The name Death Valley hardly sounds inviting. But it's one of the top-rated tourist destinations in the world. Death Valley is a protected natural park that covers an area of 3,000 square miles. The driest and lowest point in North America. Death Valley is home to plenty of flora and fauna, including bighorn sheep.
Among the many mysteries of the Death Valley is the dry lake bed – the Racetrack – where you can view trails of boulders seemingly sliding across the desert. You can view the massive 600-foot deep crater named Ubehebe. And the stargazing is boggling. The rugged topography, salt flats, mountains, craters, sand dunes, and canyons make Death Valley a must-visit destination.
The eight- to nine-hour drive from San Francisco to Death Valley is a full-on road trip. Grab snacks and drinks, and light up the playlist. Let the breezes of central and eastern California whip your hair and make this one count.
The quicker route is down the spine of central California on I-5 toward Bakersfield. The even mountainous, will-never-forget route is via Sacramento and toward Lake Tahoe. From there, US-395 will carry you down past mountain peaks and a string of national forests and parks, including Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia, where you'll turn east on CA-136 until enter Death Valley, heading further east on CA-190.
Stovepipe Wells Village is centrally located in Death Valley and offers authentically western and rustic comfort. Its unique hotel, Death Valley restaurant and Western saloon, have been the destination for travelers to Death Valley since 1926. There is a swimming pool, general store and on-site dining, giving you the conveniences you need while never needing to leave the park.
The Oasis at Death Valley offers three styles of accommodation in the heart of Death Valley. The Ranch at Death Valley has been a go-to resort for casual family comfort since 1933. For an extra measure of intimacy, the 66-room Inn at Death Valley has been serving guests since 1927. Fiddlers' Campground offers another experience, for those looking to immerse in the outdoors with their personal camping comforts from home. Dining, swimming and golfing amenities are on-site for all.
Panamint Springs Resort is a small, rustic, Western-style resort that provides lodging, camping and RV services, a restaurant and bar, and a gas station with a well-stocked general store at the Western entrance to Death Valley on CA-190. Take in the views of distant sand dunes and the soaring 11,000-foot-high Panamint Mountains from Panamint Springs.
Panamint Springs Restaurant enjoys a beautiful climate that allows for dining outdoors for much of the year. Enjoy a craft brew or wine on the patio and take in the amazing views of Panamint Valley that sprawl as far as the eye can see. Panamint Springs Restaurant offers more than 150 beers from around the world, and is known for its angus burgers, salads and fresh pizzas, proudly claiming to serve "the best food in the valley."
The Toll Road Restaurant at Stovepipe Wells Village is a Western-style restaurant inspired by the Death Valley history and topography. It serves a buffet breakfast and dinner, and can send you out the door with box lunches for your day in Death Valley National Park, on request. Ready to unwind or grab a nightcap? The Badwater Saloon on-site at Stovepipe Wells has you covered with a wide range of wines, cocktails and brews.
Dante's View gives you an unparalleled experience of Death Valley National Park. The winding road to the top will take you from mystery and anticipation to disbelief when you take in sunset painting the sky and salt flats in a deep glow.
Zabriskie Point opens up fantastic of Death Valley. It's easy to access from the main road and only requires a short, if a little steep, walk up a trail. The five- to 10-minute stroll to the viewing area even is stroller friendly.
Badwater Basin is well-known as the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. It's one of the most popular sites in Death Valley, but for good reason. It's an easy, flat walk and is central to all that is Death Valley ... so join the crowd and make your own memories and photos here. The Basin also is just one of the very worthy locations off Badwater Road.
Darwin Falls is about getting outdoors, getting your legs moving on a hike and sucking in some fresh Death Valley sunshine and air. The falls are a wonder in that ... you're in Death Valley, who expected to see naturally running water! They are beautiful, and the hike is a great way to stretch out after taking in Artist's Drive and the bigger scene of the Valley. Grab a bottle of water, some sunscreen ... and don't forget your camera.
Artist's Drive is a gorgeous one-way loop, a nine-mile wonder that will not disappoint. The natural beauty is yet another one-of-a-kind in Death Valley National Park. And it just doesn't get any easier than slow-rolling in your car to take in some of the most beautiful landscape on earth.