How to Plan One Day In Death Valley Itinerary on a Budget

Located on the eastern border of south-central California, Death Valley National Park is one of the largest National Parks in the USA. Death Valley has its extremities, at one end it is the driest and hottest, and at the other, it also has the lowest elevation of the continent almost around 282 feet below sea level.

It offers one of the most beautiful landscapes in California. Death Valley has a record of the highest temperature on the earth. Death Valley itinerary from Los Angeles can be also made, as the routes to reach there may happen without the hassle and much quicker than in other regions of the USA. If you’re looking to spend one day in Death Valley, keep reading this ultimate Death Valley travel guide.

one day in Death Valley itinerary

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Best Time to Visit Death Valley National Park

Spring or autumn is the time best to visit Death Valley, National Park. Both the seasons are pleasant to visit for tourists with the soothing climatic condition and beautiful vegetation around.

Winters are the coldest and similarly, the summers are the hottest, quite common for a desert. Visiting during the winter season might appear comfortable during the day but can be chilling during the night. If you visit during the colder months you might lose out on some flora and fauna. Let us find below the Death Valley one-day itinerary.

How to Get to Death Valley National Park

By Car

Approaching Death Valley National Park by car is very common among tourists. Many drive from Los Angeles to enter the Park through the West entrance (it’s a 4.5-hour drive to Furnace Creek). Those driving from Las Vegas enter the Park through the east entrance (it’s a 2.5-hour drive to Furnace Creek)

People can also opt to travel to and around the Park by renting a camper van.

By Plane

McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas is the nearest commercial airport to Death Valley National Park, almost 130 miles apart. On the other hand, Los Angeles International Airport, which is 270 miles away is another major airport closest to the Park.

The nearby smaller airport options include Inyokern County Airport, 70 miles away and Stovepipe Wells Airport, and Furnace Creek Airport, which are inside the Park. Inside the park, airports are only for those owning Private Planes. If you are landing in any of the airports, Las Vegas or Los Angeles, rent a car to the park.

Read Also: 10 Crazy Hacks To Book Cheap Flights

How to Get Around Death Valley

The most common and convenient to get around in Death Valley is by your four-wheeler or a rented one. Most people enter the Death Valley through the west entrance coming from Los Angeles, which takes around 4.5 hours to drive to reach Furnace Creek. Those driving from Las Vegas enter Death Valley through the east entrance, which is a 2.5 hours drive to Furnace Creek.

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Visitors while entering Death Valley needs to pay an entrance fee. The Entry Pass has to be displayed on the dashboard while moving around in the Death Valley. It is advised to move around in an airconditioned vehicle for a comfortable and enjoyable trip. While moving in a four-wheeler maintain speed and also be on the paved roads.

If you do not have a car, Bundu Bus can be the cheapest option from Las Vegas. The Bundu Bus travels through a portion of the Death Valley on its way to Yosemite from Las Vegas but may not cover all the spots recommended.

One Day In Death Valley Itinerary
Death Valley

One Day in Death Valley Itinerary

The itinerary for the one-day visit to Death Valley National Park is chronologically designed, to touch upon the best spots.

The total driving time between the spots might be around 2 hours and visiting all the spots inclusive of the driving time will take around 9 hours.

So 9 hours of excitement and cherished memories to be captured in-camera with family and friends!!!

Things to do in Death Valley

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Trekking through the dunes of Death Valley comes with a feeling of being in the Sahara Desert for every tourist. Try reaching the place before sunrise to capture the incredible view of the ball of fire coming out from the dunes on the horizon. You will love to spend around 2 hours here.

Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley is 730 feet wide. The crater was formed in a single episode of phreatomagmatic eruption some 3000 years ago. To reach Ubehebe Crater, from Furnace Creek, follow the 190 north for 17 miles till the intersection with Scotty’s Castle Road. Then turn right and move north for 33.4 miles via Scotty’s Castle Road. Then turn left on Racetrack Road (before 1.6 miles from Scotty’s Castle) and drive 5.5 miles via gravel to the crater.

Ubehebe Crater
Ubehebe Crater

Furnace Creek Visitor Center 

The next destination is the Furnace Creek Visitor Center which opens at 8 am in the morning. There is an entrance fee to be paid here and with surety grab the map of the park from here. Enjoy the exhibits at the center for an hour or so, before heading to your next spot.

Racetrack Playa

Racetrack Playa is a mystery that cannot be explained. It is the most amazing sight in Death Valley. You reach Racetrack Playa via the Teakettle Junction, where you find a lot of tea kettles hung on a board, made of brass, aluminum, and tea kettle with bullet holes. If you ask why? God knows. On the Racetrack, you will come across rocks making tracks, which means moving on their own. Why? How? That’s the mystery. Worth visiting.

Artist’s Drive

After backtracking a bit reach the  9 miles drive from Zabriskie Point to this spot is filled with incredible canyons and colorful mountain ranges.

Artist’s Palette

It is the most famous stop on the way, where you can stop for a moment to breathe the scenic beauty. Here you can witness the change of color of the Volcanic mineral that has happened over time. This spot will take 1-1.5 hours of yours.

Artist’s Palette
Artist’s Palette

Scotty’s Castle

It is like a mirage in the desert, Scotty’s Castle is a castle made in Spanish style. It is the oldest and fabled attraction of Death Valley. A 1920 mansion in the northern part of the Park. Since 1930 it has been attracting tourists. It was built in the 1920s by an Insurance Executive from Chicago, Albert Johnson. Scotty’s Castle was Johnson’s vacation getaway along with his wife Bessie. The primary resident of Scotty’s Castle was Walter Scott, who was a gold prospector, and a cowboy, who performed in the show named Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West”.

Zabriskie Point

A short trek to the spot, which will give you a feeling, after reaching, like being on Mars. A lovely picnic spot to sit together and gossip over some refreshments.

Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point

Devil’s Golf Course

On the floor of Death Valley is a large salt span called Devil’s Golf Course. The surface of the Golf Course is so rough and the temperature so hot during the day, it is said that only the Devils can play golf there. That is how the name was coined. If you are a Golf lover and would like to try on a rigged surface, this is the place for you to visit once.

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Badwater Basin Salt Flats

Enjoying sometimes at Devil’s Golf Course, move towards it to witness the sunset. This spot is the lowest point in North America, 282 feet below sea level. Spend here at least an hour to see the Sunset behind the mountains.

After sunset, it is now time to bid goodbye to the Death Valley and head towards your base for the night’s stay. Enjoy the dusk drive with the sky filled with stars. It calls for a halt on the way back to your base to witness the darkness around with the starry sky above.

If you are planning to overstay in the Death Valley for 2-3 days you can visit a few other places as well with the help of a local tour guide.

What to Bring in Death Valley

Visiting Death Valley National Park is not recommended in summer. Hiking in Death Valley can be suitable during the colder months. The best season for visiting is in spring and autumn. Therefore, the suggestions for packing are mentioned accordingly.

  • Sun Hat – An essential for the Death Valley visit
  • Water Filter Bottle– Fill it from your place of stay and you can again refill it when you visit the Visitor Center.
  • Water Jug/Can – Carrying excess water is advised for the full day of travel
  • Day Pack – A lightweight Back-pack is better for easy and comfortable movement
  • Hiking Shoes – Trekking on the sand and also on hard rocks need hiking shoes
  • Hiking Socks – Socks that can absorb sweat and moisture are advised for comfort
  • Sweat-Wicking Shirts – Full sleeves pure cotton shirt will keep you comfortable

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Death Valley National Park is a place where you will not find any stores to shop for your essentials therefore you have to have your resources ready, so overpack but never under pack.

death valley

Where to Stay in Death Valley

Inside The Park

  • The Ranch – An affordable lodging option in the Furnace Creek area with fooding options, a swimming pool, a cafeteria, a golf course, a basketball court, a tennis court, and a playground for children.
  • Panamint Springs Resort – It is a one-hour drive from Furnace Creek toward the western side of the park. It has many rooms and cabin options with a campground. It also has a general store, bar, and restaurant.

Outside The Park

Though moving in and out of the park to your place of stay outside would never be a recommended option, because of the very large area of the park, in case you have to, there are few at half an hour distance from Furnace Creek.

  • Amargosa Opera House and Hotel – With amenities like a microwave and a refrigerator in a common area. Free parking is available.
  • Longstreet Inn and Casino – Amenities include a 24-hour front desk, 24-hour business center, and laundry. This hotel also has two meeting rooms for events. Free parking is available.

Read Also: 10 Tips on How To Book Cheap Hotels

Where to Eat in Death Valley

There are quite a few eateries in Death Valley National Park. Many new ones have come up with the increase in visitors and the Park gaining popularity. A few of the food joints are mentioned below for your reference –

  • Panamint Springs – This small desert outpost located at the western edge of the Park offers outdoor seating with a view of the distant dunes around. The typical menu has items like pizza, burgers, and different types of salads. It also offers a huge collection of craft beer.
  • The 19th Hole – The restaurants are just like Oasis in the warm desert. The 19th Hole, with its outdoor seating arrangement and green golf course, which is also the lowest golf course in the world, to practice your swings, rejuvenates you amidst your adventure trip. The 19th Hole can serve you beers and burgers.
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If you are a budget travel buff and want to save some money on food, read our ultimate guide to eat cheap while traveling.

Philly Cheese Steak with Tots
Philly Cheese Steak with Tots

Travel Tips for Visiting Death Valley in One Day

Few things to be kept in mind before you enter the Death Valley National Park

  • Download an offline map on your cellphone since you may not get any network coverage inside. Check out the list of most recommended travel apps for budget travelers.
  • Fill up your tank with gas for the day trip, if needed you might refuel at the Visitor Center or Stovepipe Wells
  • Drive on the designated road only
  • If having pets with you, always have them leashed throughout
  • Death Valley road trip might be full of fun as tourists get to see some sprawling beautiful landscapes during their journey. Don’t forget to check the road trip essentials before hitting the road.

Final Words

Death Valley National Park is one of the most beautiful places in California. As the name suggests it is a place that can be killing if you are not well prepared with the proper amenities. But then if you are well prepared it can be a trip of a lifetime. It is known for the beautiful landscapes, the dunes, and views of the sunrise and sunset. Death Valley is dog-friendly; you can take your pet along campgrounds, picnic areas, and other developed areas of the park, but they must be kept on a leash. Memories of the trip and the adventures captured in the camera will be a treasure to cherish for the rest of your life.

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FAQ – One Day in Death Valley Itinerary

1. Is Death Valley worth visiting?

A: Few trips once made rejuvenate you at any point in time since it is full of adventure, thrill, and eye refreshing landscapes. If you’re planning a one day Death Valley trip from Las Vegas that would be a gala experience altogether. Death Valley is definitely a worth visit.

2. Is one day enough in Death Valley?

A: One day in the Death Valley national park might be a little rush since almost all the spots to be visited make a venue for some moments to stay for a while and cherish it. Ideally, two days are comfortable for the trip. If you ask what to do in Death Valley in one day, there are many things such as hiking, sightseeing, and eyeing some virgin landscapes.

3. What should I not miss in Death Valley?

A: On a day trip to Death Valley, there are around 8-9 spots which are bound to be visited. Picking out any single spot is difficult, each one of them is equally different from each. Even if you run out of time, sunrise at Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, and Ubehebe Crater should not be missed.

4. How many days do you need in Death Valley?

A: Death Valley National Park can be a trip of 2-3 days ideally, with relaxation and a comfortable stay.

5. Is it safe to go to Death Valley?

A: Of course, it is but a seasonal trip, during spring and autumn, is recommended for overall enjoyment, and relaxation. Death Valley in a day is going to be safe with friends and family. A trip during winter can be taken but nights are going to be chill. It was better to avoid trips to the Park during summer.

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