Benfield's 2013 Travels travel blog




















































Today we visited Death Valley, our third National Park in four days and the largest US national park outside of Alaska. Okay, so Death Valley always conjures up the vision of flat, lifeless desert that’s extremely hot and goes on forever. NOT! Well, there are large flat areas that are incredibly hot – the hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere on earth was recorded in Death Valley: 134 degrees on July 10, 1913 at Greenland Ranch (now Furnace Creek), elevation 190 feet below sea level. But there is also at least one mountain peak in Death Valley National Park reaching over 11,000 feet.

We began our visit by stopping at Dante’s View, a mountaintop overlook that offers a view of much of the valley below. At 5,475 feet, it was windy and cool enough that we needed jackets to be comfortable. The viewpoint is located right above Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the park – and in the western hemisphere – at 282 feet below sea level. Across the valley from Badwater Basin is Telescope Peak, 11,049 feet. Dante’s View offers a 360-degree panorama of the park.

From there, we drove down to Badwater Basin where three buses of tourists were wandering out the walkway to the actual low point in the basin. We decided not to take the time to make the quarter-mile trek and instead satisfied ourselves with pictures of the area. On the cliff that overlooks the basin, there is a sign marking Sea Level and it’s surprising how far up the cliff the marker is.

After Badwater Basin we retraced our steps toward the highway but drove the Artist’s Loop on the way. This is a nine-mile one-way loop through some very colorful volcanic and sedimentary hills. The side trip to Artist’s Palette was particularly colorful and photogenic. Because of the twists and turns and two deep dips in the narrow road, it took nearly three-quarters of an hour to drive the nine miles.

Next we went to Furnace Creek Visitor Center where we viewed exhibits and videos documenting the park. As usual, we also stamped our National Parks Passport to document our visit. Then it was off to lunch at a cafe at Furnace Creek Resort, just a block or two from the Visitor Center. We both enjoyed a burger (overpriced but that’s to be expected where there is no competition) and shared coleslaw and fries.

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