Death Valley National Park

I don’t know what I was expecting from a place called Death Valley but somehow I was still shocked by the conditions in the park. At the visitors center we stood beside a sign that read 119 degrees Fahrenheit, which is easily one of the hottest temperatures I’ve ever experienced. Why we had to visit at the hottest time of the year is beyond me but I’m definitely glad we went. It still blows my mind that just a day before we were on the coast where I was worried I hadn’t brought enough warm clothes.

We did a lot of driving in Death Valley National Park, and not too much else since we’re both absolute babies in the heat. One of the few spots we stopped was at Mesquite Sand Dunes. It was insanely hot. So hot that I could feel the heat through my shoes which I thought was crazy. After roaming around in the sand a bit shooting photos we scurried back to the car. We sat down, turned on the air, chugged some water, and realized there was a funny smell in the car.

“Do you smell burning rubber?”
“I think it might be my shoes…?”
Lifts foot as close to face as possible in the car. “Yep!”

That sand was so hot our shoes were actually melting. The park’s brochure actually said of the eighteen heat related deaths in the park sine 2000 three of them occurred in the sand dunes. My photos don’t really seem to capture the size of the dunes and just how expansive the area was. But to see this place in person and experience heat that oppressive that fact really isn’t all that shocking.

The goal was to not spend too much time in the park since we needed to get out of the area before we got too tired. Every other night that we had tried to sleep in the car this trip it was miserable. The last thing we wanted was to be sleeping in the car in this heat. After the dunes we cruised to the visitor center to get stamps in our National Parks passport. We sat inside looking over the other main parts of the park trying to figure out what else we wanted to see. Death Valley National Park is massive, it actually has more miles of roads than any other national park. Sadly everything else we were interested in visiting suggested having some sort of fancy pants all terrain tire that our rental most definitely didn’t have. Guess we’ll just have to go back another time to see The Racetrack

We made one last stop in the park, at Zabriskie Point. You walk up this steep hill to the an overlook where no matter which way you turn there is a gorgeous view. It kind of seemed like all the other visitors in the park that day we’re following the same agenda as us – only get out of the car when absolutely necessary. This overlook, and the visitor center were the only place we really saw anyone else. Even with the crowd at Zabriskie Point it was a perfect last stop. It was so beautiful you could easily just tune everyone else out.

Right outside of the park there were tons of abandoned buildings. It was a busy-ish area and a great majority of them were fenced off  so we passed. We did manage to find another outside the fenced area that we stopped at. Just a small shell of a building but I love the photos of it nonetheless. I actually have a whole post of abandoned things we visited in the desert that I’ll share another day. The desert is a wonderful place!

You can find more posts from our road trip under the “travel” tag. 

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  • Ugh, love these. The alien landscape of the desert is so dang cool! Death Valley is high on my list of parks to visit… I guess I'll aim for early spring to avoid the fug of shoe-melting heat.

    • Steph, I love going for New Year's. It's a great time to go and the weather is perfect for camping. It snows in some of our deserts in California, but Death Valley is really pleasant in the winter.

  • Wow! The vibrance of the sky juxtaposed with the desert ground is really beautiful.
    As dedicated as I am to exploring nature & the outdoors to the fullest…. I definitely would have stayed in the car too. Just looking at these photographs makes me thirsty.

    • Blue skies in the desert are what really gets me about being out there. It just looks so pretty. It's hard to take a bad photo when they sky is that vibrant.

  • I'm from Goldfield, NV which isn't too far from Death Valley. We went there every summer on a school camping trip. It is really hot but you acclimate if you live in the desert. Your photos are beautiful and make me nostalgic. I hope you got to see Scotty's Castle. Either way, I love hearing about your adventurers!

  • So pretty! The heat index where I live was 110 yesterday… We have humidity so it's like the air is heavy and hard to breathe. Can not imagine anything hotter than that! Goofy question… What's a national park passport?!

    • Oh my word! I am legitimately bummed I've went my whole life not knowing this. Been to several national parks, could have had several by now. Thank you for the link 🙂

    • Yeah, we bought ours the day after visiting The Grand Canyon! I'm still annoyed I don't have that darn grand canyon stamp! What I think is super neat is that since it's dated and there is lots of room on each page if you visit a park twice over a period of years you'll have two dates. That wasn't as easy to explain as I had hoped but I just think it's neat that I have a lot of 2014/15 stamps and someday I might be stamping right beside that with 2040 or something.

      Anyway, they're way cool! Definitely pick one up next time you're in a national park.

  • I'm reading through all these posts about your roadtrip & it's weird, one of my favorite bloggers was on my side of the coast*, checking out all these things I grew up with (my dad was an avid camper). The heat (!!!, it's 98 deg F as I type), the coast, the old weird abandoned buildings on the side of the road. I really want to know their history. There are a tons of cowboy looking ones.

    Well, I just woke up, so I don't know what I'm trying to say, anyway, but belated welcome!

    Kind of surprised you/Jeff didn't want to check out San Francisco beyond the quick stops you made. While I've never been to Ohio I feel like it's sort of similar (quirky, CYCLING, character – I don't know, I just love it).

    *the BEST Coast!**
    **Check out Best Coast (band). You might like them, if you haven't formed an opinion on 'em already.

    • I never said we didn't want to see more of San Francisco, we simply didn't plan enough time into the agenda to spend more time than we did there. Like I said in that post, we'd looooove to go back and spend some time in the city.