Ultimate Guide To Two Days In Death Valley

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Death Valley National Park has one of the most unique and diverse landscapes out of any national park we’ve visited. From sand dunes to salt flats to slot canyons, Death Valley has it all. This ultimate guide to two days in Death Valley explains how to get to Death Valley National Park, where to stay in Death Valley National Park, where to eat in Death Valley National Park, and what to do in Death Valley National Park. Already done your research on the basics? Then you’ll want to skip straight to our list of 7 best things to do in Death Valley National Park.

How to get to Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is most easily accessible from Las Vegas or Los Angeles. I’ve found that flights to Las Vegas are usually cheapest, so I prefer to fly into Vegas and road trip from there. From Vegas, the drive to Death Valley is 2 hours, and from Los Angeles, the drive is around 3.5-4 hours.

Driving through Death Valley National Park

The drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley takes you down some very remote roads, so try to make this drive during the day if you don’t like to drive in total darkness. Death Valley itself is also extremely dark at night, so keep that in mind as well when planning your trip.

When you enter into the park, there is a kiosk where you can pay the $30 national park fee. There are no attendants or rangers on site, so you can just pull off on the side of the road and pay on your own.

Where to stay in Death Valley National Park

From camping to Airbnbs to hotels, there are a variety of accommodation options in and near Death Valley National Park.

Camping

Camping is a budget-friendly and authentic way to see Death Valley. Just keep in mind that temperatures in Death Valley can get up to 130+ degrees in the summer, so a number of campsites are closed during the summer. There are numerous campsites inside the park, and all (except Furnace Creek during peak season) operate on a first come first serve basis.

Camping in Death Valley

Here is a complete list of campsites inside the park:

    • Furnace Creek: 136 campsites; 18 hookups (50 amp hookup + water)
      • Cost: $22/night ($36 for RV hookups)
      • Elevation: -196 feet
      • Open year round
      • Reservations accepted October 15 to April 15
    • Sunset at Furnace Creek: 270 campsites
      • Cost: $14/night
      • Elevation: -196 feet
      • Open late fall through spring
    • Texas Springs at Furnace Creek: 92 campsites
      • Cost: $16/night
      • Elevation: sea level
      • Open late fall through spring
    • Stovepipe Wells: 290 campsites
      • Cost: $14/night
      • Elevation: sea level
      • Open late fall through spring
    • Mesquite Spring: 30 campsites
      • Cost: $14/night
      • Elevation: 1,800 feet
      • Open year round
    • Emigrant (tents only): 10 campsites
      • Cost: Free
      • Elevation: 2,100 feet
      • Open year round
    • Wildrose: 23 campsites
      • Cost: Free
      • Elevation: 4,100 feet
      • Open year round
    • Thorndike: 6 campsites
      • Cost: Free
      • Elevation: 7,400 feet
      • Open late spring through fall
    • Mahogany Flat: 10 campsites
      • Cost: Free
      • Elevation: 8,200 feet
      • Open late spring through fall

For RV campers, Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells RV Park, and Panamint Springs Resort are great options with RV hookups.

Make sure you check the Death Valley NPS website before visiting for any notices on last minute closures at the campsites above.

Airbnbs

A less budget-friendly but still very affordable option is to stay at an Airbnb. Keep in mind that there are no Airbnbs inside Death Valley National Park, so if you stay at an Airbnb, you should be prepared to drive a distance into and out of the park each day. Use this link to get $55 USD off your first stay, or check out our post on why you should stay in an Airbnb when you travel.

Hotels

Finally, if your budget allows, you may wish to stay at one of the few hotels inside Death Valley National Park. Here is a complete list of hotels inside Death Valley:

    • The Oasis at Death Valley (includes two separate properties: The Inn at Death Valley and The Ranch at Death Valley): price per night at the Inn starts from $479, and price per night at the Ranch starts at $289.
    • Stovepipe Wells Village: price per night ranges from $144-$226
    • Panamint Springs Resort: price per night ranges from $114-$290
    • Scotty’s Castle (currently closed due to flood damage)

Where to stay inside Death Valley

I would recommend staying at a campsite or hotel inside Death Valley National Park to maximize your time at the park. Most Airbnbs are located nearly an hour outside of the park, so you would need to factor in a two hour roundtrip drive each day, which is a lot of wasted time on the road!

Where to eat in Death Valley National Park

Food options inside Death Valley National Park are limited and expensive. If you’re operating on any type of budget at all, you’ll probably want to stock up on groceries before entering the park. We bought ingredients for sandwiches, oatmeal packets, fresh fruit, snacks, and dehydrated meals like ramen that only require hot water at a grocery store in nearby Pahrump.

Here is a list of restaurants and general stores inside the park in case you have a last minute need:

Restaurants:

    • The Inn Dining Room (at The Inn at Death Valley)
    • Pool Cafe (at The Inn at Death Valley)
    • The Last Kind Words Saloon (at The Ranch at Death Valley)
    • The Ranch 1849 Buffet (at The Ranch at Death Valley)
    • The 19th Hole (at The Ranch at Death Valley)
    • Furnace Creek Visitor Center/Death Valley Natural History Association Bookstore
    • Timbisha Tacos
    • Toll Road Restaurant (at Stovepipe Wells Village)
    • Badwater Saloon (at Stovepipe Wells Village)
    • Dining & Bar (at Panamint Springs Resort)

General stores:

    • General Store at The Ranch at Death Valley
    • Furnace Creek Visitor Center/Death Valley Natural History Association Bookstore
    • General Store at Stovepipe Wells
    • General Store at Panamint Springs

Dante's Point - Death Valley National Park

What to do in Death Valley National Park in two days

With two full days in Death Valley, you won’t have a shortage of things to do in Death Valley. The following itinerary is based on winter daylight hours, which are shorter than the rest of the year. In the winter months, you can expect sunrise at around 7:00am and sunset at around 4:30pm.

Day 1: Zabriskie Point, Twenty Mule Team Canyon, Dante’s View, Mosaic Canyon, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

6:30am. Wake up early and drive to Zabriskie Point for sunrise. This is one of the best places in Death Valley to watch the sunrise. Don’t forget to pack a small breakfast or snacks as well. By getting there early, you’ll be able to beat the crowds on the short 0.4 mile hike through the badlands. Or, if you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can skip the next couple of items in this itinerary and hike the 5.8 mile loop out to Red Cathedral via Golden Canyon instead. I would not recommend leaving Death Valley without visiting Dante’s Peak, though, so try to squeeze that in elsewhere in your itinerary!

Zabriskie Point at sunrise

8:30am. After exploring the badlands at Zabriskie Point, drive the short distance to Twenty Mule Team Canyon. This 2.5 mile unpaved, one-way road takes you through a plethora of incredible landscapes of the park. Since the road is unpaved, you may not want to attempt this sightseeing path unless you have an SUV or 4-wheel drive. There are open areas along the road where you can pull off and get out of your car to take photos if you wish.

9:00am. Drive to Dante’s View (45 minutes). Situated at over 5,000 feet, Dante’s View is nearly a mile higher than most other points in Death Valley. As such, it is also much windier and cooler than most other points in Death Valley, so bring a jacket if you’re visiting in the winter months. From here, you’ll be able to glimpse 360 degree views over Coachella Valley and Badwater Basin. There are some short hikes you can do here as well.

10:15am. Drive back to Furnace Creek (35 minutes) and have lunch at your campsite, hotel, or Timbisha Tacos.

11:30am. After fueling up on lunch, drive to Mosaic Canyon (40 minutes) and hike through your first slot canyon of the trip! This 3.5 mile out-and-back trail climbs over 1,000 feet on the way out and requires some minor scrambling, so it might not be for everyone. Make sure you bring enough water, and don’t be afraid to turn back mid-hike if it proves to be too difficult for you.

3:00pm. Drive the short distance to the neighboring Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. If you happen to have a sled, board, or cardboard box with you, bring it! You’ll have so much fun sliding down the sand dunes in whatever contraption you have. This is one of the best spots in Death Valley to watch the sunset, so you’ll want to stay here until the sun goes down.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes - Death Valley National Park

4:30pm. Drive back to your campsite or hotel at Furnace Creek for the night.

Day 2: Rhyolite Ghost Town and Goldwell Open Air Museum, Golden Canyon, Artist’s Palette, Badwater Basin

8:00am. A trip to this part of the U.S. is incomplete without a visit to one of the famous ghost towns in the area. Just across the border in Nevada, you’ll find Rhyolite, a former gold-mining town. At its peak in 1907-1908, Rhyolite had electricity, water mains, telephones, newspapers, a school, a hospital, and even a stock exchange. Its population was estimated to be around 3,500 to 5,000 people.

Unfortunately, the town died down just as quickly as it sprang up, and by 1910, only 1,000 residents remained. By 1920, Rhyolite had become a ghost town. Today, you can drive through the town and see what remains of its buildings and vehicles. You can also visit the Goldwell Open Air Museum, which is located on the same street that takes you into the ghost town.

Rhyolite Ghost Town

10:00am. After sufficiently spooking yourself out (just kidding, it’s really not spooky at all), drive back into Death Valley National Park and have lunch at your campsite or hotel at Furnace Creek (45 minutes).

11:30am. Drive the short distance to Golden Canyon and hike through another set of slot canyons. The 3 mile out-and-back hike at Golden Canyon is pretty flat most of the way and thus accessible to most people. The last section of the hike is the only part that requires a bit of a scramble. Try not to get too distracted by the many offshoot trails along the way, as you can easily get lost and spend hours here. If you’re visiting in the hotter months, make sure you bring plenty of water.

1:30pm. Drive to Artist’s Palette (20 minutes). There is a short 0.4 mile trail you can hike here, but it’s almost more fun to just explore on your own.

*Note: If you find yourself with extra time this afternoon, you can also check out Devil’s Golf Course and Natural Bridge Trail, but we personally found those two sites to be the least impressive out of all of the activities listed here. 

2:30pm. Drive to Badwater Basin (20 minutes), the salt flats at Death Valley. Badwater Basin was my favorite spot in Death Valley National Park. I had never visited salt flats before, and the views completely blew me away. We lucked out by arriving in Death Valley just days after a heavy rainfall, so parts of the salt flats were still covered in a thin layer of water. The reflection of the mountains and sky over the glistening salt flats was an incredible sight.  This is also a great place to watch the sunset, so make sure you stay at Badwater Basin until the sun goes down.

Badwater Basin - Death Valley National Park

4:30pm. Drive back to your campsite or hotel at Furnace Creek for the night.

What this ultimate guide to two days in Death Valley does not cover

While you can see and do a lot in two days in Death Valley, you can’t see and do everything. If you have more than two days in Death Valley, here are other sites you might want to explore:

    • Telescope Peak
    • The Racetrack
    • Darwin Falls
    • Father Crowley Overlook
    • Scotty’s Castle

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