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Legend has it that Death Valley received its name from a group of 19th-century pioneers who were rescued from the region in the middle of winter. "Goodbye, Death Valley," one of the pioneers was heard saying as he scrambled out of the backcountry. These days, the landscape is made accessible by modern-day amenities that appeal to scientists and everyday adventurers eager to surround themselves with the beauty of Death Valley National Park. Journey to the lowest point in North America at Badwater Basin or investigate the Borax Museum at Furnace Creek, which holds the record for the highest recorded air temperature on earth. From otherworldly sand dunes to sweeping scenic vistas, Death Valley appeals to intrepid travelers of every persuasion.
No matter how you make your way to Death Valley National Park, endless wonders await. Multiple hotel accommodations and a museum detailing the region's borax-mining history can be found at Furnace Creek, while can't-miss sights are sprinkled through the park at Stovepipe Wells, Badwater Basin, and Shoshone.
Furnace Creek is Death Valley's largest town, servicing the region with hotel accommodations and a staffed visitor center. The Borax Museum details the region's prospecting past, while views of the badlands abound at Zabriskie Point.
A few meters above sea level sits Stovepipe Wells, a convenient way-station where an Old West-themed hotel and general store provide supplies a few miles from the mesmerizing Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.
Badwater Basin is home to Death Valley's sprawling salt flats in a basin famous for being the lowest recorded point in North America. Several hundred feet below sea level, the salt flats give way to eye-catching crystal formations.
The southern gateway to Death Valley National Park, Shoshone beckons with a restaurant, bar, and coffee house, plus the Shoshone Museum, which showcases relics like mammoth’s teeth that have been unearthed inside the park’s boundaries.
From multicolored badlands to tall sandstone peaks, there are a plethora of things to see in Death Valley National Park. For unobstructed views, trade the lowlands at Furnace Creek for a summit in the Black Mountains. A paved road leads to Dante's View, which is believed to be one of the premier photographic spots in all of Death Valley. Or, set your sights on the Artist's Drive, where paved roads meander through a region shaped by explosive volcanoes. At Artist's Palette, marvel at an exquisite cliff face where oxidation has caused the rocks to adopt a rainbow of hues. Finally, those who are keen to hike should consider a trek to the relatively secluded Red Cathedral in the Golden Canyon region.
From all-day nature excursions to thrilling dune expeditions, there are a bevy of things to do in Death Valley National Park. A full-day sightseeing tour introduces travelers to the park's main highlights, with stops to drink in the beauty of 20 Mule Team Canyon and the Funeral and Black Mountain Ranges. Or, consider joining a certified interpretive guide on a tour that traces a route from Las Vegas to Hell's Gate, where you can snap photos of desert gorges while hoping to catch sight of bighorn sheep and lizards. Likewise, a small-group sightseeing adventure can get you up-close with sights like the Devil's Golf Course and the desert community of Pahrump. Finally, you don't need to limit your explorations to the national park boundaries. Daredevils can test their mettle on some of the United States' tallest sand dunes during a guided ATV, UTV, or dune buggy tour of the Amargosa Desert, while the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel attracts history buffs who want to behold a relic from the region's borax-boom days.