Exploring Death Valley: Largest, Hottest, Driest and Lowest National Park in USA


Death Valley is the largest national park in the contiguous United States, as well as the hottest, driest and lowest of all the national parks in the United States. Badwater Basin is 282 feet (86 m) below sea level! It is the second lowest in the Western Hemisphere after Laguna del Carbón in Argentina 344 ft below sea level.

We went on a road trip to Death Valley in a Genesis G80. I was surprised how few services were available in the area. I read four guidebooks but not one seemed to HIGHLIGHT enough how you need to bring plenty of water or buy some at your hotel or at a gas station. HIKE EARLY! The sun is very strong! There is a ranger station but there is no cell service. We used our car GPS to get from location to location although the paper map from the ranger station was very helpful as well.

What was our plan?

  • Start your journey at Furnace Creek Visitor Center and talk with the rangers from the National Park Service about what to see. You can buy your parking pass here as well.
  • Ubehebe Crater: Ubehebe Crater is a large volcanic crater 600 feet deep and half a mile across. We hiked around part of it. It was steep up at first but then fairly flat. We saw a family hike down into the crater. It looked very challenging to hike back up in the moving terrain. AND YES! You can see me hula-hooping at the crater in the video!
Ubehebe Crater
  • Harmony Borax Works: Harmony Borax Works was the central feature in the opening of Death Valley and the subsequent popularity of the Furnace Creek area. The plant and associated townsite played an important role in Death Valley history. We stopped at this site briefly to see the buildings.  On December 31, 1974, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Gas was over $6/gallon when we were visiting.
  • Artists Drive was one of my favorite stops! It is a popular scenic drive in the park, the nine mile (14.5 km) paved road winds through multicolored, eroded hills. The colorful rainbow hills of Artists Drive were formed by volcanic deposits of different compositions. You can also get out and walk at Artists Palette. Remember your hat, chapstick, water and charge up your camera for the great photos.
Lisa Niver at Artists Palette

We took photos at Golden Canyon Trailhead. Maybe another time we will hike here.

BADWATER BASIN is 282 feet below sea level. This was a definite highlight for our group! The lowest point in North America is a surreal landscape of vast salt flats. The salt flats here cover nearly 200 square miles (518 square km), and are composed mostly of sodium chloride (table salt), along with calcite, gypsum, and borax. 

On Day Two, we started at Rhyolite a historic gold mining town and Goldwell Open Air Museum. This video is just about our time there:

The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes were amazing! For dunes to exist there must be a source of sand, prevailing winds to move the sand, and a place for the sand to collect. The eroded canyons and washes provide plenty of sand, the wind seems to always blow (especially in the springtime), but there are only a few areas in the park where the sand is “trapped” by geographic features such as mountains.

The view from Zabriskie Point was spectacular!

We went up to Dantes View for sunset. It was about 30 degrees colder as we sent up the steep hill and the sun began to fade. It is 5,575 ft (1,699 m) above Badwater Basin. You can bring your telescope because Death Valley National Park is an International Dark Sky Park.

Thank you to Julie, Eva and Alessio for going on a road trip with me in a Genesis G80. We had a blast!

More about our vehicle

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of the website WeSaidGoTravel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. Niver is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc. Look for her memoir in Fall 2023 from Post Hill Press/Simon and Schuster. With more than 150,000 followers across social media, she has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and listed on IMDb, and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. You can find Lisa Niver talking travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, Satellite Media Tours, The Jet Set TV and Orbitz travel webisodes as well as her YouTube channel, where her WeSaidGoTravel videos have over 1.7 million views. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors and been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She has been a judge for the Gracie Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media, and has run 15 travel competitions on her website, publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty times.   Niver has published more than 2000 articles, in more than three dozen magazines and journals including National Geographic, Wired, Teen Vogue, HuffPost Personal, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, AAA Explorer Magazine, American Airways, Delta Sky, enRoute (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, BuzzFeed, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, USA Today, TODAY, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo. Awards National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards 2021 Winner: Book Critic: Ms. Magazine “Untamed: Brave Means Living From the Inside Out” 2019 Winner: Soft News Feature for Film/TV: KTLA TV “Oscars Countdown to Gold with Lisa Niver” 2019 Finalist for: Soft News, Business/Music/Tech/Art Southern California Journalism Awards 2022 Finalist: Book Criticism 2021 Winner: Technology Reporting 2021 Finalist: Book Criticism 2020 Winner: Print Magazine Feature: Hemispheres Magazine, “Painter by the Numbers, Rembrandt” 2020 Finalist: Online Journalist of the Year, Activism Journalism, Educational Reporting, Broadcast Lifestyle Feature 2019 Finalist: Broadcast Television Lifestyle Segment for “Ogden Ski Getaway” 2018 Finalist: Science/Technology Reporting, Travel Reporting, Personality Profile 2017 Winner: Print Column “A Journey to Freedom over Three Passovers” Social Media Presence YouTube Channel: We Said Go Travel (1.7 million views) Short form video:TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts Twitter: lisaniver (90,000 followers) Instagram: lisaniver (24,000 followers) Pinterest: We Said Go Travel (20,000 followers and over 70,000 monthly views) Facebook: lisa.niver (5,000 followers); We Said Go Travel (3,000 followers) LinkedIn: lisaellenniver (9000 contacts)

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