See the Best of Death Valley National Park in One Day

Pin-to-Pin Directions for 6 Must-See Stops

Getting ready to nix Death Valley from your road trip because you only have one day? Don't! This National Park is well worth seeing even if 15 hours is all you've got. Leaving in the morning, it takes roughly 5.5 hours from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park, and 4.5 hours on the way back, which does, since you were wondering, include a stop at In N’ Out Burger's drive-through. Download The Outbound's app for easy navigating on the road.

Entering Death Valley National Park

Upon entrance into the park, you’re going to drive down a very windy canyon. If it’s blustery, which I believe it most always is, you’re going to see some incredible dust storms (like twisters) below you, which is slightly intimidating. Once on the valley floor, you may have to drive through them. Proceed with caution, but it's unlikely a cow will hit your windshield.

Stop 1 – Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

If you’ve ever wanted to take a cheesy picture that looks like you’re in the middle of the Sahara, the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes supply just that. These dunes are very easy to access right off of the road and include dead vegetation that make for some creative shots.


Wiggle your toes in the sand and get back in the car. Only 26 miles to your next stop.

Stop 2 – Zabriskie Point

Stay on 190 for about 30 minutes and you’ll see signs for Zabriskie Point. There’s a paved parking lot and a good amount of people walking up a paved road that overlooks the incredible Amargosa Range. 


This used to be the bottom of a lake where mud, gravel, and volcanic ash settled, forming some amazing color variety in sediment on the now dry range. The dark spots capping the left side of the range are lava from millions of years ago. Such an incredible view! Enjoy. You have only 12 miles until the next stop.

Stop 3 – Devil’s Golf Course

Back track a little bit and make a left onto Badwater Road. You’ll see a whole lot of valley floor below you and you’ll come upon a sign for Devil’s Golf Course on the right. It looks like a whole lot of nothing from Badwater Road, but trust, this quick stop is necessary. 


Devil’s Golf Course is a salt pan on the valley floor but, unlike the flat salt you’ll see on the floor of Badwater Basin, the formations on this area’s surface are extremely jagged and uneven. Don’t fall on the salt because ouch.

Stop 4 – Badwater Basin

This is what it's all about. Badwater Basin consists of almost 200 square miles of salt flats — the result of precipitation drainage from bordering peaks. Water and flash floods come to rest and, as the water evaporates, minerals and salts are left behind. 


At 282 feet BELOW sea level, you’re standing at the lowest elevation in North America in what basically looks like purgatory. It gets so windy here you may be pushed around but at the same time, it's still likely 100 degrees or more. 

Stop 5 – Artist’s Drive & Palette

Travel back on Badwater Road for 12 miles and you’ll see a sign and a turn for Artist’s Drive on your right. When you turn in, you’ll notice some of the hills around you are turning interesting colors like pink and green. The colors are caused by the oxidation of metals like mica, manganese, and iron salts. Very Seussical. 


Soon, you’ll see an outlet off on your right to Artist’s Palette. Get out and explore this colorful range with your own two feet.

Stop 6 – Mosaic Canyon

Cut back and make a left to get back on 190. Mosaic Canyon’s entrance is just past Stovepipe Wells Village where, by the way, they have a great little gift shop if you want to pick up post cards and collectibles. You’re going to turn left onto an access road that stops at a parking area. 


It doesn’t look like much from the parking lot, but start walking and the path will narrow. Before you know it, you’re meandering through a polished slot canyon. 

Published: April 28, 2017

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Leigh Maneri

Hermosa Beach

Writer, content strategist, explorer, ponderer. Always go.