Given our rental van company excluded insurance cover for travel through Death Valley as part of its T&Cs, we were primed for some of the below sea level park’s extreme climatic conditions. We were therefore surprised to instead encounter magical fields brimming with wildflowers! The temperatures this time of year (March) were still 20 odd degrees fahrenheit higher than surrounding areas but remained entirely pleasant.
The first stop in our short jaunt through the park was the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. These dunes have been used pretty heavily in cinema due to their proximity to Hollywood, most notably in Star Wars. You could definitely mistake this place for Tatooine!
We then pressed on to take a short hike through Mosaic Canyon (entry required us to traverse a super bumpy road). This area was fun to explore, as the lower canyon entrance is very narrow and provides opportunities to scramble amongst the flood-polished marble walls. We turned around after walking in about a mile so that we could catch some of the other sites by the day’s end.
Badwater Basin was to be our last stop, and we arrived just as the sun was setting. This is the lowest point in North America (282 feet BELOW sea level!). The Basin is composed of salt flats, formed by the combination of three key factors – the drainage system providing the salt (erosion of mineral rock sediments that are carried by water flooding inwards), a (very) arid climate and an enclosed basin which prevent the salts being washed away.
The flats are quite surreal and have an other worldly quality to them, especially as the richly coloured sunset emerged in the distance.
Death Valley is ridiculously diverse and offers an array of sightseeing and hiking opportunities we barley scratched the surface of. The next challenge will be to take on the park at its hottest during summer!
- Mosaic Canyon Hike Guide