Accessible Beauty of Death Valley
The beauty of Death Valley can be enjoyed by everyone. You don’t have to be physically fit and it can be enjoyed without hiking or leaving the highway for that matter. There are many turnouts and wide roads with ample shoulders for you to stop at and take photos and just enjoy the vistas of the valley. Many visitors can be seen stopping to enjoy California Gold, not the mineral, which is a beautiful flower found in the lower elevation of the valley and can be found in abundance along Badwater Road. Along with the roadside landscapes, I’ve included 4 points of interest highlighting the easily accessible beauty of Death Valley.
The valley is known for the unbearable summer heat but it is also identified as the lowest point in North America and the 2nd lowest point in the world at 282 feet below sea level. Badwater Basin is a salt bed accessible via turnout and parking lot that leads to a platform and entrance to the 2nd lowest point in the world. Feel free to roam and walk on the salt. The view is amazing with the mountains of Panamint Range along with the snow-capped Telescope Peak in the background, rising 11,000 feet above sea level.
Artist Drive and Artiste Palette
Along Badwater Road you’ll find another one of nature’s wonders that dot the valley. Look for the entrance to Artist Drive, a nine mile one-way loop that rises up an alluvial fan. A fan or cone-shaped deposit of sediments crossed and built up by streams. The flows come from a single source at the apex of the fan. This geological wonder can be experienced without leaving your vehicle with multiple turnouts all along the road. I suggest you do exit your vehicle and just admire what nature has created. One spot you must stop, yes I insist, is Artist Pallet. An unbelievable array of colors not readily associated with rocky geological features cover the hillsides.
Repeated volcanic eruptions blanketed the landscape with ash and minerals more than five million year ago. The volcanic minerals were chemically transformed by heat and water, with variable amounts of oxygen and other elements. Red hematite and green chlorite are some of the colored minerals present here. Aptly named as this is mother nature’s artiste palette with colors splashed across the slopes.
Zabriskie Point is in the eastern part of the valley along highway 190 and only requires a short walk up to a look-out point that overlooks Lake Manley, or what remains of a lake that existed millions of years ago. What you see now is the saline mud, gravel, and ash that formed the sediments that now shape the Furnace Creak Formation. From this vantage, point you can see the Red Cathedral, portions of the Artist Drive, Badwater Basin, Panamint Range and Telescope Point. The best time visit is at sunset as the change in light will make the appearance of the landscape change before your eyes. Stay until it is completely dark as the remaining light will illuminate the clouds in an forgettable way. Unfortunately, I was unable to capture this as we had already made our way on to the highway and only saw this quickly changing sky from the road.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
This picturesque sand dunes of Mesquite Flat is another place that requires no strenuous activity to enjoy its beauty. North of Furnace Creek along highway 190, it is accessible right off the highway. For more about this wondrous place, see my article on Mesquite Flat.