A place with a name such as Death Valley commands a certain level of respect from those that dare travel across its salty, white sands. This below-sea-level basin got its haunting name from emigrants who, whilst crossing in search of California’s gold fields, endured two months of ‘thirst, hunger and an awful silence’ and on leaving were supposed to of proclaimed, ‘Goodbye, Death Valley’. The lowest point of North America and one of the hottest in the world, it’s not hard to imagine yourself traversing across a faraway planet, the mountains in the distance never getting closer.
The air temperature can reach over 49°C during the summer months but a welcome breeze can be found at one of the valley’s many peaks. For the best views head up to Dante’s view around 30 minutes before sunset. which can boast a cinematic view to leave you frozen. The temperature drops around this time and can approach temperatures that could be described as ‘a little chilly’ so, perhaps bizarrely, remember to pack a jumper.
A dry lakebed named Racetrack Playa has held a Death Valley mystery for centuries, an unknown phenomenon described to tourists as ‘the sailing stones’. These stones appear to move freely across the baking floor with seemingly no animal or human intervention, leaving straight tracks differing in direction and length. Many studied the strange moving rocks to little explanation until August 2014 when time-lapse footage exhibited the rocks slowly moving at low wind speeds across thin, melting sheets of ice.
One of the areas most appealing features, the lack of mobile phone signal, may also be one of its most dangerous. Visitors are advised to let someone know you’re going beforehand. A seven day pass with limitless re-entry is a reasonable $20 for a standard car – be sure to fill up your petrol tank before entering the park however, as they do have stations but prices can typically be up to a dollar more per gallon.