Last Updated on June 12, 2023
For those seeking a unique and unforgettable travel experience in the United States, Death Valley National Park is a must-visit destination.
With its otherworldly landscapes and extreme climate, the park offers a one-of-a-kind adventure that cannot be found anywhere else.
Visitors to Death Valley can expect to see towering sand dunes, colorful canyons, salt flats that stretch for miles, and rugged mountain peaks.
One of the best ways to experience Death Valley is through a road trip. The park has several scenic drives that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, such as the 27-mile-long Artist’s Drive and the 9-mile-long Dante’s View Drive.
There are also several hiking trails for those who want to explore the park on foot, ranging from easy strolls to challenging treks. For an extra-special experience, visitors can even take a hot air balloon ride over the park’s stunning landscapes.
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When it comes to arid environments, few places can rival the harshness of Death Valley National Park. As the driest location in both North America and the United States, Death Valley receives only about 2 inches (5 cm) of rainfall per year on average. This is due to its unique location in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which block moisture-laden winds from the Pacific Ocean.
Due to its extreme climate, the best time to visit Death Valley are the fall and spring months. Fall in Death Valley typically occurs from September to November, with temperatures gradually cooling down from the scorching summer months. Spring in Death Valley usually lasts from March to May, with temperatures warming up from the cooler winter months.
These shoulder seasons offer more moderate temperatures than the extremes of summer and winter and are a popular time to visit the park.. Additionally, the spring months offer the best opportunities for wildflower blooms and other natural phenomena.
For those who want to experience the heat and solitude of the desert, the summer months can be an option. However, be aware that temperatures can reach dangerous levels, and outdoor activities should be limited to the early morning or late afternoon hours.
The hottest month in Death Valley is typically July, with average temperatures reaching 116°F (47°C). It is essential to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and protective clothing to avoid heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses. The coldest month is typically January. During this time, temperatures can drop to below freezing at night, with daytime temperatures ranging from 60-70°F (15-21°C).
Visiting Death Valley in Winter
Winter in Death Valley is milder than other seasons but can still be challenging for visitors. From December to February, temperatures can drop to freezing levels at night, with daytime temperatures ranging from 60-70°F (15-21°C).
Albeit rare, the higher elevations of the park can receive snowfall, making for stunning winter landscapes but also requiring additional precautions when driving or hiking. Visitors to Death Valley in winter should bring warm clothing, including hats, gloves, and thermal layers, as well as waterproof boots in case of snow or rain.
How to Prepare for Death Valley: Packing Tips
Death Valley is a rugged and unforgiving environment, with punishing temperatures and difficult terrain. Sturdy and broken-in hiking shoes are a must to protect your feet and provide good traction on rocky trails. Don’t forget to bring a day pack for hiking and a sleeping bag and pad for camping. Remember to pack light, but also be prepared for unexpected weather changes.
When it comes to clothing for Death Valley, versatility is key. Pack moisture-wicking shirts and pants or shorts that can be layered with a lightweight fleece or jacket for warmth on chilly nights. The sun is brutal in Death Valley, so don’t forget to bring a sun hat and sunglasses for protection. A lightweight scarf or bandana can help keep your neck from getting sunburned.
Your footwear can make or break your trip to Death Valley. Choose sturdy hiking boots with good traction to protect against rocky terrain and prevent slips and falls. Moisture-wicking socks are also important to keep your feet dry and prevent blisters.
Gaiters can come in handy to keep debris out of your shoes and protect against thorny plants. Remember, comfort and durability are more important than style when it comes to footwear.
Outdoor Research Bugout Gaiters
TurtleSkin SnakeArmor Gaiters
Kahtoola INSTAgaiter Low
Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters
When you’re venturing into Death Valley National Park, taking precautions to protect your skin is a must. With the park’s notorious heat, extended exposure to the sun can lead to serious sunburn or even skin cancer.
To prevent such hazards, opt for a top-notch sunscreen with an SPF of 100+. On top of that, a pair of sunglasses with polarized lenses can reduce glare and guard your eyes against damaging UV rays.
For extra coverage, don a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face, neck, and shoulders from the sun’s scorching heat. Wearing lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants is also an excellent way to protect your skin from the sun and keep cool. So be sure to cover up from head to toe and minimize your exposure to the sun, which can cause heat-related illnesses.
SPF 100 Banana Boat Sport Ultra
SPF 100 Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch
SPF 100 La Roche-Posay Anthelios
SPF 110 Neutrogena Age Shield
Death Valley Packing List
- Lightweight shoes/sandals (like Crocs/Tevas/Chacos): For hanging out at the campsite and can be worn with socks.
- Hiking shoes or boots: For outdoor exploration around the park.
- Light jacket: For protection against rain, wind and cooler temperatures at night.
- Sunscreen/sun hat/sunglasses: To protect your skin and eyes from the intense desert sun.
- Toothbrush/toothpaste/toiletries: Personal hygiene essentials.
- Personal medications and first aid kit: As needed.
- Glasses/contacts with solution: For those who require vision correction.
- Hiking poles: Optional, especially for those with knee issues.
- Bandana or Desert Scarf: To keep sun off your neck.
- Sleeping bag rated at 40° or colder: To stay warm at night.
- Headlamp with fresh batteries and/or spares: For hiking and camping at night.
- Day pack: For carrying essentials while hiking.
- Water bottles and/or hydration bladder with a minimum 4L capacity: To stay hydrated while hiking.
- Snacks and food: high-energy, non-perishable items are best (e.g. nuts, dried meals, energy bars)
When preparing to visit Death Valley, it’s important to pack appropriately to ensure a safe and comfortable trip.
Start with clothing, including sturdy, broken-in hiking or walking shoes to protect your feet from rough terrain, a light jacket for protection against rain, wind and cooler temperatures at night, and a bandana or Desert Scarf to keep the sun off your neck.
For camping, bring a sleeping bag rated at 40° or colder to stay warm at night, a sleeping pad for cushioning and insulation from the ground, and a day pack for carrying essentials while hiking.
Additionally, bring a headlamp with fresh batteries and/or spares for hiking and camping at night, and water bottles and/or hydration bladder with a minimum 4L capacity to stay hydrated while hiking.
Other important items to pack include sunscreen, a sun hat, and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from the intense desert sun, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and toiletries for personal hygiene, personal medications and a first aid kit as needed, and glasses or contacts with solution for those who require vision correction. Finally, hiking poles are optional, especially for those with knee issues.
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