Death Valley National Park Tours – Death Valley has been on my bucket list for a long time, so I was very excited when I was presented with the possibility to road trip from LA to Death Valley thanks to my friends at Visit California. You can use their Road Trip Finder search to plan your own epic road trip, whether it’s to Death Valley like mine or other awesome places like the North Coast, Palm Springs, or Yosemite, just to name a few! My trip was based on the Discovering Death Valley itinerary and expanded, so check out my itinerary below for the ultimate Death Valley adventure from Los Angeles.
Start for the first day from LA (we flew into LAX and went there immediately after picking up our rental car) and take State Highway 14 to Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park near Agua Dulce. The drive out is 52 miles from LAX, and takes approximately an hour to 1.5 hours depending on LA traffic. The 932 acre park is most famous for its spectacular rock formations that have been the backdrop to several Hollywood movies and TV shows over the years, such as Blazing Saddles, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Star Trek! Once you’re done at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, drive 30 minutes (27 miles) to Lancaster for the night.
Death Valley National Park Tours
For the first stop of the day, take just a short drive from Lancaster to Saddleback Butte, a hidden gem of the area filled with Joshua Trees and scenic views. You can choose to walk the 3.8 kilometer out and back trail (which has a 980 foot height gain), or just take in the views of the visitor center for a quick photo.
Death Valley National Park Bike Tour
Then take Highway 14 to Red Rock Canyon State Park, near Cantil. You’ll probably want to spend some time here exploring and photographing, as the entire area is absolutely stunning and full of red rocks, just as the name suggests. I really don’t know how this State Park isn’t more popular (we barely saw any visitors there!) because it has some of the most beautiful geology you’ll find in Southern California. If you have the time, you can take hikes through Hagen Canyon and Red Rock Canyon. Or, if you’re just for a quick stop, take a drive to find Joshua Trees and beautiful red rock cliffs. Some Instagrammable photo spots you can find around Red Rock Canyon State Park include Turk’s Turban (below, left), Camel Rock, Hagen Canyon, and the Red Cliffs Natural Area just off the highway (below, right). Once you’re done at the park, head to Ridgecrest to spend the night.
Start the morning with a 45 minute drive to the surreal landscape that is the Trona Pinnacles. The road out to the Trona Pinnacles in unpaved and a bit rough (it’s a five kilometer long dirt road), so budget enough time to get there if you’re not in a 4WD vehicle, because you have to go very slowly. In general, having a 4WD vehicle for this route would be helpful, as it would allow you to go to certain places in Death Valley that you cannot otherwise go to (like the Racetrack Playa), and easier to get to Trona. Pinnacles, but it is not 100% necessary and we did the trip in a normal SUV. The Trona Pinnacles are made up of 500 oddly shaped spiers that rise up to 140 feet above Searles Dry Lake, creating a bizarre landscape that has been featured in vintage sci-fi movies, and more recently, the HBO TV show Westworld. Make sure you take some time to drive around the pinnacles to see them from different perspectives! One of my favorite views was from the top of the road on the drive in.
From Trona Pinnacles, we drove about two hours on Highway 395 to Lone Pine, with Alabama Hills and the Mount Whitney Portal, to explore for the afternoon. Since this is a bit out of the way, you can choose to skip this part and instead head straight up towards Highway 190 and Death Valley for the fastest route to the national park. Once you reach Lone Pine, depending on how much time you have, you can drive 20 minutes on Whitney Portal Road to reach the Mount Whitney Trailhead. Here you will find the main trailhead to hike Mount Whitney, which is the highest point in the contiguous United States, as well as routes for shorter hikes, such as the 5.1 mile out-and-back trail to Lone Pine Lake.
Another option is to drive around Movie Flat Road for scenic views around the Alabama Hills. You can make stops at several of the arches around the area, like Mobius Arch (which is also a great spot for astral photography!), Boot Arch, and of course the Insta-famous movie road for the perfect desert photo op. You’ll probably recognize this Movie Road shot (below) from all over Instagram, and it’s especially popular as a sunrise photo. Because of the timing of our road trip, we actually got here before sunset, which can be another good time to shoot here because the lighting isn’t as harsh.
How To Plan Your Death Valley Day Trip From Las Vegas
Once you’re done exploring everything around Lone Pine, head to Death Valley – the drive can take 1-2 hours, depending on where you stay in the park. For our visit, we stayed at The Inn at the Oasis at Death Valley in Furnace Creek, a historic 4-diamond hotel that is perfect for anyone looking for a little luxury during their stay in Death Valley.
Yay, you made it to Death Valley! At this point, you can extend your itinerary to longer than five days if you want more time to explore Death Valley National Park, or try to fit as much as possible into a day-and-a-half whirlwind tour of the park. If you go from sunrise to sunset, you can fit in a lot! for our trip, we spent two full days in the park, and were pretty much able to do everything we wanted (there were places we couldn’t go without a 4WD vehicle) in that amount of time. Quick note – even if you don’t drive a 4WD vehicle in, there are jeep rental options in the park if you just want a day rental to make it out to places like the Racetrack Playa!
Death Valley has so many iconic photo spots, it’s hard to choose what to see in Death Valley when your time there is short. That said, I’ve narrowed it down to what I feel are the main highlights of the park to make the most of your time there. Here are 6 of the best photo spots to visit in Death Valley National Park!
Best Death Valley Tours For Epic Adventures— The Discoveries Of
I loved Zabriskie Point so much that I think we went back a total of three times in the two days we visited the park. It also helped that it’s such a short drive from where we’re staying at the Oasis at Death Valley! We visited in the afternoon, at sunset, and at night, and of the three, my favorite was definitely sunset. As you can see below, sunset is definitely one of the best times to visit Zabriskie Point as the sun lights up the hills in shades of orange and pink. But, be sure to stay a while longer, because the sky comes after dark with the Milky Way, and Zabriskie Point is a great place to shoot the stars.
Depending on the time of year, you may even be lucky enough to catch the core of the Milky Way directly above you, as I did in the photo below (right). What I love about Zabriskie Point is how much there is to shoot in all directions. You can take a picture of the point itself or with a view of Golden Canyon, or walk out to the end of one of the paths for great scenic portrait spots. The whole area is just beautiful!
All of Artist’s Drive is full of beautiful photo spots, but the best of all has to be Artist’s Palette, towards the end of the walkway. From the parking lot, you can get great photos overlooking the rainbow hills, aptly named for the pastel colors formed from minerals that look like an artist splattering paint over the mountains. It is especially beautiful when golden hour lights up the whole area. If youat time you have the time to walk down hills and over the ledges for unique perspectives and perspectives of all colors.
Home to the famous saltwater flats of Death Valley, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, coming in at 282 feet below sea level! It may take a while to walk out where the salt walls are less
Death Valley & Zion National Park Tours 2024
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