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How to Spend 2 – 3 Epic Days in Death Valley National Park

Cotton candy pink clouds visible from Zabriske Point and Golden Canyon at Sunrise

Death Valley National Park is the land of ultimate extremes. This is the hottest, driest, and lowest place in North America.  It is also the largest National Park in the lower 48 states. Planning a trip to such a vast and diverse landscape can be overwhelming – but don’t worry! I’ve created the perfect itinerary for spending 2 to 3 incredible days in Death Valley National Park.

From the surreal vistas of Zabriskie Point, hiking Golden Canyon, the vast Badwater Basin to the sandy waves of the Mesquite Sand Dunes, your adventure through Death Valley will be nothing short of epic.

This two day Death Valley itinerary is ideal for first-time visitors. This itinerary takes you to all of the park’s must-see highlights with enough time to enjoy the experience and take in the wild west vibes of this remote Park.

This guide also includes practical advice on accommodations, travel tips, and essential hiking information to make your desert trip seamless.

Read on for an in-depth 2 day Death Valley itinerary guide to this underrated gem of a National Park.

Don’t miss the Mequite Sand Dunes / 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links where I earn a small commission from any purchase – at no extra cost to you. This commission helps keep Brooke In Boots up and running. As always, all opinions are 100% honest and my own!

A Quick Look at Your 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary 

This is an action-packed itinerary! If you only have 2 days in Death Valley, this itinerary makes the most of your time and still hits all the “must-see” highlights.

This guide covers all of these stops in tons of detail, below. I’ve also included some more suggestions for my favorite things to do in Death Valley if you’re staying for 3 or more days. Plus tips on where to stay and how to get around.

Day 1 in Death Valley

  • Zabriske Point
  • Golden Canyon
  • Twenty Mule Team Canyon
  • Dante’s View
  • Devil’s Golf Course
  • Badwater Basin
  • Artists Drive & Artists Palette

Day 2 in Death Valley

  • Mosaic Canyon
  • Ubehebe Crater
  • Harmony Borax Works
  • Mesquite Sand Dunes

About Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is a land of extremes. The diverse terrain here includes salt flats, sand dunes, canyons, and snow-capped mountain peaks.

The park encompasses over 3 million acres, making it the largest National Park in the United States outside of Alaska. In fact, it is larger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Why is Death Valley So Hot?

Death Valley lies between two mountain ranges, the Panamint Range and the Amargosa Range. This creates a rain shadow effect, blocking moisture from reaching the valley and trapping hot air inside. The combined effect makes Death Valley one of the driest and hottest places on earth.

In 1913, a weather observed recorded a surface air temp of 134 degrees F! That temp still holds the record and the hottest recorded temperature on earth. That number is somewhat debated today, but even so, it regularly reaches above 120 in the summers. In 2021 the temperature reached a searing 130 degrees here.

Badwater Basin Salt Flats / 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Where is Death Valley?

Death Valley is remote. If there ever was a place that felt like the middle of nowhere – Death Valley is it.

Death Valley is located in eastern California, near the border of Nevada. It lies within the vast Mojave Desert, east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The nearest major towns to Death Valley are Beatty, Nevada (40 miles to Furnace Creek), Pahrump, Nevada (60 Miles to Furnace Creek) and Lone Pine, California (100 miles away).

Entrance Fees & Reservations in Death Valley

There are no reservations required to enter Death Valley National Park.

An entrance fee is required for all visitors to Death Valley. The standard entrance pass costs $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, or $15 per person if you are hiking into the Park.

Traveling to more than 2 National Parks or National Forests this year? Purchase an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass for $80, which covers entrance fees at all National Parks and NPS managed sites.

Unlike other National Parks, there aren’t any staffed entrance stations on the roads into Death Valley. Instead, you’ll need to self-register and pay the entrance fee at one of the Park’s pay kiosks. Kiosks are located at the Visitor Centers, Ranger Stations, campgrounds, and a few other areas around the park.

You can also register and pay the entrance fee, or show your America the Beautiful Annual Park pass, at the Visitor Center, where you’ll be given a paper receipt to place on the dashboard. Don’t leave your plastic Annual Pass on the dash – it could melt!

Brooke Entering Death Valley last March 2023 / 2 & 3 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Death Valley National Park is Indigenous Land

The Timbisha Shoshone and Southern Paiute have lived and traveled in the Death Valley area for over 1000 years. Please respect and honor their land and ancestors while you explore.

Is Death Valley Dog Friendly? 

Like most National Parks, Death Valley isn’t very dog-friendly. Dogs are allowed on unpaved roads like Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Due to extreme weather conditions and rough terrain, I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable walking my pup here.

Leashed pets are allowed in campgrounds and picnic areas, but not on any hiking trails or in any buildings.

Never EVER leave your dog unattended in a vehicle in Death Valley! For more on pets in Death Valley, check here.

Want to learn more about planning an epic National Parks trip? Grab my free Ultimate National Parks Planning Guide, including 70+ pages of National Park packing checklists, planning tips, and everything you need to know to start planning a trip to all 63 National Parks!

Is 2 Days Enough In Death Valley? 

While it’s possible to see some of the highlights of Death Valley in just a few hours , I highly recommend spending at least 2 days in Death Valley.

With over 3 million acres to explore, there is so much to see and experience in this wild and extreme National Park.

How long you want to spend in Death Valley probably depends on the type of car you have. Outside the main tourist spots in the Furnace Creek area, many of the Park’s roads are unpaved. Some of these roads, like Twenty Mule Team Canyon or the road to Mosaic Canyon can be carefully navigated by any passenger sedan. Others, like the road to Racetrack Playa require a high-clearance or even 4×4 vehicle. If you want to explore more of these remote and rugged roads, consider spending 3 or even 5+ days exploring all of Death Valley National Park.

Otherwise, 2 action-packed days, like the ones in this itinerary, are enough to experience the “best-of” Death Valley, without needing a high-clearance vehicle.

This 2 day Death Valley itinerary does not require a high-clearance or 4×4 vehicle.

If you do have more time to spare, this guide includes information on how you can rent a 4×4 vehicle for some off-roading adventures, and suggestions for more things to do on an extended 3 day (or longer) trip to Death Valley.

If you’re short on time, check out my Death Valley 1 Day Itinerary guide, here.

a vast yellow wildflowe superbloom in Death Valley
2016 “superbloom” in Death Valley

The Best Time to Visit Death Valley

Death Valley is a land of extremes, and it’s important to plan your visit for the best time of year.

In the summer months, temperatures in Death Valley can easily reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This heat can be dangerous and even deadly. For that reason alone, I really don’t recommend planning a Death Valley itinerary in summer. You’ll hardly be able to get out of your vehicle, let alone hike and explore everything that makes this Park so amazing.

However, in late fall, winter, and early spring, the weather is much more mild and enjoyable. During these times, it’s possible to explore more of the Park without usually worrying about extreme temperatures.

I recommend visiting Death Valley November – March when temperatures hover in the 70s during the day, and can even dip below freezing at night. I visited during March in 2023 and it was perfect. I even got to experience a bit of snow as I drove over the pass on to towards Lone Pine! Talk about a land of extremes!

Snow?! In Death Valley? I had to drive through a snowstorm in March 2023 through the Panamint Mountains as I left Death Valley!

In spring, wildflowers bloom between February – April. If California experienced above average rainfall, you might even get to experience the rare “super bloom”, when the desert comes alive with a colorful display of wildflowers.

How to Get to Death Valley

Like I said, Death Valley really does feel as if you’re in the middle of nowhere. That means that no matter where you’re coming getting from for your 2 day Death Valley itinerary, it’s is going to involve a bit of driving.

The closest major cities to Death Valley are Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Most visitors to Death Valley will want to fly into one of those two cities, rent a car (remember, something with high-clearance is better!) and drive into the Park.

Learn more about the closest airports to Death Valley and tips for how to get to Death Valley, here.

Flying to Death Valley

The closest airports to Death Valley (Furnace Creek Visitor Center) are:

AirportDistanceTravel Time
Las Vegas Harry Reid International (LAS)120 Miles2 Hours
Palm Springs International (PSP)290 Miles5 Hours
Ontario International (ONT)250 Miles4 Hours
Los Angeles International (LAX)270 Miles4.5 Hours

Because of it’s relatively close proximity, easy hotel options, and great rental car selection, I recommend flying into Las Vegas Airport when visiting Death Valley.

Driving to Death Valley from Las Vegas

The fastest way to the heart of Death Valley from Las Vegas is to take NV Highway 160 W towards Pahrump, Nevada. This is a small town with a few chain hotels if you aren’t staying inside the Park.

From Pahrump, drive 30 miles on Bell Vista Road until you enter California and reach Death Valley Junction and on to CA-190. From here, it’s about 30 miles to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

Via the Rhyolite Ghost Town

Want to explore a real old west ghost town? If you’re driving from Las Vegas with an extra hour to spare, you can take an alternate route into Death Valley that stops by the Rhyolite Ghost Town.

From Las Vegas, take I-95 North to the town of Beatty, Nevada. This is another small town with a few independent motels, gas stations, and convenience store. Follow CA Hwy 374 west, and don’t miss the paved turnoff road to the ghost town. From here, it’s a straight shot into the Park on Highway 374.

Death Valley 2 & 3 Day Itinerary – Prepare for lots of driving!

Driving to Death Valley From Los Angeles

If you’re visiting Death Valley from Los Angeles and Southern California, the drive will take around 4-6 hours depending on that infamous LA traffic. There are 2 routes into Death Valley from LA. Both are about the same distance, so do a quick check of traffic conditions before heading out to decide.

To reach Death Valley from Los Angeles via Panamint Springs, take I-405 N, then CA 14 N for 120 miles. Proceed on US 395 N, then CA-178 N into the Park. Turn right at Panamint Springs onto CA 190 E for Furnace Creek.

Along the way, you’ll pass Red Rock Canyon State Park, a worthwhile detour if you have time.

On the way in through Panamint Springs you’ll pass 2 worthwhile detours: Darwin Falls, a 2 mile hike, and Father Crowley Vista Point. Read more about both of these stops in “More Things to Do In Death Valley” below.

For the southern route, take I-15 N through Cajon Pass and Mojave Desert for 200 miles. Follow CA-127 N through Shoshone to Death Valley Junction. Turn left onto CA Highway 190, reaching Furnace Creek Visitor Center in about 30 miles.

Visiting Death Valley From Joshua Tree National Park

Experience the ultimate California desert road trip by combining a trip to Joshua Tree National Park with Death Valley. You’ll need around 4-6 hours to drive between the two parks, depending on the route you take (and how many stops you make).

From the towns of Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms, take CA-127 N for about 150 miles to the town of Barstow, California. There are plenty of fast food and large grocery stores here if you need to pick up any supplies.

From Barstow, take I-15 North, then CA-127 N at the Mojave National Preserve to Death Valley Junction before taking a left onto CA Highway 190. From here, it’s about 30 miles to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

golden hills and unpaved road of Twenty mule team canyon
Not all roads are paved in Death Valley! Drive Carefully! / 20 Mule Team Canyon

Getting Around Death Valley

Once you arrive in Death Valley, expect to keep spending a lot of time in your car. Death Valley is massive, and it can sometimes take literally hours in between stops here. Luckily the views along the way are spectacular, and if you’re visiting during fall and spring when temperatures start to rise, you’ll be glad to be sitting in the cool AC.

There is no public transportation to or within the Park.

Do not rely on GPS or Cell Service for directions in Death Valley. You can pick up a helpful road map of Death Valley at the Visitor Center, or check out the online copy, here.

Road Conditions in Death Valley

An important thing to know is that there are a TON of backcountry and unpaved roads in Death Valley. Expect that you’ll have to spend at least a little time every day driving on one of these bumpy dirt roads to reach even the popular destinations.

A high-clearance 4×4 vehicle is not required for this 2 day Death Valley itinerary.

The following roads on this 2 day Death Valley itinerary are unpaved – but still passable for most passenger sedans:

  • Twenty Mule Team Canyon Scenic Drive
  • Salt Pool Road to Devils Golf Course
  • Mosaic Canyon Road

If you plan on visiting Racetrack Playa to see the famous moving stones (more on those below!) a high-clearance vehicle or 4×4 vehicle is recommended, depending on road conditions.

Didn’t bring a 4×4 vehicle? You can rent one from Farabee’s Jeeps at the Inn at Death Valley to explore DV’s backcountry and unpaved roads. They also offer Jeep tours.

Check with a ranger about current road conditions and discuss whether your vehicle can make the drive.

Both paved and unpaved roads are subject to flooding and damage during flash floods that occur in winter. In 2023, Death Valley suffered severe flooding due to Hurricane Hillary, damaging many of the Park’s roads and temporarily closing the entire Park.

Make sure to check road conditions before heading out to Death Valley. See current road conditions in Death Valley National Park, here.

Sticker shock is common in Death Valley – Budget accordingly! / 2 Days in Death Valley Itinerary

Gas Stations in Death Valley

Make sure to carefully monitor your gas tank and fill up whenever you can while driving to, from, and around Death Valley.

Unfortunately, gas is also hella expensive here. And yes, I’m saying that as someone who grew up in LA and routinely pays over $4 per gallon without thinking about it. When I visited Death Valley in March 2023, I paid $6.21 a gallon!

There are 3 gas stations in the park:

  • The Oasis at Death Valley, located next to the Furnace Creek Golf Course (gasoline and diesel)
  • Panamint Springs Resort (gasoline and diesel)
  • Stovepipe Wells Resort (gasoline only)

Tips for Visiting Death Valley National Park

If it’s your first time visiting Death Valley, make sure you read these important tips for visiting this wild and beautiful National Park.

Beat the Heat: Don’t underestimate the heat. Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth, and heat related deaths do occur here. Make sure to bring plenty of water for you 2 to 3 days in Death Valley, on top of your usual hiking essentials. Stay hydrated, eat salty snacks, and know the signs of heat stroke.

Winter Conditions: Winter can also be extreme in Death Valley. Temperatures can drop below freezing, and snow is not uncommon on the roads over high passes. If you’re visiting in the winter, make sure to bring appropriate clothing, including warm layers and a sturdy jacket.

Flash Floods. Even a little water in the desert can be deadly. Make sure to check the weather forecast and avoid driving through flooded roads. If you’re hiking in canyons, like Mosaic Canyon and Golden Canyon included in this Death Valley itinerary, be aware of potential flood risks and seek higher ground immediately if a storm approaches.

There is NO cell service in most places in Death Valley. Don’t rely on your cell phone for directions in and around the Park. Make sure to bring an old-fashioned paper map, and a satellite GPS if need be.

I personally always carry a Personal Locator Beacon / Satellite communicator when visiting a National Park like my Garmin InReach Mini 2 (monthly subscription required). With this device I can send text messages, track my hike, view offline maps, or hit the SOS button to contact search and rescue in a true emergency.

2-3 Day Epic Death Valley Itinerary

With 2 days in Death Valley, you can explore the highlights and “must-see” spots in this National Park.

This 2 day Death Valley itinerary assumes you’re spending 2 full days inside Death Valley. If you’re driving into Death Valley on Day 1 or leaving on Day 2, you’ll have to ditch one or two things to do that day.

If you’re spending more than 2 days in Death Valley, check out my suggested More Things to Do In Death Valley section, below.

If you only have 1 day (or a few hours) to spend in Death Valley, check out these shorter itineraries, here.

Death Valley Itinerary Map

This map shows your stops on this 2 day Death Valley itinerary. I’ve also included some information on where to stay in Death Valley at the end of this post.

How to Use This Map: Click the Icons on the map to see more information about each location. Click the star at the top of the map to add the map to your Google Maps account. 

Zabriske Point and the Panamint Mountains at Sunrise / 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Day 1: Golden Canyon, Scenic Drives, Badwater Basin

If you drove in to Death Valley the night before, consider visiting one of Death Valley’s spectacular spots for sunset. The views from Zabriske Point, Artists Palette, and Dante’s View are spectacular at both sunrise and sunset. While the vibrant colors of the Mesquite Sand Dunes and Badwater Basin at sunset are totally otherworldly.

If you are arriving in Death Valley today, I recommend getting there as early as possible to make the most out of your day in the Park, and to avoid the crowds and midday heat!

Cotton candy pink clouds visible from Zabriske Point and Golden Canyon at Sunrise
Even an “uneventful” sunrise at Zabriske is worth the wake up call! / 2 Days in Death Valley

Sunrise at Zabriske Point

Set your alarm and brew yourself a cup of instant coffee, because sunrise in Death Valley is not to be missed!

Hands down the most popular spot for sunrise in Death Valley is Zabriske Point. On a given morning, you’ll find a large crowd assembled there with iPhones and mega-expensive professional photography gear.

Zabriske Point is a popular sunrise spot because its a short walk from the parking lot, and because the sandstone rock formations glow vibrant colors in the in warm morning light.

Try and arrive 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise to steak out your spot.

Be warned, waking up early doesn’t guarantee you the sunrise you expect! In March I woke up at 4:30 for sunrise at Zabriske, and got supremely unlucky that the clouds always seemed to be exactly where the sun was rising, denying us those vibrant sunrise colors on Golden Canyon. Still, it was a spectacular morning and totally worth the early wake-up call.

Golden Canyon and Badlands Loop / 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Zabriske Point to Golden Canyon

After sunrise, take the short hike from Zabriske Point into the badlands and canyons below you. Most visitors hike into Golden Canyon via the Golden Canyon Trailhead, on Badwater Road, but you can also access this figure-8 loop trail from Zabriske Point.

From the parking lot, take the dirt trail that descends below the Point and into the badlands below. The trail winds through a labyrinth of gorgeous golden and red rock formations and canyons.

The entire loop is 7.4 miles and takes 4-5 hours to complete. If you only have 2 days to spend in Death Valley, I suggest Badlands loop, a moderate 2.7 miles that takes about 2 hours.

Golden Canyon Gower Gulch and Badlands Trail Map Death Valley
From NPS / 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary

This topographic map shows the entire Golden Canyon loop trails. As you can see there are a lot of options for mixing and matching your route, depending on how much time you want to spend here!

golden hills and badlands of Twenty mule team canyon
Twenty Mule Team Canyon / 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Twenty Mule Team Canyon Scenic Drive

From Zabriske Point, its a quick 1 mile further down the road to the entrance to Twenty Mule Team Canyon Scenic Drive.

This is a one-way unpaved scenic drive through classic Death Valley landscapes, with towering cliffs and unique rock formations on either side of the narrow road.

About two-thirds into the drive, you’ll spot a small turn-off, just big enough for several cars. This spot leads to some quick hiking trails into the hills. Don’t miss this opportunity! The view from the hilltops is absolutely stunning.

The entire drive through Twenty Mule Team Canyon, plus getting out for some short walks takes about 30 minutes.

the vast Badwater Basin and Panamint Mountains in the distance from Dante's View in Death Valley
Badwater Basin and Panamint Mountains from Dante’s View / 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Dante’s View

Exit Twenty Mule Team road, turn right, and drive 5 miles on CA-190. Turn right on Furnace Creek Wash Road and follow signs for Dante’s View.

After ascending the winding road to the top, you’ll arrive at a stunning view of Death Valley, 5,575 feet above Badwater Basin below.

If it looks familiar, Dante’s View is famous as the Mos Eisley overlook from Star Wars. Other Star Wars filming locations in Death Valley include Golden Canyon, Desolation Canyon, and Twenty Mule Team Scenic Drive.

Zabriske Point is my pick for sunrise this morning, but Dante’s View is a spectacular option for both sunrise and sunset if you’re up for the extra drive.

Vast Badwater Basin salt flats / 2 & 3 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Badwater Basin in Death Valley

From the high highs of Dante’s View, to the lowest lows, it’s time to head to Badwater Basin – the lowest point in North America!

After Dante’s View, head back on CA-190 towards Furnace Creek. Turn left onto Badwater Road at the junction.

If you have time, take the unpaved Salt Pool Road for Devil’s Golf Course. This gravel road passes through evaporated salt flats with sharp, jagged formations. Be cautious and wear closed-toe shoes when exploring outside the car here.

a vast plain of evaporated salt formations in Badwater Basin called Devils Golf course
Devils Golf Course in Badwater Basin / Death Valley Itinerary

Drive on Badwater Road for 18 miles to reach Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Take a picture by the iconic sign and walk out onto the blinding white (and often windy) salt flats.

As you walk out, follow the boardwalk by the natural spring to preserve the fragile ecosystem in this area.

The vast 200-square-mile salt flats are trail-less and yours to explore as far as you want. Walk about a mile to see the unique hexagon salt shapes left by evaporating water.

Welcome to the lowest spot in North America / Death Valley Itinerary

On the way back, don’t forget to look up at the cliffs to spot the sea level line 282 feet above you.

Furnace Creek Visitor Center & Lunch

It’s been a long day, so it’s the perfect time to have lunch and maybe a quick nap if you’re around Furnace Creek.

Don’t miss the Visitor Center at Furnace Creek in the National Park – it’s a must-see, especially for the famous thermometer out front tracking real-time extreme temperatures. Inside, chat with rangers, get your National Park Passport stamped, and shop for park souvenirs.

The Furnace Creek Visitor Center iconic Thermometer on a “Cold” Day when I visited / Death Valley Itinerary

If you brought a picnic, enjoy it at the shaded area by the Visitor Center.

For to-go lunch, head to the general store at the Ranch at Death Valley nearby. You can find sit-down lunch options at the 1849 Restaurant, Last Kind Words Saloon, and the Inn at Death Valley.

Ice cream and grill items are available at the Ice Cream Parlor.

Food everywhere in Death Valley is expensive and underwhelming, so consider buying groceries for lunch and saving your budget for dinner.

Artists Palette in Death Valley / 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Artists Drive & Artist Palette in Death Valley

After relaxing and filling up for lunch, it’s time to hit the road one last time today and head towards Artists Drive.

This is a one-way 9 mile paved scenic drive takes you through the colorful badlands of volcanic and sedimentary hills washed with washes of pink, yellow, red, and green.

The colors come from the volcanic deposits in the sediment that are rich in compounds like iron oxides and chlorite, resulting in a vibrant rainbow effect.

To reach Artists Drive, head back down Badwater Road, about 10 miles of 15 minutes south of the Furnace Creek visitor center, and before the turnoff for Devils Golf Course. Take a left onto the one way Artists Drive.

This is an easy drive, especially compared with Twenty Mule Team road earlier today! But its still important to drive carefully around the winding roads. This is also a popular spot for bicyclists. Make sure to share the road and carefully give all bikers and pedestrians plenty of space.

About half way through the loop is the turnoff for Artist Palette. From here you can explore the most colorful section of the hills – and yes, this is THE spot you’ve probably seen in a thousand Instagram photos, and it’s totally worth it!

colors change by the second at sunset, at Artists Palette / Death Valley Itinerary

If you time it right, this is a favorite spot for sunset, where the colorful sand and rock layers glow with the warm light. If you want to capture those perfect golden-hour photos, plan to be at Artists Palette no later than 1 hour before sunset.

Dinner and Drinks Last Kind Words Saloon 

As the sun sets on your first day in Death Valley, indulge in the time-honored western tradition of heading to the nearest watering hole and ordering a strong drink (or a soda for the kids).

The Last Kind Words Saloon is a recently renovated bar located in the Ranch at Death Valley, replacing the older and dive-ier Corkscrew Saloon that used to sit here.

The atmosphere feels straight out of your favorite old western movie, complete with wanted posters, historic memorabilia from the park’s wild history, and taxidermy animals.

Saddle up to the bar, order yourself a whiskey or a cold beer, and soak in the vibes.

Inside the Last Kind Words Saloon / Death Valley 2 Day Itinerary

Dinner reservations are available a month in advance and are highly recommended.

Prepare for a little sticker shock here. The prices are, frankly, outrageous in Death Valley thanks to the remote location and lack of alternative options. Kinda like being in an airport.

For the budget minded, I suggest you enjoy a drink and the vibes before heading to dinner back at your campsite or a PB&J in your hotel room.

Dinner is also available at the 1849 Restaurant next door, the upscale Inn at Death Valley down the road, as well as at the Badwater Saloon and Toll Road Restaurant in Stovepipe Wells, about 30 minutes away.

Stargazing in Death Valley

After dinner, head back to your campsite or hotel room and prepare for an awe-inspiring show.

Death Valley is a Gold Standard International Dark Sky Park, known for its incredibly dark skies and pristine stargazing. Away from the light pollution of major cities, you can see thousands of stars glittering above you.

You can pretty much get amazing views on any clear night, but for the best unobstructed views, you can head to Badwater Basin, Harmony Boarx Works, or the Mesquite Sand Dunes.

Each spring, Death Valley hosts the Dark Sky Festival, partnering with NASA, JPL, SETI and other space research organizations in a celebration of all things celestial. During the festival, the Park hosts special ranger talks, lectures, hands-on activities for all ages, and nighttime programs. If you want to visit during the Dark Sky Festival, make sure to book your hotel reservations well in advance – this is one of the busiest weekends in the Park!

Day 2: Mosaic Canyon, Scotty’s Castle, Ubehebe Crater, Mesquite Sand Dunes

If you didn’t scratch your spectacular sunrise itch at Zabriske Point yesterday, consider making the drive to Dante’s View for sunrise this morning.

Don’t forget to pack some snacks and a picnic lunch for today, and make sure you have a full tank of gas in the car. You’ll be exploring some of the more remote areas of the Park today and driving several hours, so pack accordingly!

Mosaic Canyon / Death Valley 2 and 3 Day Itinerary

Mosaic Canyon

Today, you’ll start out at one of Death Valleys favorite hikes, and my favorite short trail in Death Valley National Park.

Mosaic Canyon is located just uphill from Stovepipe Wells. From Highway CA-190 at Stovepipe Wells village, take a left onto the unpaved Mosaic Canyon Road. This is a bumpy unpaved road, but most passenger sedans can make the drive if you are careful.

Park at the small trailhead at the end of the road. This parking lot fills early, so its best to do this hike first thing in the morning.

The trail is fairly easy, at 3.5 miles round-trip and about 1000 feet of elevation gain. The multi-colored marble canyon walls are fun to explore and make for some great photos. Be prepared to climb over some boulders and through one narrow slot canyon on this out and back hike.

Make sure to bring plenty of water and hiking shoes with good grip, as the rock is slippery to climb in some sections.

the large and barren Ubehebe volcanic crater in Death Valley
Ubehebe volcanic crater in Death Valley / 2 Days in Death Valley

Ubehebe Crater

After exploring Mosaic Canyon, return to your car and down the bumpy road back to CA-190. From here, it’s a long drive to the most remote spot on this itinerary: Ubehebe Crater.

To reach the crater, drive east on CA-190 towards Furnace Creek. Take a left onto the paved Scotty’s Castle Road. (Note, Scotty’s Castle is closed until at least 2025, you can learn more about this spot below).

You’ll drive north on this road for about 45 minutes through the vast Death Valley desert before the paved road ends at Ubehebe Crater.

If you have a high-clearance SUV or 4×4 vehicle, the road continues past here towards Racetrack Playa. Learn more about visiting Racetrack Playa in “More Things to Do in Death Valley” below.

Ubehebe Crater is massive a volcanic crater formed over 2,000 years ago, 500 feet deep and half a mile wide. There are more than a dozen ancient craters in this volcanic field, but Ubehebe is the largest, and youngest.

a field of volcanic craters in Death Valley
A field of volcanic craters in Death Valley / 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary

There are a couple of ways to explore this ancient crater.

An easy hike around the rim of the crater is 1.5 miles and takes about an hour. If you’re up for a challenge, you can walk down into the crater, about 500 feet down. But remember, you’ll have to come back up through loose sand and gravel, which is not easy.

A shorter trail to Little Hebe crater walks along the rim of Ubehebe to a secondary smaller crater, about 1 mile round trip, and takes 30 to 45 minutes.

Exploring Harmony Borax Works / 2 Day Itinerary Death Valley

Harmony Boarx Works

On the way back from Ubehebe, get out and stretch your legs while learning about the fascinating history of Death Valley’s “White Gold.”

Over the years, prospectors, businessmen, and bandits have visited Death Valley chasing fortunes. In the 1849 California Gold Rush, miners sought riches in the hills, but harsh conditions made mining tough and unprofitable.

Then, in the 1880s, borax was found, a mineral valuable for various uses. This discovery led to the building of Harmony Borax Works, the leading borax mining site in Death Valley. Borax was processed and transported by twenty-mule teams to the nearest railway.

Today, visitors can explore the remains of this once-thriving industry at Harmony Borax Works. Take a self-guided tour through old equipment and interpretive signs. If you’re a history nerd like me you’ll love this stop.

The Mesquite Sand Dunes / 2 day Death Valley Itinerary

Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley

After a long day of exploring, you have one more stop on your 2 day Death Valley itinerary – the Mesquite Sand Dunes.

These massive sand dunes are the park’s most accessible and popular dune field. You can see the dunes from your car, but to really experience them, you’ll want to kick off your shoes and start hiking.

There are no set trails, so you’ll have the freedom to explore and create your own trail. But be warned, climbing those dunes takes more work than it looks like! Be sure to bring water and a jacket if you plan on hiking out.

You can also bring a sled or sandboard for a unique thrill in Death Valley! I didn’t see many people doing this when I was here, but its a popular activity in other dune fields like Great Sand Dunes National Park.

The dunes are a picturesque spot, especially at sunset and sunrise when the colors transform the landscape. Try to visit in the morning or evening to avoid the scorching midday heat.

Exploring the dunes is the perfect way to end your 2 day trip to Death Valley National Park!

Dinner & Drinks at the Inn at Death Valley

If you’re looking to toast the end of your 2 days in Death Valley, change out of your hiking clothes and head over to the swanky Inn at Death Valley.

The Inn at Death Valley dates back to 1927 and has hosted celebrities and presidents. The Inn Restaurant offers a fine dining with sweeping views of the salt flats and Panamint Mountains. Reservations are required, dress code is resort attire.

For a more budget-friendly option, check out the Toll Road Restaurant in Stovepipe Wells village.

More Things to Do in Death Valley – 3 Days and Beyond 

This itinerary is more than enough to fill 2 busy days in Death Valley. If you’re lucky enough to extend your stay to 3 days or longer, or want to check out some different things to do in Death Valley, here are some favorite suggestions.

Father Crowley Vista Overlook

If you’re entering or exiting the Park through Panamint Springs (to Lone Pine, California, Highway 395 and the Alabama Hills) don’t miss the quick stop at Father Crawley Vista Overlook on CA-190.

You’ll be greeted with panoramic views of the vast valley floor and distant mountains, as well as a unique perspective on the winding road you just traveled.

1920s mansion Scotty's Castle in Death Valley
1920s mansion Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley / 3 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Scotty’s Castle (Currently Closed)

This historic home dates back to the 1920s and offers a glimpse into the luxurious life of the rich and famous in Death Valley. You can take a guided tour of the castle, which is full of unique antiques and stories about its eccentric owner, Walter Scott (aka “Death Valley Scotty”).

Unfortunately, due to flood damage, Scotty’s Castle is currently closed until at least 2025. Limited ranger-led tours may be available during repairs.

the snowcapped peak of Telescope Peak from Badwater Basin in Death Valley
snowcapped Telescope Peak from Badwater Basin / 3 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Telescope Peak 

Snow in Death Valley? Alpine forests?! The summit of Telescope Peak, at 11,043 feet feels worlds away from Badwater Basin. This 14-mile round trip strenuous hike is a serious undertaking, suitable for experienced hikers.

The trail begins at the primitive Mahogany Flat Campground, which may require a high-clearance or 4×4 to access. Along the way, you’ll pass through several different ecosystems and be rewarded with stunning panoramic views from the summit. Be sure to start early and bring plenty of water and snacks for this all day hike.

The peak is often snow-covered until spring. Do NOT attempt this peak when snow and ice are present without proper mountaineering equipment and know-how.

a mysterious moving stone in the desert in Racetrack Playa Death Valley
Mysterious moving stones at Racetrack Playa / 3 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Racetrack Playa (4×4 required) 

Check out the famous “moving stones” that appear to sail across the desert floor on their own at Racetrack Playa. This unique phenomena has puzzled scientists and visitors for years. But a recent scientific expedition in 2014 has uncovered the probable cause of the phenomenon.

Erosion causes stones to fall from the mountains above and onto the playa. When conditions are right, the playa fills with water from winter storms. Then, plummeting nighttime temperatures cause a thin layer of ice to form. Once on the ice, it takes no more than a light wind to push the heavy stones, leaving a trail behind them in the mud once the water evaporates.

Due to the rough conditions of the un-paved road a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle is usually required to navigate this road.

The unpaved road to the Racetrack starts at the Ubehebe Crater. The entire trip takes about 3.5 hours EACH WAY from Furnace Creek, making this an all day adventure!

a small waterfall cascades into a verdant pool in a canyon in Death Valley
verdant Darwin Falls / 3 Day Death Valley itinerary

Darwin Falls

Waterfalls in Death Valley? If you’re entering or exiting through Panamint Springs, don’t miss checking out Darwin Falls. This is an easy to moderate 2 mile round trip hike to one of the only year-round falls in Death Valley National Park.

To get to the Darwin Falls trailhead, take Highway 190 to Panamint Springs and turn onto the unpaved Old Toll Road. Follow the gravel road for about 10 miles until you reach a parking area. This road is usually passable for regular sedans, but check with rangers about road conditions before heading out .

From there, it’s a short hike to the falls. Also, you can’t swim here – this spring serves as the drinking water for Panamint Springs Resort, below.

a golden brown canyon with a natural bridge spanning the trail in Death Valley
Natural Bridge in Death Valley / Death Valley Itinerary

Natural Bridge

This hike is one of the more popular trails in Death Valley, but I’ve heard it’s a little underwhelming if you’ve visited other natural bridges like Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef and I would decide to skip it if you’ve only got 2 days in Death Valley.

But if you do have the time to spare, it’s probably worth checking out the impressive natural bridge formation that spans 35 feet and stands at 40 feet high. The trail is relatively easy at 1.5 miles round trip, with 500 feet elevation gain, making it accessible for most hikers.

To get there, take Badwater Road south for 13 miles before turning onto the dirt Natural Bridge Road. This unpaved road is generally accessible to all passenger vehicles.

Follow the road until you reach a parking area. From there, it’s a short .7 mile hike to the natural bridge.

Where to Stay in Death Valley

There aren’t many convenient options for staying around Death Valley National Park. Like most remote National Parks, I suggest staying inside Death Valley whenever possible.

Hotels and lodging is pretty expensive here for what you get. But you can’t beat the convenient location, especially when staying in the nearest towns adds hours to your drive every day.

If you plan on using this 2 day Death Valley itinerary, I suggest staying in Furnace Creek (Ranch and Inn) or Stovepipe Wells for the quickest access to most of the stops in this guide.

The luxurious Inn at Death Valley from Badwater Road

Hotels in Death Valley

The Inn at Death Valley: This luxury resort offers stunning views of Death Valley with a glamorous history to match the price tag for staying at this four diamond resort. Originally built in the 1920s, the Inn hosted Old Hollywood celebrities and recently underwent an impressive renovation.

Stroll through the manicured date palm gardens or relax in the spring-fed pool (87 degrees year round). You can also play a round of golf, pamper yourself at the spa, enjoy fine dining and drinks – this is the ultimate luxury National Park experience.

The Ranch at Death Valley: The more family-friendly sister property to the Inn. The Ranch at Death Valley is where I stayed during my recent 2 day trip. Although it isn’t cheap, it has nicely renovated rooms, several dining options, an outdoor pool, access to the golf course, horseback rides, and Jeep rentals. It’s a great family-friendly property, and I’d stay there again in a heartbeat.

Stovepipe Hotel: This Western-style hotel offers a more rustic experience with options for both standard and deluxe rooms. It has wifi, a pool, as well as a restaurant, saloon, gas station, and general store on site. This is a good alternative to the Ranch while still staying centrally located in the Park.

Panamint Springs Resort: The furthest option from the main attractions in Death Valley, this resort offers a more secluded and quiet experience. It has both motel rooms, cabins, tent cabins, and RV sites available, as well as a restaurant and small store.

Recently renovated rooms at the Ranch at Death Valley. I’d definitely stay here again!

Private Campgrounds in Death Valley

Ohyu RV Park at Stovepipe Wells: Features 14 full service RV hookups, including electric, water, and sewer adjacent to the Stovepipe Wells general store. Shower and Pool passes can be purchased from the Stovepipe Hotel.

Panamint Sprints RV and Tent Cabins: Features both RV hookups and tent cabins, as well as a restaurant and small store on site. 6 full service RV hookups and 26 dry RV sites (no hookups). Tent cabins are basic, with 2 cots (no bedding), a firepit and picnic table outside and not much else.

Fiddlers’ Campground: Next to the Ranch at Death Valley and Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center, Fiddlers’ Campground is ideal for RVs and campervans. There are no RV hookups. Guests have access to The Ranch’s wi-fi, swimming pool & showers, coin operated laundry and sports facilities. It’s not the most glamorous campground – it’s basically a parking lot. But you’re in a good location with access to tons of facilities.

RVs and tents at Furance Creek Campground in Death Valley
Furance Creek Campground in Death Valley / Death Valley itinerary

NPS Campgrounds in Death Valley

The National Park operates 7 developed campgrounds within Death Valley National Park. Not all campgrounds are open year-round, and not all campgrounds accept reservations. Use this chart to see what campgrounds are open during your visit, how to score a spot, and what amenities are available:

CampgroundOpen SeasonLocationReservationsAmenities
Furnace Creek CampgroundOpen Year-RoundFurnace CreekReservations required October 15 to April 15*, Otherwise no reservationsCell Phone Reception, Camp Store, Potable Water, Flush Toilets, Dump Station
SunsetOpen Mid-October – Mid-AprilFurnace CreekNo ReservationsCell Phone Reception, Camp Store, Potable Water, Flush Toilets, Dump station, Not all sites have firepits or tables
Texas SpringsOpen Mid-October – Mid-AprilFurnace CreekNo reservationsPotable Water, Flush Toilets, Dump Station, No generators, No RV hookups
Stovepipe WellsOpen Mid-October – Mid-MayStovepipe WellsNo reservationsPotable Water, Flush Toilets, Dump Station, Camp Store, No RV hookups
Mesquite SpringOpen Year-RoundScotty’s CastleNo reservationsPotable Water, Flush Toilets, Dump Station, No RV hookups, Fire grates & Picnic Tables at all sites
Emigrant Open Year-RoundPanamint MountainsNo reservationsGas and charcoal stoves prohibited, Potable Water, Vault Toilets
WildroseOpen Year-RoundStovepipe WellsNo reservationsNon-potable water, All grills and fires prohibited, Flush Toilets

Death Valley Planning Tip: *Reservations for Furnace Creek Campground are completely booked most days during reservation season, often 6 months in advance. Make sure to book early!

Primitive Campgrounds: There are a number of primitive campgrounds (no amenities, no water) throughout Death Valley National Park, most of which require a high-clearance and 4×4 vehicle to access.

Hotels Near Death Valley

Staying outside Death Valley means you’ll have to drive a decent amount each day to enter the Park. But most of these hotels are more budget friendly than expensive Death Valley, and you don’t have to book quite as far in advance.

The most popular towns to stay in outside Death Valley are Pahrump, Nevada, Beatty Nevada, and Lone Pine, California.

In Pahrump, you’ll find reliable chain hotels like Best Western and Holiday Inn. This is the most convenient town to stay in outside the Park if you’re driving from Las Vegas. Pahrump is about 60 miles or 1 hour from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

Beatty, Nevada is home of the Rhyolite Ghost Town, a worthwhile detour if you’re coming from Las Vegas. In Beatty I suggest staying at the Death Valley Inn or the motel-chain Super 8. It takes about 50 minutes, or 45 miles, from Beatty to Furnace Creek.

Lone Pine, California is the closest “big” town to Death Valley on the California side of the Park. Lone Pine is more famous as the gateway to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 (permit required), incredible eastern sierra hiking and the underrated Alabama Hills recreation area.

In Lone Pine, you can stay at Mt Williamson Motel (a hiker’s favorite), the Best Western Plus Lone Pine, or Quality Inn Lone Pine.

There’s so much to explore in this massive National Park! / 2 Day Death Valley Itinerary

Conclusion 

From the highs of Dante’s Peak and Zabriske Point, to the lows of Badwater Basin and everything in between, Death Valley National Park is a truly unforgettable land of extremes.

Whether you’re exploring the stunning landscapes or delving into the park’s rich history and culture, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in 2 days in Death Valley National Park.

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