21 Things to do in Death Valley National Park: Full Guide

Here is a simple guide on the best things to do in Death Valley National Park that I personally made after visiting this place and whether you’re coming here for the first time, planning to only stay one day or perhaps longer, it’ll really help you plan an awesome itinerary according to the time you’ll be spending here as there are at least 21 awesome attractions, hikes and more to explore.

Unlike other posts on this subject, I’ll actually be showing you a map of where each thing to do in Death Valley National Park is as well as tips on what kind of itinerary to plan depending on the type of trip you’re doing here in case you are unsure about what type of attractions to see. But first, let’s go over the main list of things to do:

Here are the 21 best things to do in Death Valley National Park:

things to do in death valley national park 01

  1. Do one or more scenic drives in the park.
  2. Check out Zabriskie Point.
  3. Do the Desolation Canyon hike.
  4. Explore the Golden Canyon hike.
  5. Visit Furnace Creek.
  6. Stop by the Mesquite Sand Dunes.
  7. Hike the Mosaic Canyon trail.
  8. See Ubehebe Crater.
  9. Visit the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns.
  10. Hike to Darwin Falls.
  11. See one of the sunset spots in the park.
  12. See the famous rocks in Death Valley (Racetrack Playa).
  13. View Star Wars Canyon.
  14. See Dante’s view overlook.
  15. See Death Valley Natural Bridge.
  16. Stay at Stovepipe Wells village.
  17. Camping.
  18. Glamping.
  19. Do some stargazing in Death Valley NP.
  20. Rent a jeep to do off road exploration in Death Valley.
  21. Visit Keane Wonder Mine.

Let’s get into the details of each of the things to do on this list:

1) Do one or more scenic drives in Death Valley National Park:

death valley national park scenic drive 01

Usually national parks (that I’ve been to at least) have 1 main scenic drive and just about 90% of the best things to do in said park are easy to access of that main road.

With Death Valley National Park, you actually have at least 4 main scenic drives and next to them off road areas to take you into deeper parts of the park (which require 4×4 vehicles). Here is info on each of the main drives:

  1. Road 190 (the most popular drive in the NP with the most sights to see, and it cuts through the middle of the park).
  2. Daylight Pass Road (intersects with road 190, takes you through north eastern side of the park).
  3. Badwater Road (takes you through southern section of the NP).
  4. North Highway Road (takes you through northern section of the NP).

Note: I’ve included a map link of Death Valley National Park below which I recommend you use before you come here.

  • The green roads are the 4 main scenic drives.
  • The yellow ones are the off road areas.
  • And red is inaccessible areas.

There was a flood awhile back in Death Valley which damaged many roads in the park but as long as you stick to the green ones (main roads), you will have access to explore the park.


I recommend most people focus on exploring one or more of the 4 main scenic drives and only if they have the right vehicle or experience, to explore the off road parts of the park.

2) Check out Zabriskie Point:

zabriskie point things to do in death valley national park 02

Location in Death Valley NP: Right off road 190 (eastern side of the park).

Description: Zabriskie Point is a highly popular overlook spot on the eastern side of Death Valley National Park. In addition to being a highly popular overlook, this is one of the best places in Death Valley National Park to get amazing sunset photos from. I would say that Zabriskie Point is probably one of the top 5 overlook spots in the entire park.

3) Do the Desolation Canyon hike:

desolation canyon things to do in death valley national park 03

Location in Death Valley NP: Finding Desolation Canyon is simple too. I would recommend you take the main 190 road until it intersects with Badwater Road, then go south on that for about 5 minutes. You’ll see the trailhead from there.

Description: Desolation Canyon trail is one of the top 5 hikes in Death Valley National Park. For difficulty, it is moderate and difficult if you plan to do it in the summer (which I would not recommend).

It is about a 4 mile loop hike that you take through one of the beautiful canyons in the area. If you are more experienced, there are options to do summit hikes in the area too but that is a bit dangerous so that should be done if you are more ready for it.

4) Do the Golden Canyon hike:

death valley national park golden canyon 04

Location in Death Valley NP: This trail is even closer to road 190 and you can do it and the Desolation Canyon hike together if you have time (the trailheads are both off the same Badwater Road).

Description: The Golden Canyon hike in my opinion offers better scenery and it’s also less difficult (it’s actually easy and is around 2.5 miles in and out). You will take that trail through another canyon to a place called Red Cathedral and on the way will get great views of both canyons, distant views of Death Valley and much more.

5) Check out Furnace Creek (town):

furnace creek things to do at death valley national park 05

Location in Death Valley NP: It’s on road 190 in the area where that road connects with Badwater Road.

Description: Furnace Creek is actually a combination of things:

  • It’s a campground in the town of Furnace Creek (great area to stay if you’re staying overnight in Death Valley).
  • It also has a motel, airport, stables, gas and more.
  • There’s also a hike there called Texas Spring. It’s right by the campground and off the main 190 road too.

It’s unlikely you’ll actually see a spring unless you’re there in the winter time, but the hike itself is a pretty nice experience and easy trail to explore that’s close to a town too.

6) See the Mesquite Sand Dunes:

mesquite flat sand dunes death valley national park 06

Location in Death Valley National Park: Also off road 190, but on the western side of the park (it’s easy to see and there’s a large parking lot.

Description: I’ve personally been to these specific sand dunes and I have to say they are pretty awesome. Although I will say that if you’ve seen other sand dunes in the US (or in the world), the ones here aren’t anything unusual. I’d say the best sand dunes in the US are the Coral Pink Sand Dunes you can find in Utah, close to the town of Kanab. but in any case, while you are driving through road 190, this is definitely a great, quick stop worth making.

7) Check out the Mosaic Canyon trail:

things to see in death valley national park mosaic canyon trail 02

Location in Death Valley National Park: Right by the Mesquite Sand Dunes (requires you drive on a dirt road for a few miles to get to the trailhead and you can do it on a regular vehicle).

Description: I did this hike shortly after exploring the sand dunes and it’s a very nice short hike that starts in a slot canyon and opens up in a bigger canyon, then back into another slot canyon. It’s a moderate level hike because all the way into it, you will be doing an incline walk so I’d recommend something like the Trailbuddy Trekking poles for this if you have knee problems.

8) See the Ubehebe Crater:

things to see in death valley national park ubehebe crater 03

Location in Death Valley National Park: Northern section of the park. You’ll need to take the North highway, then turn left on the Ubehebe Crater road to get there, but that’s accessible for most cars. See location.

Description: This is an actual crater location in Death Valley National Park. It’s both an overlook of the crater with a hike you can take to get to the bottom of it too. If you enjoy this sort of stuff, then I would also recommend crater areas in the US like this:

9) Visit the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns:

wildrose charcoal kilns things to see in death valley national park 04

Location in Death Valley NP: South western side of the park. I recommend you just use Google maps here to reach Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. It’ll involve having to go on a less established road (I recommend AWD vehicles for this).

Description: This is one of the top attractions in Death Valley in terms of tourist spots. It’s basically these beautiful rock tents that you can go inside and explore. It’s also in a really nice part of Death Valley where you may actually see more green areas, bushes and mountains.

10) Go to Darwin Falls (the only Death Valley National Park waterfall):

death valley national park waterfall 03

Location: Western side of Death Valley and easy to reach from road 190 (requires a minor off road drive).

Description: I didn’t think that a place like Death Valley would even have water, let alone a waterfall but Darwin Falls is that place and it’s pretty easy to find and hike to. The overall trail will be about 2 miles in and out and while the waterfall isn’t large, because it’s the only one in the area, its worth seeing if you have the time.

11) Go to one of the sunset spots in the park:

death valley national park sunset 03

Location in Death Valley NP: Honestly any overlook spot or any open area in the park is perfect for that. It’s hard to NOT find a good sunset spot in Death Valley.

Description: Whether it’s the famous Zabriskie Point I mentioned earlier or any pull off from the main drives in the park, you will be able to see truly incredible sunsets almost every single day in Death Valley.

12) Visit Racetrack Playa (the famous moving rocks in Death Valley):

things to do in death valley national park moving rocks racetrack playa 04

Location in Death Valley NP: Racetrack Playa is located in the northern section of the park and it’s hard to reach because you will have to drive on dirt and gravel roads for awhile (4×4 highly recommended for this). You’ll be crossing the same road that you took to see the crater from earlier.

Description: One of the most famous attractions in the entire park are the moving rocks and if you have the time and the right vehicle, you can make it to this spot to see it.

13) See Star Wars Canyon:

things to do in death valley national park star wars canyon 07

Location in Death Valley NP: Western side of the park, close to road 190. To get there, you’ll first need to be on road 190, then turn off on Father Crowley Overlook. There will be another road there that’ll take you to the Star Wars Canyon overlook.

Description: Obviously this is another awesome overlook in the park and I would recommend saving that for a quick stop either when you start exploring Death Valley or perhaps when you’re done, ideally around sunset.

14) See Dante’s View Overlook:

things to see in death valley national park dantes view 05

Location in Death Valley NP: Southern section of the park. It’s close to Badwater Road but you can’t access it from there. You would need to get to it from road 190 (eastern side).

Description: Yes Death Valley has tons of incredible overlooks, but I’d say Dante’s View might be in the top 3 depending on who you ask. Reaching it can be annoying because you will have to drive on gravel roads from 190 but it’s worth it if you can do this drive.

15) Hike to Death Valley Natural Bridge:

natural bridge death valley national park 07

Location in Death Valley NP: Slightly north from Dante’s View (only about 10 minutes). It’s off the same Badwater road area.

Description: If you love any sort of natural bridges or arches, then you should definitely check out the Natural Bridge in the park. The hike is about 2 miles in and out and pretty easy to do. Not only do you get to see an amazing natural bridge but the hike to it is also very fun.

On somewhat related topics, if you want to see more places like this, then I have a few recommendations:

  • Here are famous arches in Utah to see.
  • Arches National Park has so tons of these.
  • Jacob Hamlin Arch in Coyote Gulch is also a huge natural bridge.
  • For something closer to Death Valley, if you explore things further north, there is an area about 1 hour north of this park called Alabama Hills (amazing hiking area with many arches).

16) Visit Stovepipe Wells village:

stovepipe wells village things to visit in death valley national park 08

Location in Death Valley NP: Western side of the park, right by the sand dunes area.

Description: This would be the second “town” you’d want to stay at if you’re exploring Death Valley overnight. There’s camping, museum areas, a general store and lots of stuff to see all within the area.

17) Camping:

death valley national park camping spots 04

Location in Death Valley NP: There are many areas in Death Valley to camp at but I’m only going to stick to the main areas that are more mainstream.

Description: Stovepipe Wells has a good camping area called NPS campground.

There’s also the above Furnace Creek area I talked about and they have 3 campgrounds: Sunset Campground, Furnace Creek Campground and Texas Spring Campground. There are also RV campgrounds in these areas too, but for details, check out the Death Valley camping page on the NPS site here.

18) Glamping:

death valley national park glamping 07

Location in Death Valley NP: There are no glamping spots that I could find in Death Valley but there are several near the park.

Description: If you enjoy glamping, then you can find spots near Death Valley to do that in. It’s actually more preferable because there are more options and because it gets ridiculously hot in the park, it’s better to stay outside of it for this type of activity. Here is one glamping page for Death Valley, but it’s near the park.

19) Night watching in Death Valley (Stargazing):

death valley national park stargazing 05

Location in Death Valley NP: Anywhere you’d find a good sunset spot in Death Valley is also great for stargazing.

Description: Death Valley might be the best spot in all of California to see amazing night skies and on top of that it isn’t hard to find a good spot for it. I’d probably stay further away from the towns inside the national park and just focus on seeing this from one of the main road areas.

20) Rent a jeep and explore Death Valley that way:

death valley national park jeep rental 03

Location in Death Valley NP: There is one spot in Furnace Creek (the town) where you can do it and it’s called Farabee’s Jeep Rentals.

Description: If you’re not already driving an AWD or 4×4 vehicle and you want to explore the more yellow scenic drives in the park or visit the other destinations on this list that require you have that type of car, then you’d want to rent them here and you can do it for hours to even a whole day!

21) See Keane Wonder Mine:

keane wonder mine things to do in death valley national park 06

Location in Death Valley NP: North Eastern side of the park. You would need to take the Daylight Pass road, then a more gravel off road drive to get here.

Description: This is another amazing historical part of the part which is an old mine which I believe may have also had a movie.

Questions about exploring Death Valley National Park:

Is Death Valley National Park worth seeing?

Yes there is a lot to see and do in Death Valley National Park which includes a scenic drive through it, stopping along the many attractions like the sand dunes, amazing hikes and seeing the many overlooks there.

What are the best months to visit Death Valley National Park?

I recommend only going to Death Valley National Park between December through February because it the temperature is tolerable then.

Can you drive through Death Valley National Park?

Yes take road 190 for the best scenic drive experience in Death Valley National Park.

How many days do you need for Death Valley?

You can explore a lot of places in Death Valley National Park in only one day, but the longest I would recommend staying is only 2-3 days.

Do you need 4 wheel drive in Death Valley?

For the main roads in Death Valley, you do not need a 4 wheel drive vehicle, but for more remote hiking spots and attractions, then you would need it.

The best things to do in Death Valley National Park in one day:

  1. Do the entire scenic drive on road 190.
  2. Do parts of the scenic drive south of that (Badwater road)
  3. See as many attractions from that drive.
  4. Specifically, I am going to recommend you see Zabriskie Point, hike to Golden Cathedral, see the town of Furnace Creek, do the Natural Bridge hike, see the sand dunes, explore Mosaic Canyon and just stop at any of the overlooks throughout that day trip.
  5. Finish up the trip around sunset to catch both that and the star gazing after.

Here is the best way to drive through Death Valley:

Just explore all of road 190 and if you can, do some parts of the Badwater drive because there’s just so much close by to 190 that you can see (check out the one day trip itinerary above and just add that).

But if you can’t do it, just driving through all of 190 is a great way to briefly explore Death Valley and it’ll take you about 2-3 hours to do.

Note: Regarding flooding, many off roads may still be inaccessible even if you do have the right vehicle. You can see a map of Death Valley National Park roads here. The 4 main ones I showed above are fine, but the others may not be.

Here is the best way to spend 2-3 days in Death Valley:

I would recommend staying in Furnace Creek or the town of Stovepipe Wells and exploring any areas nearby. If you have an off road vehicle, make sure to do both the same things I mentioned for a one day trip, but add in the Crater hike as well as seeing the moving rocks and of course for every night, make sure to take time to see the sunsets and stars.

Here are my list of the best hikes in Death Valley National Park:

  1. My top choice would be the Natural Bridge hike (2 miles, moderate).
  2. Mosaic hike is also good (3 miles, moderate).
  3. Golden Cathedral hike (2 miles, easy).
  4. Desolation Canyon hike (4 miles, moderate).
  5. The Ubehebe Crater hike (about 1-2 miles, moderate).
  6. Darwin Falls (2 miles, easy).
  7. Dante’s View (2 miles, easy).

You may also want to try using Alltrails to get details on these trails and others nearby, but keep in mind that cell phone reception inside the park is terrible, so perhaps use Alltrails pro if you intend to do more difficult trails.

5 things to do near Death Valley National Park:

things to do near death valley national park 04

1) Visit Las Vegas and do hikes there. From Las Vegas, Death Valley is about a 3 hour drive.

2) Visit Los Angeles and it’s about 3 hours from Death Valley (there is also Angeles National Forest on the way which is great for hikes and outdoor adventures).

3) Northwest of Death Valley is Alabama Hills and that’s about a 2 hour drive. They have amazing arches, hiking trails and a nice town to stay in.

4) Mojave National Preserve is a desert south of Death Valley and it’s about a 1-2 hour drive. The area is more flat there, but it’s beautiful and there is also a sand dunes area.

5) Joshua Tree National Park is also about 2-3 hours south of Death Valley. You will find amazing trails there, including hidden ones like Chasm of Doom as well as a beautiful scenic drive and amazing sunsets that happen daily.

Thanks for checking out my post on the best things to do in Death Valley National Park and if you have any questions or other things you would recommend to anyone visiting this place, let me know!

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