One of my family’s favorite and top-ranked national parks is Death Valley National Park in California – a perfect day trip from Las Vegas. At 3.4 million acres, it is the largest U.S. National Park in the lower 48 states. And one of the best national parks in my opinion. Described as a place of extremes, Death Valley features low valley floors (which can become flooded during a rare rainstorm). And the mountains at Death Valley National Park climb as high as 11,000 feet. You’ll also find scenic canyons, sand dunes, salt flats, and even desert flowers when you explore Death Valley National Park.

Death Valley National Park: Perfect day trip from Las Vegas

We opted to take a guided day trip tour to Death Valley National Park from Las Vegas with Bindlestiff Tours. It made for a long day, but so worth it. Our tour guide shared so much information throughout the drive from Vegas to Death Valley National Park. We learned so much about from history and geology. And we liked that our day trip to the top-ranked Death Valley National Park was a small group (fewer than 10 people).

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Furnace Visitor Center 

Furnace Creek Vistor Center wooden birds

When you visit Death Valley National Park, make sure to stop at the Furnace Visitor Center where you can learn more about the area, watch the 20-minute park film, grab a snack, check out the gift shop, and use the restrooms. Children can also become U.S. National Park junior rangers by completing some indoor activities.

Death Valley National Park tip: Stay hydrated in the hottest and driest place on earth

Death Valley shrub

Death Valley National Park – one of the best national parks – is one of the hottest and driest places in the world. Stock up on plenty of water. It was a balmy 97 degrees when we visited Death Valley National Park. However, Death Valley did not feel like it. It actually felt comfortable.

But don’t let that fool you. Stay hydrated and drink regularly when visiting Death Valley National Park. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, make sure you take frequent water breaks. It could be a life or death situation in this kind of environment at Death Valley National Park. 

That may sound extreme, but it is an area well-known for extremes – specifically the hottest place and driest place on earth. The U.S. National Park Service advises that you drink at least one gallon of water daily when visiting Death Valley National Park..

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the highest registered air temperature on earth was 134.1 °F (56.7 °C) in Furnace Creek Ranch, California on July 10, 1913. Furnace Creek is located in the Death Valley desert in the United States.

Zabriskie Point at Death Valley National Park

Death Valley Zabriskie Point
If Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park looks familiar, we learned on our tour that it’s the same location as the album cover of U2’s Joshua Tree. The Joshua Tree National Park is actually more than 200 miles away.  

Dante’s View at Death Valley National Park

Desert shrubs, valleys in Death Valley
Dante’s View (5,475 feet) overlooking the Badwater Basin and salt flats at Death Valley National Park.

Badwater Basin and Salt Flats at Death Valley National Park

Badwater Basin Sea Level Sign in Death Valley
At 282 feet below sea level, the Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park is the lowest elevation in the continental U.S. For perspective, the red arrow in the image indicates sea level.

Badwater Basin Salt Flats in Death Valley
The white path in this image is what’s known as salt flats – millions of years in the making. Salt crusts are fragile so the U.S. National Park Service advises to tread lightly when visiting the salt flats in Death Valley National Park.

The source of Badwater Basin’s salts is due to Death Valley’s drainage system of 9,000 square miles – an area larger than New Hampshire. Rain falling on distant mountains creates floods that rush to the lower lands. Along the way, minerals dissolve from rocks. When the floods come to rest, they form temporary lakes in Death Valley National Park.

As the water evaporates, minerals concentrate until only the salts remain. After thousands of years, enough salts have washed  in to produce layer upon layer of salt crust.  Source: U.S. National Park Service

Devil’s Golf Course at Death Valley National Park

Devil's Golf Course Death Valley
Is there a golf course in Death Valley National Park? You can golf at Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley. However, you won’t find a green fareway at this one. Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley National Park is a rough surface formed by halite salt crystals. Take caution and hiking is not advised on the Devil’s Golf Course. It’s difficult to walk on and a little painful if you fall. 

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Artist’s Palette at Death Valley National Park

Artist's Palette Death Valley
Artist’s Palette in the Black Mountains is one of the most beautiful stops in Death Valley National Park. Pictures don’t do it justice. This formation changes color depending on the time of day, clouds and rainfall. Colors are the result of oxidation of different metals in the rocks.  


Death Valley National Park desert wildflowers

Death Valley desert wildflowers
Despite its harsh environments, wildflowers do bloom in Death Valley National Park. Pictured here is the Mojave aster. 

Plan your visit to Death Valley National Park

You can find many more spectacular vistas in Death Valley, the largest national park in the continental United States. Consult the U.S. National Park Services website to plan your visit. Here’ll you find the latest seasonal updates and any closures. . 

Responsible recreation and safety tips at Death Valley National Park  

To ensure your enjoyment and safety and Death Valley National Park – and that of future visitors, here are some guidelines from the U.S. National Park Service.  

  • Carry extra water and drink regularly.  
  • Avoid hiking in the heat. 
  • Travel prepared to survive. 
  • If your car breaks down, stay with it. Don’t go searching for help.  
  • Remove your trash. 
  • Stay on designated roads. 
  • Do not feed the wildlife. 
  • Avoid canyons during rainstorms (flash floods appear without warning). 

Another one of our favorite day trips from Las Vegas is Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona – a surreal and magical experience hiking through slot canyons. And one of my other favorite national parks is Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis – see my one-day itinerary.

Pin it for later: Death Valley one-day itinerary

Death Valley National Park salt flats

Death Valley National Park


Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller


  1. yup. that’s death valley LOL driven through it too many times. I have to say though you make it a whole lot prettier then it I see it. well done

  2. Wow! Thank you for including so many wonderful photos of Death Valley! We haven’t visited yet, but it’s on our list and this post may have nudged it up a little closer!!

  3. Death Valley is such a fascinating place. We visited a few years ago, but still have a lot to see. We didn’t have time to get up to the viewpoints. Looks awesome! Great photos!

  4. I think death valley is a great name for this park! I have been around Vegas in the Summer and it is so HOT!

  5. I haven’t been to this park but it seems to me that with one day to visit utilizing a guide was the way to go. You saw things that would take longer without one. Plus you got a lot of insider info from him as well. Great call.

    1. Thanks…our guide was awesome. My husband sat in the passenger seat next to him and learned so much about the areas we were passing through.

  6. I did not know that Badwater Basin is the lowest elevation in the continental U.S. That is pretty cool. We have driven through this area. Next time, I will stop as long as it is not in the summer. LOL

  7. So happy I found this guide! Death Valley has been on my list and I didn’t realize it could be in done in one day and is such a short drive from Vegas. Definitely saving for the future!

    1. Death Valley National Park is pretty diverse with its landscapes. It’s one of the best U.S. national parks.

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