Death Valley is nestled between Nevada and the Sequoia National Forest in Southern California. It’s part of the Death Valley National Park, a 3.4 million-acre wilderness that boasts valleys, canyons, sand dunes, and even oases. It draws its name from the extremely high summertime temperatures — the highest of which was 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Outdoor recreation such as hiking, biking, and exploring is available year-round. Stay at a vacation rental in Death Valley so that you’re never far from the miles upon miles of wilderness waiting to be explored. Before setting out on your adventures, check out what to do in Death Valley during every season and find out the best time to visit.
Visiting Death Valley in the Summer
Unlike other parks and destination, summer is Death Valley’s off-season because of the hot temperatures. The season, which begins in May and lasts into September, reaches up to 100 F in May. By July, the hottest month, highs hover around the 116 F mark. However, the summer season has its own charms. For one thing, the crowds have thinned out considerably — especially in early summer from May to June — so you can experience the peak blooming periods in the high Panamints in relative peace.
Make your way up to Telescope and Wildrose Peak for a hike through wildflowers and woodlands. Also, most visitors merely drive through the area, so getting a vacation rental near Death Valley offers a lot of easy access and privacy. If you want to tour Death Valley by car, make sure to drive through the Devil’s Golf Course with its rugged, eroded rock salt, the salt flats of Badwater Basin, and up to scenic Zabriskie Point. Make sure to pack, loose light clothing to combat the heat, plenty of sunblock, and tons of water. Always have water on hand as dehydration during the summer can happen quickly.
Visiting Death Valley in the Fall
The fall in Death Valley is short, lasting through October and November with temperatures in the 90s in October and 70s in November and clear skies. Pack light, protective clothing, hats, sunscreen, and water. More visitors flock to the area, but the crowds are far from bustling. This is also the season of ranger-led programs.
You can go on guided tours such as the Golden Canyon Ranger Hike, Badwater Ranger Talk, and Death Valley ’49ers Encampment. The latter is an annual festival that occurs every autumn to commemorate those who braved the heat all those years ago. It includes art and music, gold panning, and historical presentations. While wildflowers are between seasons, the growth in the high Panamints takes on a bronzed look.
Visiting Death Valley in the Winter
While winter sees the smallest crowds, it also boasts the most activities. With temperatures dropping to highs in the 60s and 70s from December to February with light rain, you need to pack a light jacket to ward off chilly nights or a daytime drizzle along with a few long-sleeve shirts and long pants. February boasts the earliest wildflower blooming in the lower regions of Death Valley. There are also almost daily ranger-led events from Badwater talks to Flint Knapping demonstrations.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Death Valley culminates with a Junior Ranger Service Project Open House, art projects, and activities for the kids. Hiking, biking, and backpacking in the valley are the most popular activities because it’s cool enough to really explore the park. The Harmony Borax Works hike is less than 1 mile, perfect for kids, and takes you through old ruins where you can learn about the 20-Mule Teams. The 2-mile Darwin Falls hike is one of the rare areas with actual running water. The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is one of the most popular of the sand dunes in Death Valley and one of the easiest to get to with a mere 2-mile hike.
Visiting Death Valley in the Spring
Spring brings a bustle to Death Valley. With the vibrant wildflowers, green growth in the mountains thanks to the limited rain, and mild temperatures, crowds flock to the area. March and April bring the alluvial fans, foothills, upper desert slopes, canyons, and higher valleys to life with color from the bright desert gold and golden evening primrose wildflowers to the desert dandelion, desert paintbrush, and indigo bush. Better yet, viewing the flowers is easily accessible; ranger-led wildflower walks take you to some of the most brilliant blooms. Some of the best wildflower hikes include Wildrose Peak, Furnace Creek, Darwin Falls, and Little Bridge Canyon. With temperatures topping out at 82 F and 90 F in March and April respectively, hiking is one of the biggest activities. While here, what to pack includes plenty of water, sunscreen, light clothing, and a few long-sleeve shirts and pants for a cool early morning hike in the peaks.
When Is The Best Time to Visit Death Valley?
With hot temperatures in the summer and crowds in the spring, the best time to visit Death Valley while enjoying the natural beauty in late winter. Around February, crowds are still thin, but wildflowers are starting to bloom and the temperatures are on the mild side of hot, giving you the best of all worlds. Regardless of when you visit, however, Death Valley offers a stark, unique beauty at any time of the year.
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