7 Things to See in Death Valley National Park

In this post, I detail a Spring Break trip we took to Death Valley!


The final stop on our epic, Spring Break trip to celebrate the Trekkers’ 40th birthdays was Death Valley National Park!  We’ve been wanting to visit Death Valley for a long time. We figured early March was hopefully a good (and cooler!) time to do it!

Tips for Your Visit to Death Valley:

–The heat in Death Valley!

The heat in Death Valley is NOT a joke so PLEASE be careful!  We were SO LUCKY that it was so cool when we were there (FYI, early March is a GREAT time to visit!)  This place is literally on record as being the hottest place on Earth!

Death Valley is also extremely dry and can be very windy, which means you may be sweating (and getting dehydrated) and not even realize it.  Some years, it has been known to be over 100 degrees here for almost HALF THE YEAR!  I cannot stress enough the potential danger this type of heat can bring.  Dehydration/heat stroke are very real dangers here for much of the year.  This park can LITERALLY kill you!

A digital thermometer on a sign reads 68 Fahrenheit, 20 Celsius. The sign on the building reads, Furnace Creek Visitor Center
Check out the name of the Visitor’s Center…Furnace Creek! This area is where the hottest temp ever recorded on Earth was taken. I doubt it’s rarely this “chilly” there.

The heat can also be VERY hard on your car, and if it breaks down in the middle of the desert, you’re now stuck in the heat.  There are almost NO TREES in Death Valley so there is also almost NO SHADE.  We even saw one remote section of road where signs told you to turn off your car’s air conditioning to take the stress off the car’s engine (the road was also going uphill)–again, this wasn’t an issue with the cool temps when we were there. 😂

View through the front window of a car onto a road, a brown, sandy desert, and hills. Raindrops spatter the windshield
It rained on us…in DEATH VALLEY! (There was also sleet and a 30 mph wind.  It was COLD during that storm…in Death Valley!)
–No cell coverage in Death Valley

One big thing to plan for when you visit Death Valley is that the park is HUGE!  It covers more than THREE MILLION acres so you should plan to do A LOT of driving!  Also, it is a valley (duh! 😉) surrounded by mountains, so there is very little cell coverage–this adds to the danger the park poses if you encounter a problem.

Also, something to be aware of, Death Valley isn’t the prettiest of our national parks.  This comment is not intended to dissuade you from visiting in any way.  I just don’t want you to be disappointed.  Glacier NP this is not! 😇  It’s called DEATH Valley for a reason!  There isn’t much that grows or lives here! 😉

Small, yellow flowers on green plants spread across gravel
The only flowers we saw in Death Valley

Where is Death Valley?

National park entrance sign with rocky, desert mountains and a sunset in the background. The sign reads Death Valley National Park.

Death Valley is located in southeastern California, right on the border with Nevada.  The park is situated about 130 miles west of Las Vegas and a little more than 200 miles to the northeast of Bakersfield, California.

The easiest way to reach Death Valley is to bring Nevada Route 160 west from Las Vegas to Pahrump.  Then take State Line Road west to the Death Valley Junction on California Route 127.  From there you pick up Route 190 and take that into the park! (Don’t worry, there are signs.  Also, these are basically the only paved roads out there! 😉)

You can also reach Death Valley from the north by taking US 95 south through Nevada to California Route 374, or from the west on California Route 190.

Places you don’t want to miss in Death Valley:

There are a number of awesome sites to see at the park!

Badwater Basin:

Badwater Basin’s claim to fame is that it is THE lowest point in North America, at more than 200 feet BELOW sea level!

Panoramic picture of a flat valley, filled with a salt-flat, and sand and surrounded by rocky mountains.
Panoramic of Badwater Basin
Panoramic picture of a flat valley, filled with a salt-flat, and sand. A salt-flat path heads toward a towering, rocky mountain.
Dante’s Point is at the top of that mountain (this will be important later.)
A sign on a boardwalk reads, "Badwater Basin, 282 feet/865 meters BELOW sea level!"
Badwater Basin is THE lowest point in North America!


For additional info on Death Valley, please see my friend Megan’s blog posts on Things to do in Death Valley that aren’t hiking and Sites to see on Badwater Road!


A rocky, salt-flat spreads to the rocky mountains on the horizon. A puddle of water reflects the sunlight in the foreground.
The shiny stuff in the foreground IS the water in “Badwater Basin”! This is one of the rare places where water can regularly be seen in Death Valley.
A rocky, salt-flat spreads to the horizon, surrounded by rocky mountains.
Death Valley!
A rocky, salt-flat spreads to the horizon, surrounded by rocky mountains. A dusty cloud fills the valley.
Haboob! (Dust storm)
Father Crowley Overlook: 

This locale is otherwise known as, “Star Wars Canyon”! Ironically this was NOT a Star Wars filming site (to learn more about those, scroll down!)–although portions of the new, Top Gun: Maverick were filmed here!

The proper name for this canyon is Rainbow Canyon, from the colorful rock and gravel that comprises it.  However, it got its nickname as fighter jets have often practiced low-altitude moves here (the terrain mimics much of where they fly throughout other parts of the world.)

This has been a Bucket List item on both the Trekkers’ lists since Mr. Trekker heard you could see fighter jets here and I found out it was called Star Wars Canyon (and why!)  This meshed well with our watching planes at Nellis Air Force Base in Vegas and touring the Extraterrestrial Highway earlier in the trip!

Rocky, short, narrow canyon with red, brown, and tan gravel, all under a clear, blue sky.
Rainbow Canyon, otherwise known as…Star Wars Canyon!

Sadly, several years ago there was an accident where the pilot was killed and spectators on the ground were injured so they’ve limited what all the planes can do here…but, you can sometimes catch a plane and…WE DID (two actually)!  We didn’t get any pics or video (literally, we heard it, we saw it, it was gone, all in a total of about three seconds). 😁

Info sign with a picture of a military jet flying above the canyon reads in part, "...Before you is a part of one of the largest, military aircraft training areas in the US...Rainbow Canyon, below, is used for low-level navigation training. It earned the nickname, 'Star Wars Canyon" due to technical flight maneuvers done here..."

View down a rocky hillside traversed by a road with red, brown, and tan gravel. A grey, flat valley is in the background backed by a rocky mountain.
View from Father Crowley Overlook! (We saw a fighter jet fly down that valley in the distance too!)

View down a rocky hillside with red, brown, and tan gravel. A grey, flat valley is in the background backed by a rocky, snow-capped mountain.

Panamint Valley

This GORGEOUS valley is situated just down the road (about seven miles) to the east of Father Crowley Overlook.  This was my absolute, favorite spot in all of Death Valley (that we saw anyway). (We also saw a fighter jet flying through this valley (from the Father Crowley Overlook!)

One weird thing about this valley was that it was SO QUIET! All you could hear was the light breeze ROARING in your ears (and occasionally a fighter jet flying overhead! 😝)  We realized what was missing, there were no birds and there weren’t even any bugs buzzing about.  I’m not sure if this is unique to Death Valley or because we were there in early March (though a lot of literature on the park talks about the extreme quiet.)

Empty, two-lane road stretches across a rocky, flat desert (with scrub brush) to a rocky mountain towering far in the distance
My favorite place in Death Valley (Remember my love of long, empty roads on this trip?)
Rocky, flat desert (with scrub brush) surrounded by rocky mountains in the distance, all under a clear, cerulean sky
Look at that sky! That is my favorite shade of my favorite color, blue! (Also, this pic is now the background for my work laptop! 😁)
Flat, brown, rocky valley surrounded by rocky mountains, all under a clear, blue sky
This is what a lot of Death Valley looks like. I told you it wasn’t super pretty. 😇 
Zabriskie Point:

This is supposed to be a great place for sunrise/sunset with the varying colors in the rocks!

Yellow-grey dunes made of gravel sit under a grey, cloudy sky

Star Wars Sites in Death Valley National Park

Many people don’t know this but several scenes from the ORIGINAL Star Wars trilogy were filmed in Death Valley!  Most were from Star Wars, Episode 4: A New Hope (SW), but a few were also from Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (ROTJ)!  Prepare yourself, my nerd flag is about to fly high! 😉

Note: There were no signs or literature that we saw at the actual park that show where filming sites are. There is plenty of info on Google about where to look, then you have to kind of use your imagination to put droids, Luke Skywalker, and Obi-Wan Kenobi there. 😉

Artist’s Palette:

The scene where the Sand People attack Luke in SW…

Brown and tan gravel in a dry wash area, hills in the background are made from dark brown, tan, white and red-brown dirt.
This area is especially known for the beautiful colors in the gravel

Brown and tan gravel in a dry wash area, hills in the background are made from dark brown, tan, and red-brown dirt.

Mesquite Sand Dunes:

The droid scene near the beginning of SW was filmed here (where R2-D2 and C-3po walk through the dunes after their spacecraft, life raft crashes.  Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge scenes from ROTJ were also filmed here.)

Yellow-colored hills lead to a mountain in the background, greenish scrub brush is in the foreground.

20-mule canyon:

The scene where the Jawas grab R2-D2 and where Obi-Wan’s home is located/where he meets up with Luke for the first time in SW.  Also, the first droid scene from ROTJ was filmed here.

A flat, gravel plain in the foreground with brown, gravel hills rising in the background under a blue sky. Grey-gravel road, in-shadow, with brown hills rising in the background

Dante’s Point:

The lookout on top of the Point gives you this view down into Badwater Basin (this was the filming spot for the Mos Eisley Spaceport in SW–“you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy…” 😁)

View from above, looks down a rocky and scrub brush-covered cliff to a gravely plain streaked with salt stains and water puddles
This is from the top of the mountain I showed the view of from Badwater Basin earlier. Badwater Basin is at the bottom.
Grey valley streaked with salt stains leads to dark, shadowed mountains. A yellow, sun arc rises out of these mountains and clouds as the sun sets.
Sunset over Badwater Basin

View from above, looks down a rocky and scrub brush-covered cliff to a gravely plain streaked with salt stains and water puddles. An orange sunset and clouds cover dark mountains in the distance.

I-70 through Utah is GORGEOUS! 

On our trip home, to South Dakota, we took I-70 through Utah.  I’ve always thought I-70 through Colorado was pretty (and it is!) but the highway through Utah is INCREDIBLE!  And literally, anyone can see these views, all you have to do is drive the highway!

Panoramic picture of grey rock in the foreground overlooking a flat, red-rock plain, all under a clear, blue sky
This is at a rest stop on I-70!

A red-rock mountain rises from a flat, yellow, scrub brush-covered, desert landscape. Scrub brush-covered grey rock in the foreground overlooking a red-dirt, desert plain spotted with scrub brush. Rocky mountains are in the far distance, all under a clear, blue sky.


Incredible views, Hollywood film sites, and potentially VERY hot temperatures.  If you’re looking for a unique vacation check out Death Valley (but maybe not in the summer. 🥵)

Have you visited Death Valley? Tell me about your experience in the comments! 


Did you enjoy this post? Pin it!

3 pictures: 1) National Park Entrance sign reads, "Death Valley National Park"; 2) A rocky, salt-flat spreads to the horizon, surrounded by rocky mountains; 3) A sign on a boardwalk reads, "Badwater Basin, 282 feet/865 meters BELOW sea level!" Pin reads, "Death Valley"


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