Yes, we braved Death Valley in the summer and lived to tell about it! One thing I search for before we left was information on touring Death Valley in the summer. I wasn’t sure that we should even attempt it, but after reading that people actually do visit in the summer, we decided to go. I am really glad we did! We heeded safety warnings, brought plenty of water, did not do any long hikes and stayed within sight distance of the car. We only had a partial day to spend at the park so it was a really quick tour and we only hit some of the highlights.
We started out at Harmony Borax Works. The famous 20-mule teams were used for the difficult task of hauling the borax out of Death Valley to market. The Harmony Borax Works played an important part of the history of Death Valley and the settlement of the Furnace Creek area.
Next was a short stop at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center. Check out that temperature! It was about 11 am. It is definitely a dry heat! Make sure you drink plenty of water. With the dry heat, you do not sweat and may not realize that you are becoming dehydrated until it is too late.
On to Badwater Basin and the salt flats!
Badwater Basin was as far as we went in the southern section of the park. We turned back toward Furnace Creek and stopped at Devil’s Golf Course. Crystallized salt was deposited here by ancient oceans and then shaped by wind and rain leaving a sharp, ragged landscape that was said a place where only the devil could play golf!
Next stop on our whirlwind Death Valley tour was the Artist’s Palette Loop Drive. The colors on this drive are spectacular. Pictures just don’t do it justice. It was early afternoon when we drove the loop. It is supposed to be even more scenic in the late afternoon or early evening sun.
We began to slowly make our way west towards the western exit of the park. Before reaching Stovepipe Wells Village, we stopped at Mesquite Sand Dunes. This place (according to literature at the visitor’s center) is one of the most dangerous places in the park. The dunes look much closer than they actually are and most of the deaths in the park have been because people try to hike to the dunes in hot weather and become dehydrated and disoriented. We stayed close to the car and admired from a distance since the temperature had reached close to 120 degrees.
Our last stop in Death Valley was at Stovepipe Wells Village for some refreshments. We needed to be in Mammoth Lake that night so we couldn’t stick around too long.
I really enjoyed Death Valley despite the heat. I hope to plan a trip back one day, hopefully in February or March when the wildflowers are blooming. There are so many more places to explore and I hate that we had to make it a super fast trip through, only skimming the surface of what the area has to offer. It is possible to tour Death Valley in the summer, not optimal conditions, but it is possible! Take A LOT of water with you and heed the “Turn Off Air Conditioning” warning signs when leaving the valley. As you climb, the car can easily become overheated. We had no problems, but did turn off the AC and had the windows open.
Coming up next….a stop at Manzanar, the Japanese Relocation Center that was in operation during World War II.