Stark desert beauty welcomes visitors to California’s Death Valley and Fall is arguably the best time to go. The valley, situated between the Amargosa and Panamint mountain ranges, features a closed basin, rugged canyons, sand dunes and snow-capped mountains. Originally named for a group of lost pioneers in 1849, Death Valley brims with organisms that have adapted to high temperatures and very little rainfall. While Spring wildflowers make it the most popular season to visit, Fall offers warm weather, rugged beauty and fewer tourists.
7 Don’t-miss Death Valley Points of Interest to Visit in Fall
1. Death Valley’s Zabriskie Point Shines in Fall
Located in the east of Death Valley in the Amargosa Range, Zabriskie Point is an elevated vista with the best views of the tan, brown and yellow striped hills. The point, named in honor of Borax businessman Christian Zabriskie, is especially breathtaking at sunrise or sunset. The point affords views of high point Manly Beacon as well as the salt flats. If you enjoy hiking trails with spectacular views, take the trail to Gower Gulch or Golden Canyon.
2. Visit Death Valley’s Devil’s Golf Course in Fall
The Devil’s Golf Course runs for about 40 miles, from Ashford Mill to Salt Creek Hills. At one time, Lake Manly covered the space; but it evaporated, leaving salt and minerals behind. Over time, rain and wind morphed these minerals into the salty, crusty, odd formations we see today. If you listen closely, you may be able to hear millions of tiny salt crystals bursting in the heat. Now that’s hot.
3. Artist Drive and Artist’s Palette
Those with difficulty hiking can still enjoy the sights by exploring Artist’s Drive. The drive is about 9 miles and takes approximately 25 – 40 minutes. The road is all one-way, so watch out for pedestrians.
If you wish to Access Artist’s Palette, turn into the parking lot and walk to the pastel mountainside. It’s hard to believe that the splotches of green, red, pink, blue and yellow painted on the Black Mountains aren’t man-made or computer generated. But, these freaky beauties arrived courtesy of Mother Nature via chemical weathering and oxidation.
4. Death Valley’s Desert Animals More Visible in Fall
You may think of the desert as dry and inhospitable, but many species disagree. The amazing animals of Death Valley find astonishing ways to adapt to life in sweltering temperatures and little access to water. For example, the Bighorn Sheep that live here can survive without water for several days. Even more astonishing, Kangaroo rats can live here without water, depending only on their vegetarian diet to supply needed hydration. Visit Death Valley’s animals in Fall, as they are more visible due to milder temperatures.
5. Scotty’s Castle – Temporarily Closed
Temporarily Closed. According to Death Valley website, renovations begin in Fall 2021 and should be finished in 2023. Suppose you desired a Spanish-style mansion located in Death Valley, with fountains and a pipe organ. Well, you’re in luck! It seems a swindler named Walter Perry Scott used the property to help him look the part of a wealthy gold miner. He collected money from investors toward operating a gold mine that would produce tremendous returns. Only, he did not own any gold mines.
Interestingly, after learning of the scheme, one of the investors, who had entrusted Scott with thousands of dollars, befriended him. Albert M. Johnson and Scott became friends for life.
6. Mesquite Flats
For me, the word “desert” conjures up images of endless sand dunes. Chances are, you’ve seen Death Valley’s sand dunes in various films like Star Wars or television programs like The Twilight Zone.
Sand dunes are created when eroding mountains break down into rocks that further break down into sand. That sand is blown by the wind until it hits a barrier and collects in large piles. Many animal species make their home in sand dunes including kangaroo rats. Mesquite Flats is named for the abundance of mesquite trees in the area.
Since Death Valley’s camping season begins in Fall, and elevated locations like Mesquite Springs (50 miles from Mesquite Flats) will be cooler than the lower camping grounds.
7. Discover Badwater Basin Death Valley Hikes in Fall
Badwater Basin consists of nearly 200 square miles of salt flats. Although it seems to be blanketed in snow, it is actually salt (plus a little gypsum and borax). Despite the salinity, many organisms make a comfy home here. This area, once covered in a lake with no outlet, the basin is the result of continuous rainfall and evaporation. Strange salt polygons can be seen by taking an easy 2 mile hike.
This is the lowest point in America at 282 feet below sea level.
So, why wait for Spring to discover this California landmark? Fall is a great time to explore the history and desert beauty of Death Valley.
Remember: Safety First! Plan your visit carefully. Be sure to check temperatures, closures and updates on the National Park website. Bring plenty of water as well as comfortable shoes and clothes. You’re in for an adventure!