TJ: This post is about a trip we took spontaneously about a year ago, but we figured it’d be a great time to recommend everyone head to Death Valley before it gets truly into summer. Later in the summer it’ll be an average temperature over 110 degrees, and if you go right now you might be able to catch the tail end of the flowers in bloom.
Dara: When we went last year, it was completely spontaneous trip to see the Super Bloom. We were just texting during work on a Friday afternoon, and after seeing an article about the Super Bloom, I asked TJ if we should just go there the next morning.
TJ: Basically, there was so much rain that whole fields of flowers started popping up in the desert. Both Death Valley and elsewhere around the Mojave rarely see flowers at all but both this year and last year they were covered. Thanks to climate change this may be a yearly thing now? But let’s hope not.
Anyway, the photos we saw online looked fantastic. And since neither of us had ever been to Death Valley, and we had nothing planned for that weekend, we packed up our sleeping bags and some water and headed out the next morning!
Dara: For the record, we were 100% NOT prepared. Back then we didn’t have a tent, our camping stove, our packs, or anything. It was just us, our sleeping bags, and a tarp we bought at a gas station on the way. Since it’s not too cold at night we had just planned on sleeping out under the stars.
It actually wasn’t that bad. The only thing you must make sure to bring is water – it is the desert after all. It’s pretty remote, a 4-5 hour drive from LA, and there’s no huge highway straight there. Instead, you have to zig zag through smaller highways and roads.
The coolest part of the drive up was when a super fast military jet flew over us, super close to the ground! It was going insanely fast – one second we thought it was a bird, then a second later it had passed us. And apparently that’s common! Death Valley’s one of the best places to see jets fly low and fast!
Anywho, it was a fun, beautiful drive over! Death Valley itself is a fascinating, alien-looking kind of place. With the strange lines and colors of the mountains and sand dunes, almost nothing seems to make sense. It messes with your depth perception.
After entering the park, we almost immediately saw flowers, and stopped to take pictures of the fields of yellow around us. It was a stunning visual – a barren, otherworldly wasteland of dirt, dotted with bright yellow flowers. Many other people had come just for the flowers, and were out exploring the fields as well.
After playing in the flowers for a few hours, we decided to keep going and find a campsite, so we headed to Furnace Creek, the main hub of life in Death Valley. It’s the one green oasis in the entire park, complete with its own general store, bar, inn, and even a golf course. There are many other campgrounds, and a few hotels to stay at in the valley, including an inn at Furnace Creek, a nice resort nearby, and another inn near Stovepipe Wells. We wanted to camp, and even with the insane rush of Super Bloom gawkers, we were able to find a site in the overflow campsite at Furnace Creek. The only reserved campground at Death Valley is the main campground at Furnace Creek- everything else, including the overflow at Furnace Creek, is first come first serve.
It’s very rare for all of the campgrounds there to fill up, but even if they do, backcountry camping is allowed if you’re far enough away from the road in certain areas.
(Pro Tip: Bring foam sleeping pads to lay under your sleeping bag. The desert ground is just hard rocks and dirt mostly. Very uncomfortable to sleep on.)
We ended up spending that afternoon near Zabriskie Point, which is where most people enjoy sunset in Death Valley. Not only do you have a fantastic view down over the valley, but the mountains around Zabriskie Point are painted in all sorts of fantastical shades of tan, brown, and even pink. People were there in droves, lawn chairs in hand, to watch the sunset.
Because we wanted to get away from the crowds and TJ wanted to explore, we decide to hike along a rarely used path along a ridge on the north side of the area.
It was an amazing place to watch the sunset. Once we had a great vantage point, we sat down to watch and the golden hour light, mixed with the fantastical colors of the mountains themselves, created an incredibly photogenic affect.
What was less fantastic was the fact that we didn’t bring flashlights. And the sun had set. And it got dark really, really fast, while we were walking along a narrow ridge and partially hidden trail.
For a few minutes, we felt like we were trapped up on the ridge becausewe lost sight of the trail coming down. It was honestly a bit scary for a moment. But luckily we made it down alright, and then drove into Furnace Creek for some dinner and drinks at the bar.
After that, we just drove away from everything so we could see the stars. Death Valley’s so isolated from the rest of the world once you get away from the lights and noise of the campgrounds, you can see almost everything in the sky. It was clearest I’ve seen the night sky in years.
The next morning we woke up pretty early, but it’s hard not too in the desert because once the sun’s up, it gets hot pretty fast. We had a lot more time to explore because of that though.
We started off with probably the most well known part of the park: Badwater Basin. It’s the lowest point in North America, and one of the lowest points on earth, at 282ft below sea level. It’s also stunningly gorgeous since the basin is filled with bright white salt. And, since you’re allowed to walk out onto the salt itself, it’s perfect place to take photos.
Pro Tip: Wear sunglasses, since the white can be very blinding.
Otherwise, this is part is what I remember most about Death Valley. I got an incredible feeling there, like floating in endless white nothing.
And of course, since he’s TJ, he tasted the salt.
That I did. Straight from the ground it tasted like….salt. But a little dirtier. And probably with some acids or something in it. But hey I have an iron stomach so I was fine.
It was gross.
I liked it! I like salt in general! Sometimes I eat it plain, much to Dara’s chagrin…
Ick. But anyway, Anyway, after Badwater we went over to the nearby Natural Bridge Trail, which we also highly recommend. The trail goes up through a canyon, ending on, you guessed it, a natural bridge over the canyon. It’s a nice little trek, 2 miles both ways and had flowers throughout.
After that we needed to start the drive back to LA, but on the way out we went through the crazy beautiful Artist Drive and stopped at the sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells. We didn’t hike all the way up to the larger dunes, but many people did! Be warned, it’s much harder than you imagine climbing up the sand.
Overall, Death Valley was one of our most memorable trips, and a definite recommend for anyone looking for a great weekend!
COST REPORT: $
PARK ENTRANCE FEE: $20/CAR