I had a conference for work in Las Vegas this past September and wanted to take advantage of my one free afternoon. Anytime I am lucky enough to travel for work or pleasure, I try to make time to visit a National Park in the region. I did some research prior to my trip and picked three landmarks within Death Valley National Park that I wanted to visit. I knew I would only have about 3 hours to explore this vast area. It was not easy choosing only three spots! I suggest at least spending 1-2 days there if you can. Death Valley is huge and I wish I had another day or two to experience other scenic areas.
When I reached the Visitor Center it was already 105 degrees and promising to get hotter once I went to Bad Water Basin. Bad Water Basin, at 282 feet below sea level, is best known for being the lowest point in North America. It’s made up of 200 miles of salt flats, which are too harsh of an environment for most plants and animals to survive.
I had grand plans to hike the flats to get away from all the tourists and their footprints but the unrelenting sun kept me from accomplishing my ambitious mission. Instead, I decided to get down on the ground to shoot photos showing off the crunchy salt crystals. Despite loads of water and Gatorade, I had to turn back to get to a cooler temperature. (I also suggest not going to Death Valley in the summer or September. The heat is intense.)
My body was a bit defeated at this point so I went to Artist’s Drive Loop where long hikes were not required to get awesome photos. I stopped at Artist’s Palette where the hills boast green, brown, and gray claystone layers, a product of oxidized metals (iron, mica, and manganese) in the mountains.
My last stop of this whirlwind adventure was Zabriskie Point. If you only have time for one stop at Death Valley, this is the place. I felt like I was on a movie set that was intending to look like another planet. The Earth was hard packed and with every step, I could hear crunching beneath my feet. The air barely moved and I felt my senses all become more alive. Despite other tourists flocking there to watch the sunset, it was so quiet and peaceful. While I originally went there to catch sunset photos, I found the need to sit at the top of the hill and just watch and listen to the wonder that was in front of me. The other tourists did not speak. I think we were all humbled by the show that the sun was putting on for us.