley

Devil’s Golf Course

We camped at Texas Spring Campground which is in the middle of the of the roads on the East Side of the park making most of the trails more accessible whether we went North or South. It blew my mind how big the park was. Just driving from one trailhead to the next took us way more time than we anticipated because this place is unfathomably huge. The campground was nice it had running water which is great and flush toilets if you are into that sort of thing. There are however other campgrounds in the park that offer the same amenities but offer free camping. If you are on a budget check out Emigrant Campground for one. Here is the link for the National Park’s Campground.
Because we were relaxing in the morning, making good breakfasts, and enjoying ourselves; and due to the vastness of the park causing longer than expected travel times to get to trailheads we didn’t complete as many hikes as we originally wanted. On Ted’s (ex-girlfriend’s brother) last day in the park we got rained on. It was surreal to be in the the driest place in North America in the rain. Here are some pictures from the hikes that we did do.
road to Death Valley Trail

A long road out of the desert into the foothills. This is where we left the truck.

Slot Canyon in Death Valley

Off the beaten path, we had the entire canyon to ourselves

Natural Bridge hike in Death Valley

Up on top of the Natural Bridge

Hiker in Death Valley

Enjoying the View

Just this month Death Valley NP started a campaign to get people to come out and hike the park. If you complete a variety of different hikes with different points associated with them and get a total of four or more points you can get an exclusive “Hike Death Valley National Park 2015” Sticker. Luckily, I learned about this before we went. We didn’t actually do enough hikes on the list, but we did complete plenty of hikes and the rangers knew we knew enough about the technical aspects of getting over dry falls we weren’t lying. Most the hikes we did were not on the map the park service gives you.
Death Valley has some amazing hikes but if you would rather just drive through the park there are some really unique side roads and dirt roads that can take you way out and give you that I’m in the middle of nowhere feeling. I was happy my Ted brought his truck out but when he had to leave for school I was still able to get my ’98 Lumina way out there! I did have to get out a few times and level out the gravel and move some larger rocks. Some of the more popular drives you can take in a car without getting out to move rocks include Dante’s View, Twenty Mule Team Road, and Artist Drive (all of which were featured in Star Wars).
Road to Dante's View

The road up to Dante’s View on a cloudy day.

Hole In The Wall Death Valley

Road In Death Valley

My car out in nowhere up in the mountains of Death Valley

Rusty Car in Death Valley

Someone else left there car parked out there too

Death Valley has a vast collection of cultural history they protect. There are mines left from old gold prospectors and ghost towns. We didn’t make it to Panamint City but the Rangers recommended it for people who are interested in history.

Aguereberry Camp Death Valley

Birdseye of Aguereberry Camp

Aguereberry's House Death Valley

Aguereberry’s House

Aguereberry Camp

 

Eureka Mine Death Valley

Abandon Railway into Eureka Mine

This was my first adventure to Death Valley National Park. I am so happy that I was able to go with my girlfriend (and her brother for a few days). We had a great time out there. The thing I think we all agreed upon that was the greatest thing about it was the lack of people, the lack of crowds that most National Parks bring. What blew me away the most about Death Valley NP was the vast openness that is the park. You fell so small out there. The roads are long and take quite awhile to get from one place to another, but the scenery is extreme. As the sun’s position in the sky changes so do the colors on the rocks. One mountain at sunrise was not the same mountain at sunset. Artist Point Drive is best lite up in the afternoon. I can’t wait to go back to Death Valley.

In the summer I want to explore the West Side of the park, the mountains. The Rangers explained to us that during the summer the temperature is actually quite nice at the high elevation compared to the valley floor. There are campgrounds up there and I look forward to hiking up to the top of Death Valley’s highest point; Telescope Peak.


 

 

Below are some resources to help you learn more about Death Valley National Park:

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