29 Best Sights in Death Valley National Park, California

Artists Drive

Fodor's choice

Don't rush this quiet, lonely 9-mile paved route that skirts the foothills of the Black Mountains and provides intimate views of a changing landscape. About 4 miles in, a short side road veers right to a parking lot that's a few hundred feet from one of Death Valley's signature sights: Artists Palette, so called for the contrasting colors (including shades of green, gold, and pink) of its volcanic deposits and sedimentary layers The drive is one-way, heading north off Badwater Road, so if you're visiting Badwater Basin from Furnace Creek, come here on the way back. 

Badwater Basin

Fodor's choice

At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater is the lowest spot of land in North America—and also one of the hottest. Stairs and wheelchair ramps descend from the parking lot to a wooden platform that overlooks a spring-fed pool, a small but remarkably persistent reminder that the valley floor used to contain a lake. Be sure to look across to Telescope Peak, which towers more than 2 miles above the landscape. You can continue past the platform on a broad, white path that peters out after 1 mile. Bring water and a hat since there's no shade whatsoever.

Dantes View

Fodor's choice

This lookout is 5,450 feet above sea level in the Black Mountains. The view is astounding: in the dry desert air, you can see across most of 160-mile-long Death Valley. Take a 10-minute, mildly strenuous walk from the parking lot toward a series of rocky overlooks, where, with binoculars, you can spot some signature sites. A few interpretive signs point out the highlights below in the valley and across to the Panamint Range. Getting here from Furnace Creek takes about an hour—time well invested.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Darwin Falls

Fodor's choice

Although some scrambling is involved, this 2-mile round-trip hike rewards you with a refreshing year-round waterfall surrounded by thick vegetation and a rocky gorge. No swimming or bathing is allowed, but it's a beautiful place for a picnic. Adventurous hikers can climb higher toward more rewarding views of the falls. The trail is unmarked so follow the water's edge.  Some sections of the trail are not passable for those with mobility issues. Moderate.

Death Valley National Park, California, 92328, USA
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Rate Includes: No dogs allowed

Father Crowley Vista Point

Fodor's choice
Pull off Highway 190 in Western Death Valley into the vista point parking lot to gaze at the remnants of eerie volcanic flows down to Rainbow Canyon. Stroll a short distance to catch a sweeping overview of northern Panamint Valley. This is also an excellent site for stargazing.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center and Museum

Fodor's choice

Here, exhibits, artifacts, a 20-minute film, and live presentations on cultural and natural history provide a broad overview of how Death Valley formed. This is also the place to find out about ranger programs (available November through April) and pick up free Junior Ranger booklets—packed with games and info on the park and its critters—for the kids. In addition, you can purchase maps at the bookstore run by the Death Valley Natural History Association.  There are water filling stations outside the restrooms.


Fodor's choice

The Rand Mining District first boomed when gold was discovered in the Rand Mountains in 1895. Along with neighboring settlements, it grew further due to the success of the Yellow Aster Mine, which yielded $3 million worth of gold before 1900. Rich tungsten ore, used in World War I to make steel alloy, was discovered in 1907, and silver was found in 1919. Randsburg is one of the few gold-rush communities not to have become a ghost town; the tiny city jail is among the original buildings still standing in this town with a population under 100, and there's a museum that hosts Old West Days the third Saturday in September. In nearby Johannesburg, 1 mile south of Randsburg, spirits are said to dwell in the stunning Old West cemetery in the hills above town.

Ballarat Ghost Town

Although not officially in Death Valley, Ballarat—a crusty, dusty town that saw its heyday between 1897 and 1917—might make an interesting stop during a visit to the park's western reaches. Situated 30 miles south of the Panamint Springs Resort, it has a small store (open afternoons and weekends only) where you can grab a cold soda before venturing out to explore the crumbling landscape. The town itself has just one full-time resident, Rocky Novak. For years Ballarat's more infamous draw was Barker Ranch, where convicted murderer Charles Manson and his "family" were captured after the 1969 Sharon Tate murder spree; the house burned down in 2009.

Charcoal Kilns

Ten well-preserved stone kilns, each 25 feet high and 30 feet wide, stand as if on parade. The kilns, built by laborers for the Modock Consolidated Mining Company in 1877, were used to burn wood from pinyon pines to turn it into charcoal. The charcoal was then transported to the Argus Range west of Panamint Valley—and later to the towns of Darwin and Lookout—where it was used to extract lead and silver from the ore mined there. Nearby is the trailhead for the difficult, 8.4-mile hike to Wildrose Peak.

Wildrose Canyon Rd., 37 miles south of Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley, California, 92328, USA

Devil's Golf Course

Thousands of miniature salt pinnacles carved into surreal shapes by the desert wind dot this wildly varied landscape. The salt was pushed up to the surface by pressure created as underground salt- and water-bearing gravel crystallized. 

Dublin Gulch

A series of caves, carved into the caliche soil by miners during the 1920s, is a great spot for exploring and is a hit with kids. You aren't allowed to walk inside, but you can view the cells—with their stone walls, sleeping platforms, garages, and stovepipe chimneys—from the exterior.

Fall Canyon Trail

This is a 6-mile, roundtrip hike from the Titus Canyon parking area. First, walk ½ mile north along the base of the mountains to a large wash, then go 2½ miles up the canyon to a dry fall. For something more technical and steep, continue by climbing around to the falls on the south side. Moderate.

Death Valley National Park, California, 92328, USA

Golden Canyon Trail

Just south of Furnace Creek, these glimmering mountains are perhaps best known for their role in the original Star Wars. The canyon is a fine hiking spot, with a 3-mile out-and-back route offering gorgeous views of the Panamint Mountains, ancient dry lake beds, and alluvial fans. Moderate.

Hwy. 178, Death Valley, California, 92328, USA

Harmony Borax Works

Death Valley's mule teams hauled borax from here to the railroad town of Mojave, 165 miles away. They plied the route until 1889, when the railroad finally arrived in Zabriskie. Constructed in 1883, one of the oldest buildings in Death Valley houses the Borax Museum, 2 miles south of the borax works at the Ranch at the Oasis at Death Valley (between the restaurants and the post office). Originally a miners' bunkhouse, the building once stood in Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Now it displays mining machinery and historical exhibits. The adjacent structure is the original mule-team barn.

Keane Wonder Mine

Accessed via a dirt road, this fascinating relic of Death Valley's gold-mining past, built in 1907, reopened in November 2017 after nine years of repair work. Its most unique feature is the mile-long tramway, with the original cables still attached, that descends 1,000 vertical feet and once carried gold ore. From here, a network of trails leads to other old mines. A 1,500 foot climb 1.4 miles to the uppermost tramway terminal is rewarded by expansive valley views.

Marta Becket's Amargosa Opera House

An artist and dancer from New York, Marta Becket first visited the former railway town of Death Valley Junction while on tour in 1967. Later that year, she returned to town and leased a boarded-up social hall that sat amid a group of run-down mock-Spanish-colonial buildings. The nonprofit she formed in the early 1970s eventually purchased the property, where she performed for nearly 50 years. To compensate for the sparse audiences in the early days, Becket painted a Renaissance-era Spanish crowd on the walls and ceiling, turning the theater into a trompe-l'oeil masterpiece. Despite her passing in 2017, a simple hotel still operates in her name beside the opera house open daily for tours at 9 am and 6 pm for $15 per person. Within the hotel lobby, you can see Marta's hats, books, and works of art on display.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

These dunes, made up of minute pieces of quartz and other rock, are ever-changing products of the wind-rippled hills, with curving crests and a sun-bleached hue. Among the park's most photographed features, the dunes are at their best at sunrise and sunset. Keep your eyes open for animal tracks—you may even spot a coyote or fox. Bring plenty of water, and note where you parked your car: it's easy to become disoriented in this ocean of sand. If you lose your bearings, climb to the top of a dune, and scan the horizon for the parking lot.

Mosaic Canyon Trail

A gradual uphill trail (4 miles round-trip) winds through the smoothly polished, marbleized limestone walls of this narrow canyon. There are dry falls to climb at the upper end. Moderate.

Natural Bridge Canyon Trail

A rough 2-mile access road from Badwater Road leads to a trailhead. From there, set off to see interesting geological features in addition to the bridge, which is a half-mile away. The one-way trail continues for a few hundred yards, but scenic returns diminish quickly, and eventually you're confronted with climbing boulders. Easy.


Getting here involves a 28-mile journey over a washboard dirt road, but the reward is well worth the trip. Where else in the world do rocks move on their own? This mysterious phenomenon, which baffled scientists for years, now appears to have been "settled." Research has shown that the movement merely involves a rare confluence of conditions: rain and then cold to create a layer of ice along which gusty winds can readily push the rocks—sometimes for several hundred yards. When the ice melts and the mud dries, a telltale trail remains. The trek to the Racetrack can be made in a truck or SUV with thick tires (including spares) and high clearance; other types of vehicles aren't recommended as sharp rocks can slash tires. The nearest tow companies are in Lone Pine, outside the park to the west, and they charge upward from $1,000 for service out of Death Valley. 

Shoshone Museum

Housed in a 1906 building, this museum chronicles the history of the Southern Amargosa Valley and has a unique collection of period items, minerals, and rocks. A highlight is a mammoth skeleton found in the area. The museum also offers historical walking-tour maps of Shoshone Village, birding trails, culture walks, and local hikes. 

Rte. 127, Shoshone, California, 92384, USA
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Rate Includes: Free

Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station

Like most amenities in the village of Stovepipe Wells, this station is basic but convenient, with a ranger on hand to answer questions and provide information and maps. You can also pay entrance fees here. Hours are variable; if it's closed, there's a pay station outside the building.

Hwy. 190, Stovepipe Wells, California, USA

Stovepipe Wells Village

This tiny 1926 town, the first resort in Death Valley, takes its name from the stovepipe that an early prospector left to indicate where he found water. Although the area has a hotel (rooms from $180), restaurant, convenience store, gas station (fill the tank here if you're heading across the park to its western edge), swimming pool, and RV hookups, you're better off staying in Furnace Creek, which is more central to the park's natural attractions. Off Highway 190, on a 3-mile gravel road immediately southwest, are the multicolor walls of Mosaic Canyon.

Telescope Peak Trail

The 13-mile round-trip (with 3,200 feet of elevation gain) trail begins at Mahogany Flat Campground, which is accessible by a rough dirt road. The steep and at some points treacherous trail winds through pinyon, juniper, and bristlecone pines, with excellent views of Death Valley and Panamint Valley. Ice axes and crampons may be necessary in winter—check at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. It takes a minimum of six grueling hours to hike to the top of the 11,049-foot peak and then return. Difficult.

Death Valley, California, 92328, USA
sights Details
Rate Includes: No dogs allowed

Titus Canyon

This popular, one-way, 27-mile drive starts at Nevada Highway 374 (Daylight Pass Road), 2 miles from the park's boundary. Highlights include a hike along the Fall Canyon Trail (from the parking area), the Leadville Ghost Town, and the spectacular limestone and dolomite narrows. Toward the end of the route, a two-way section of gravel road leads you into the mouth of the canyon from northern Highway 190. This dirt road is steep, bumpy, and narrow, so high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles are strongly recommended.

Twenty Mule Team Canyon

This canyon was named in honor of the 20-mule teams that, between 1883 and 1889, carried 10-ton loads of borax through the burning desert (though they didn't actually pass through this canyon). Along the 2.5-mile, one-way loop road off Highway 190, the soft rock walls reach high on both sides, making it seem like you're on an amusement-park ride. Remains of prospectors' tunnels are visible here, along with some brilliant rock formations. 

20 Mule Team Rd., Death Valley National Park, California, 92328, USA
sights Details
Rate Includes: Route suggested for high-clearance vehicles only

Ubehebe Crater

At 500 feet deep and ½ mile across, this crater resulted from underground steam and gas explosions, some as recently as 300 years ago. Volcanic ash spreads out over most of the area, and the cinders lie as deep as 150 feet near the crater's rim. Trek down to the crater's floor or walk around the 2-mile rim counterclockwise to avoid the steep uphill climb. Either way, you need about an hour and will be treated to fantastic views. The hike from the floor can be strenuous, especially because of loose terrain. 

N. Death Valley Hwy., Death Valley, California, 92328, USA

Wildrose Peak

An 8.4-mile round-trip trail leads from the Charcoal Kilns (enormous stone structures that were used to create the charcoal needed to extract lead and silver from ore mined in the area) through pinyon pine and juniper woodlands up to Wildrose Peak, a 2,200-foot ascent from the trailhead. Various Death Valley views unfold along the way, and the sweeping vistas from the 9,064-foot peak include Panamint Valley and, on clear days, Mt. Whitney. Difficult

Death Valley National Park, California, 92328, USA

Zabriskie Point

Although only about 710 feet in elevation, this is one of the park's most scenic spots, overlooking a striking panorama of wrinkled, multicolor hills. It's a great place to watch the sunrise, but it can be bustling any time of day. From the parking lot, there's a short walk up a paved trail.  Pair your Zabriskie Point visit with a drive out to magnificent Dantes View.