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Death Valley National Park
In eastern California, in Death Valley
Despite the severity of Death Valleys geology and desert climate, more than 1,000 species of plants and 98 species of animals live within the park's boundaries. Also in the park, which gets hotter temperatures than any other place in North America, are snow-covered peaks, rugged canyons, and beautiful sand dunes. In extremely wet years, perhaps once in a decade, wildflowers come into bloom, a striking sight in such a landscape. This is the country's largest national park outside Alaska; you can only reach some of the most spectacular areas by taking a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, at 282 feet below sea level. In addition to the incredible natural sights—the volcanic deposits of Artists Palette, the salt flats and giant sand dunes, Ubehebe Crater, the salt pinnacles of the Devil's Golf Course—there are some man-made sights, such as the Harmony Borax Works and the 1920s Moorish mansion called Scotty's Castle. The center of activity in the park is Furnace Creek Village, where you'll find the visitor center; the other town within the park boundaries is Stovepipe Wells Village. Despite the punishing temperatures, the park draws a wave of mostly European travelers in July and August. The park was proclaimed a national monument in 1933 and redesignated a national park in 1994. It was designated a part of the Colorado and Mojave Desert Biosphere Reserve in 1984.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Auto touring, bicycling, bird-watching, hiking, horseback riding, Jeep riding, picnicking. Facilities: Visitor center (Furnace Creek, Rte. 190), ranger station (Stovepipe Wells), Borax Museum (Furnace Creek Ranch), hiking trails, wayside exhibits. Book and map sales area, gift shop, picnic tables. Programs & Events: Guided tours of Scottys Castle (year-round). Ranger-guided talks, interpretive talks, and evening slide programs (Nov.-Apr.). 49ers Encampment (2nd week, Nov.). Tips & Hints: Always check on weather conditions before hiking or driving. Be prepared for extremely hot temperatures Apr.-Oct. Flash floods are a risk; watch for water running in washes and across road dips. Do not hike in lower elevations in hot weather. Always carry plenty of water in the car and on hikes. When no trail is available, hike on the hardest, most durable surfaces. Beware of rattlesnakes, scorpions, and black widow spiders. Do not enter any mines. Note that cell phones do not work in all areas of the park. Dress warmly when visiting the mountains in winter. Best time to visit: Oct.-Apr. Visit Mar. and Apr. for wild-flowers, May-Oct. to hike Telescope Peak. Busiest Feb.-mid-Apr. and Nov., least crowded Dec. and Jan.
FOOD, LODGING & SUPPLIES
Camping: 9 campgrounds in the park: Emigrant (10 sites; free; flush toilets), Furnace Creek (136 sites; $10-$16; flush toilets), Mahogany Flat (10 sites; free; pit toilets; closed Dec.-Feb.), Mesquite Spring (30 sites; $10; flush toilets), Stovepipe Wells (190 sites; $10; flush toilets; closed late Apr.-mid-Oct.), Sunset (1,000 sites; $10; flush toilets; closed late Apr.-mid-Oct.), Texas Spring (92 sites; $12; flush toilets; closed late Apr.-mid-Oct.), Thorndike (6 sites; free; pit toilets; closed Dec.-Feb.), Wildrose (23 sites; free; flush toilets). Backcountry camping (permit required, see below). Hotels: In the park: Furnace Creek Inn (Rte. 190, tel. 760/786-2361; 66 rooms; $240-$370; closed May-mid-Oct.), Furnace Creek Ranch (Rte. 190, tel. 760/786-2345; 224 rooms; $85-$174), Panamint Springs Resort (Rte. 190, tel. 775/482-7680; 15 rooms; $65-$139), Stovepipe Wells Village (Rte. 190, tel. 760/786-2387; 83 rooms; $86-$ 107). X Restaurants: In the park: Furnace Creek Inn Restaurant (tel. 760/786-2361 Ext. 150; $6-$12), Furnace Creek Ranch Coffee Shop (tel. 760/786-2345 Ext. 253; $7-$10), Panamint Springs Restaurant (tel. 775/482-7680; $8-$12), Stovepipe Wells Village Restaurant (tel. 760/786-2604; $10-$20). In Shoshone: Crowbar Cafe & Saloon (Rte. 127, tel. 760/852-4180; $6-$18). Groceries: In the park: Furnace Creek Ranch General Store (Rte. 190, tel. 760/786-2381).
FEES, HOURS & REGULATIONS
Entrance fee: $5 per person on foot, bicycle, or motorcycle; $10 per vehicle. Guided tours of Scottys Castle tours, $9 adults; $7 ages 62 and older; $5 ages 6-15, free ages 5 and under. Permits required for back-country camping (free). No collecting or disturbing natural, historical, or archaeological features. Don't feed or disturb wildlife. All vehicles, including motorcycles, trail bikes, bicycles, and four-wheel drives, must remain on established roads. No hunting or firearm use. Leashed pets only. No pets on trails or in wilderness. Park open daily. Visitor center open daily 8-6.
HOW TO GET THERE
From U.S. 395, take Rte. 190,136, or 178. From U.S. 95, take Rte. 267, 373, or 374. From 1-15, take Rte. 127 at Baker to Rte. 178 or 190. Closest airport: Las Vegas, NV (120 mi).
Death Valley National Park (Box 579, Death Valley, CA 92328-0579, tel. 760/786-2300, fax 760/786-3283,). Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station (tel. 760/786-2342).
Death Valley National Park. How to get by car to the Death Valley National Park. How to book a room and its price in the Death Valley National Park