The land of extremes is a good way to describe Death Valley. The lowest point in the country is in the Death Valley National Park, at 282 feet below the sea level. Death Valley's highest point is at 11,049 feet, so there is a lot of different terrain in and around Death Valley. Despite the record high temperatures and below freezing winter and nighttime temperatures, Death Valley National Park can be the setting for a rugged outdoor leg of your California vacation.
The valley was named for an incident around the time of the 1849 Gold Rush period when a group of travelers in search of a short cut wandered away from the caravan and perished in the desert. Landmarks with names like Coffin Peak and the Devil's Gold Course sound ominous, but Death Valley is a heavily visited park, and nowhere near as dangerous as hiking in the California Mountains. The Devil's Gold Course is mere flat pools and there is lots of life here in the desert.
A great deal of California travel is centered around the outdoors. If you want to get away from the throngs of tourists in Southern California, and want something even more remote and isolated than driving the Central Coast or vacationing on the Northern California Beaches, then a California tour of the desert by car is a great way to spend part of your next California vacation.
One impressive landmark is the Eureka Dunes. These rise as high as 600 feet, and are the tallest in the state. You can drive right through the dunes if you have the right car.
Other places like the Racetrack, where the rocks move by themselves, and the 9-mile scenic drive through Artists Paletta combine to make for an unforgettable part of your California tour.
There are more than 350 unpaved miles of roads in Death Valley. Some of the most rewarding drives can also be the most challenging, and you'll need to bring a four wheel drive to manage some of these roads. Thankfully, some of the lowest prices on rental cars in the country are in California, so you can afford the extra cost of a more rugged vehicle.
Badwater is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, and most visitors to Death Valley stop here on their California Tour. The Furnace Park Visitor center is on Highway 190, so you'll want to stop here to get information and maps. Some of the camping in Death Valley takes place in the backcountry. There are a number of roads off the main highways, and you are required to drive a few miles down these roads before you are allowed to camp. It is not permitted in all areas to be sure to follow the signs carefully.
To get the best vista of Death Valley California, bike to the Panamint Mountains and take in the unbeatable views at Aguereberry Point. This incredible view can only be reached via bike, on a route that begins about 20 south of Stovepipe Wells. Be sure you check out Palm Springs before you continue your drive east of to get to Death Valley.
One of the top hikes in the Death Valley National Park is to Telescope Peak. You can see Mt Whitney and the Sierra Range from here, and look out over most of Death Valley. You go through pine forests to get to this scenic vista at the end of this strenuous 14-mile hike.
With over 3.4 million acres to explore, Death Valley is five times bigger than Yosemite, so this is one of the places you should not overlook on your next California vacation.