Things to Do in Death Valley National Park

Things to Do in Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park in southeastern California has a formidable reputation for unforgiving weather and harsh, arid conditions. However, as an outdoors destination, it has a big draw. The desert has its own natural beauty and set of challenges to offer to nature lovers and campers, as well as plenty of trails for both hikers and bikers. It is also home to a number of historic old ghost towns that are well worth exploring for a taste of the Old West.

Day Hiking

Death Valley National Park has a number of trails suitable for day hikes. These range between easy and strenuous, and from half a mile out to seven miles. Some of them go up to sufficient heights where the temperature is relatively cool, even in the summer, so not every day hike in Death Valley needs to be a blistering trek through the desert. However, if you do hike in the Death Valley lowlands, remember that summer temperatures there routinely well above 100 degrees, and even in December and January daytime highs are in the mid 60s. Bring plenty of water and take precautions against sunburn. Another option for day hiking is to sign on for one of the park's ranger-guided nature tours, which are held daily from late October to late April.

Mountain Biking

There are 785 miles of paths and roads suitable for a mountain bike in Death Valley. These routes range from one to 40 miles in length. Mountain biking is also one of the better ways to reach and explore one of the many ghost towns in Death Valley. Most of these lost mining towns, such as Greenwater or Leadfield, are accessible only by rough and poorly maintained gravel roads. Some of those roads are so bad that they require 4 X 4 vehicles to cross in some places. The distances might be a bit much for hikers, but are a good match for mountain bikers.

Bird Watching

Serious birders know that the desert is sometimes the best place to go bird watching. Death Valley sees some serious bird activity during two times of the year, when the migratory birds passing through the park reach their greatest numbers. As they pass through the valleys and congregate around water sources, locating them is an easy matter. The spring migration takes place from late April to early May, and the fall migration from early August to the end of September. Birds that are native to the Death Valley area nest in mid-February in the lowlands, and in June and July in the high altitude areas. Migratory birds include warblers, ibises, ducks, geese and most hawks. Native to the area are roadrunners and great horned owls.

Backcountry Camping

Serious hikers looking to get deep into Death Valley's arid wilderness need to obtain a permit, but this is issued free and is required only as a registration measure. Just keep in mind that backcountry camping means setting up camp at least two miles from any developed area, and that in certain historic areas the practice is not permitted. Backcountry campers must also adhere to "leave no trace" standards, and must bring portable stoves as campfires are prohibited in the park. Also, as water is so scarce in the park, anyone in the backcountry should plan on needing to meet their water needs entirely from what they carry.

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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