The largest national park south of Alaska, Death Valley is known for extremes: It’s North America’s driest and hottest spot (with fewer than two inches of rainfall annually and a record high of 56°c), and has the lowest elevation on the continent at one point—282 feet below sea level. During summer, it’s thought to be the hottest place on Earth, which is precisely why February is a great time to visit! I expected it to be cold, and it certainly was, but that was infinitely preferable to 8 months of the year when it’s just too hot. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but the landscapes just blew me away. I’ll start with a photo of the road to it from Las Vegas. Despite this looking like snow, my first thought was that the white stuff was salt, but after learning about Borax mining in Death Valley, I’m pretty sure that it is indeed Borax.
Once in Death Valley itself, our first stop was at an overlook point called Dante’s View. The vista is spectacular.
I always notice abstract shapes and patterns within a larger picture and aim to isolate them.
The next stop was at Zabriskie Point which has incredible views in all directions. This first image was taken in the afternoon.
The next one is the following day at sunrise, looking in the opposite direction.
Yet another direction and the colours were constantly changing as the sun came up.
This lone hiker really gives perspective to the size of the landscape.
A great thing about hiring a car is that you can just stop whenever you like to take photos and the colours in these mountains caught my eye.
One morning we drove up to Dante’s view again for sunrise. It was bitterly cold with a strong wind blowing, and despite wearing 5 layers I kept having to get back into the car with the heater on full blast to thaw out. The two photos below are looking in opposite directions and 25 minutes apart.
After breakfast and having thawed out we did a 6 mile hike through The Badlands. Apparently part of Star Wars was filmed here. I started out still wearing 5 layers and got down to a t-shirt after a while in sheltered areas!
Some of the paths were very narrow and it really wouldn’t have been a good idea to slip off them!
The height of them did give spectacular views though.
Another incredible landscape can be found in an area known as Artist’s Palette. It really does look as if somebody has taken a giant paintbrush and swept over the area with different colours.
There’s also an area of sand dunes in Death Valley which we almost didn’t bother driving to as the sand dunes in Namibia are so spectacular, but it was definitely worth the visit as they are very different. I considered cloning out the footsteps in the image below, but decided that they actually added something.
The shape of the dune below is similar to those found in Sossusvlei in Namibia but not as high.
Driving away from the dunes I noticed that these formations had a very bronze/golden hue to them.
In Furnace Creek (what a name!!)there are a couple of remains of 20-mule wagons. The 20-mule teams were teams of 18 mules and two horses that were attached to large wagons which transported borax out of Death Valley from 1883 to 1889. The teams traveled from mines across the Mojave Desert to the nearest railroad spur which was located 165 miles away. The effort involved was tremendous.
Below is Badwater Basin. It’s 282 feet below sea level and the ground is a thick layer of salt which forms unusual patterns.
On the way back from Death Valley and before flying out we stopped at Red Rock Canyon. It certainly lives up to its name.
I found the landscapes in Death Valley absolutely incredible and am considering running a photography trip there in 2024 or 2025. I need to figure out other places to go as it’s a long way to go for just 3 or 4 days, but if you might be interested in coming on such a trip, please drop me a line to register your interest.