The Real Reason You Should Visit Death Valley in Winter

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The Real Reason You Should Visit Death Valley in Winter

Written by: Oasis at Death Valley , December 11th, 2018

Death Valley comes by its sizzling reputation honestly. But that’s only during summer. In winter, Death Valley miraculously morphs into a desert paradise. And when you visit The Oasis at Death Valley — with its AAA Four Diamond The Inn at Death Valley and family-friendly The Ranch at Death Valley — you’ll discover a place transformed.

During winter, average temperatures range from the mid-60s to the low 70s with overnight lows frequently dropping into the upper 30s. Those cooler conditions combine with clear, sunny days to make winter the perfect season to get explore Death Valley National Park. When the most of the country is shivering, you can be basking in warm, dry days with endless sun.

Here are a few special ways you can enjoy winter in Death Valley.

Death valley things to do in winter

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Hit the Trail

Winter weather provides the perfect conditions to follow trails into the park’s canyons and see its incomparable geology.

You’ll find easy-to-reach trailheads near the resort along Badwater Road, including the classic hike into Golden Canyon, just five minutes away. But many visitors miss the much less crowded trek that explores nearby Desolation Canyon. It’s an easy-to-follow cross-country route (just look for the footprints) that leads into a canyon, which gradually narrows and reaches colorful formations similar to the brilliantly hued Artist’s Palette (farther south off Badwater Road along Artist’s Drive).

Death valley things to do in winter

See stars like you never have before at Death Valley, a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park

Gaze at the Sky

Except at higher elevations, you won’t see any trees at Death Valley. But what you will see is sky — and lots of it.

If you love photography, winter offers optimal shooting conditions. Storms from the Pacific Coast send billowing clouds out over the desert that create an impressive backdrop for pictures of Death Valley’s expanses. The low-angle winter light also helps reveal details in the landscape that harsher sun conditions wash out, and things get especially dramatic when the clouds leave 11,049-foot-high Telescope Peak, the highest point in the park, covered in snow.

After dark, Death Valley boasts some of the best stargazing anywhere in the world. The dry desert air and distance from sources that spew light pollution helped Death Valley earn prestigious designation as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Park from the International Dark-Sky Association.

Even if you don’t have high-end optics of your own (although basic binoculars enhance viewing), during events with park rangers and local astronomy associations you can gaze into the universe through high-powered telescopes. For example, the Las Vegas Astronomical Society holds complimentary star parties at The Ranch at Death Valley.

Death valley things to do in winter

Shoot Your Lowest Round Ever (That’s a Guarantee!)

In most of the country, frigid winter weather forces golfers to take a hiatus. After all, a green certainly isn’t green when it’s covered by snow.

But for golfers, winter is prime time in Death Valley.

Many visitors are surprised to discover that Death Valley, the driest spot in North America, actually has a golf course. But thanks to a highly efficient irrigation system, water sourced from nearby natural springs, and tough Bermuda grass that can withstand the area’s weather extremes and salty soil, The Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley is a duffer’s delight.

Add the world’s lowest elevation golf course, a par-70, 18-hole circuit that’s 214 feet below sea level, to your golf passport. As unique as the experience may be, The Furnace Creek Golf Course at Death Valley is no mere novelty. A beautifully designed and challenging layout, the course has earned honors as one of America’s toughest courses from Golf Digest. And don’t expect your drives to carry as far: The heavier, low elevation air means that you’ll surrender distance on your shots.

Death valley things to do in winter

The pools at The Inn and The Ranch are both naturally spring-fed, and consistently 87 degrees year-round

Swim in a Real Oasis

If temperatures in the 30s or 40s hardly sound appealing for a swim, the cool winter nights create ideal conditions for one of the most sublime experiences awaiting guests at both The Inn at Death Valley and The Ranch at Death Valley. Both of these lodging choices have pools filled by natural springs that deliver water that stays in the 80s, even on the chilliest nights. The contrast between the balmy pool and the cold air is positively heavenly. The Inn’s historic pool has been beautifully restored, and if you need a little warm-up after a dip, get toasty in front of one of two wood-burning fireplaces along the deck.

Death valley things to do in winter

A rare “super bloom” event covering large expanse of the desert valley floor with wild flowers, dominated by the golden yellow of desert gold flowers (also known as desert sunflowers or Geraea canescens) in Death Valley National Park in California. The Amargosa mountains rise over the valley in the background.

Ooh and Ahh at Wildflowers

From mid-February to mid-April, when the conditions are right, Death Valley is painted with an explosion of color from a carpet of wildflowers. Golden evening primrose, notch-leaf phacelia, sand verbena, purple mat, gravel ghost, and brown-eyed evening primrose brush the arid landscape in Easter egg colors — especially the expansive fields of desert gold for which Death Valley is famous. To appreciate the diversity of blooms, get out of your car and walk. You’ll be rewarded with a spread of color blanketing the desert floor — perfect for Instagram moments.

How to Explore

The Oasis at Death Valley is situated in a lush oasis surrounded by the vast and arid desert of Death Valley National Park — just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The resort encompasses two hotels — the historic AAA Four Diamond, 66-room Inn at Death Valley and the family-oriented, 224-room Ranch at Death Valley. The resort includes natural spring-fed pools, an 18-hole golf course, horse and carriage rides, world-renowned stargazing, and is surrounded by Death Valley National Park’s main attractions. For information and reservations, visit The Oasis at Death Valley or call 800-236-7916.

To discover A World of Unforgettable Experiences® available from Xanterra Travel Collection® and its affiliated properties, visit

Written by: Matt Jaffe

Specializing in California, the Southwest, and Hawaii, Matt Jaffe is an award-winning former senior writer at Sunset magazine and contributes to a variety of publications, including Los Angeles, Arizona Highways, and Westways. His books include The Santa Monica Mountains: Range on the Edge and Oaxaca: The Spirit of Mexico.

— Update: 11-02-2023 — found an additional article What to do in Death Valley in Winter from the website for the keyword death valley things to do in winter.

Welcome to Death Valley, one of the largest, most varied and craziest national parks to visit in the US! Winter is actually the best time to be there – so there you go, here is our guide to visiting Death Valley in winter 2023 and beyond!

**Article updated on Nov 28th, 2022**

If you’ve been following us on this blog, or on our social media, you’ll probably know we spent two months on our US Southwest road trip of a lifetime, between January and February 2020. 

During our trip, we visited several US national parks in winter. We hiked in Zion, marvelled at the snowy landscape of Bryce Canyon, toured the desert in Big Bend, got lost amid the dunes in White Sands, and more.

Visiting national parks in the coldest months of the year came with disadvantages – the cold weather, fewer hours of sunlight, and sometimes partial closures.

Death valley things to do in winter
Magical winter sunsets in Death Valley National Park

However, advantages more than outweighed problems – the national parks we visited in winter were very, very quiet. Visits were always an enjoyable experience, with no crowds and queues. 

Death Valley National Park doesn’t fit into this pattern. Winter is high season in Death Valley – the only season in the year where temperatures are actually bearable, and you can visit and even hike without dreaming of air con. 

This means that visiting Death Valley in winter needs to be planned ahead. You need to reserve accommodation in advance if you plan to stay in the national park, and decide where to go – did I mention Death Valley is huge? It’s actually the largest US national park in the Lower 48!

After visiting Death Valley in winter, we’ve put together this guide to make planning easier for you. Let us know if there are any info you wish us to include!

Don’t have time to read it all? This full-day tour of Death Valley NP from Las Vegas includes all the main sights!

Death valley things to do in winter
Clear skies, warm weather and stunning scenery – this is Death Valley in winter!

Things to Know About Death Valley in Winter

Death Valley Winter Weather

Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth, because of a combination of lack of water, elevation below sea level, and rocks in the valley floor and surrounding mountains, trapping the heat in the depression. 

Death Valley is also the place where the hottest temperature ever was recorded on Earth – a whopping 134°F (57°C), recorded at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913.

In summer, Death Valley is truly scorching. Temperatures top 120°F (49°C), and only dip into the 90s°F (mid-30s°C) at night. Even getting out of a vehicle to walk to a viewpoint becomes hard due to the severe heat – hiking is near impossible unless you have a death wish. 

In contrast, winter is a very pleasant time to visit Death Valley. Daytime temperatures are in the 70s°F (between 20-25°C), dropping just above freezing at night. You can hike without breaking into a sweat after 5 seconds, and there’s no need to really worry about rain – it hardly ever rains in Death Valley, in winter or otherwise. 

Does it Ever Snow in Death Valley?

In short, the answer is no. It only rains an average of 3/4 days in Death Valley throughout the year, and given that temperatures are well above freezing usually, the chances of enough snowfall to accumulate on the valley floor are very small indeed. 

However, don’t forget that not all of Death Valley National Park is below sea level.

The park does indeed include Badwater Basin, the lowest place in North America, at an elevation of 282 feet (86 m) below sea level. However, there’s a huge elevation difference between the lowest and highest point in the park – Telescope Peak, 11,043 feet (3,366 m) high.

You will indeed find snow on Telescope Peak and surrounding mountains, but not on the valley floor where you’re likely to spend the majority of your time in Death Valley in winter. 

Death valley things to do in winter
Death Valley in February is ideal for scenic driving!

How to Get to Death Valley

Death Valley National Park is in southeastern California, about 150 miles west of Vegas and 185 miles north of Los Angeles.

The park measures 140 miles from north to south, and it’s between 5 and 15 miles wide. As a result, distances to Death Valley largely depend on where in the park you are planning to go. There are two main entrances – Panamint Springs to the west and Death Valley Junction to the east.

Driving time from Vegas is approximately two hours, and you’ll be entering the park from Death Valley Junction. 

Visitors coming from California will definitely enter from Panamint Springs. Driving time from Los Angeles is about 4 hours and distance is just over 200 miles, depending where in LA you’ll be leaving from.

From San Francisco, driving time is 8 hours, and distance is around 450 miles. We recommend breaking the trip to visit Sequoia National Park, which is also amazing in winter!

Getting Around Death Valley in Winter

Given its sheer size, the best (and only, really) way to get around Death Valley is by car. Most Death Valley points of interest are located close to Highway 190, crossing the park from north to south, and on a one (long) day you can check out most of them. 

It’s also possible to cycle around Death Valley, but please don’t attempt this in any other seasons besides winter, and only if you’re really fit and experienced. 

Is Death Valley Busy in Winter?

Death Valley’s high season is in winter, so you may expect to find crowds. You’ll be pleased to know this is rarely the case! The park is so big, and there are so many things to do and see, that even on a weekend or public holiday visitors are likely to be scattered all over. 

So, Death Valley in winter is pleasant, AND you are unlikely to be stuck in crowds. This is really reason to add it to your California itinerary!

Death valley things to do in winter
This is as busy as it gets!

Best Death Valley Winter Hikes

One of the main reasons to visit Death Valley in winter is that it’s the only time during the year when hiking is actually possible.

Having said that, please be aware that temperatures can soar really quickly in winter as well – the day we visited in mid-Feb, it got to the mid-80s (about 20°C) in the middle of the day, and a seemingly easy hike became strenuous really quickly.

Don’t forget to have plenty of water with you, and avoid hiking in the middle of the day – always prefer morning or late afternoon.

Zabriskie Point Trail

Death valley things to do in winter
Amazing scenery at Zabriskie Point

Distance 0.3 miles / Difficulty Easy / Time 30 mins

As far as Death Valley hikes go, this is probably the easiest, a short trail leading to a viewpoint where you can enjoy sweeping views over the Badlands section known as Zabriskie Point.

The hike is paved and doesn’t present technical difficulties, but it’s uphill and in the blazing sun, so it may be hard if it’s hot. Don’t forget to take your water bottle!

If you want to hike deeper into the Badlands at Zabriskie Point, there is also a 2.7 mile loop departing from the viewpoint, taking you close to the rock formations.

A stop in Zabriskie Point is included along this sustainable 7-day tour of American National Parks – don’t miss it!

Darwin Falls

Distance 2.1 miles return /Difficulty Easy / Time 1.5 hours

Wait a second, isn’t Death Valley National park a desert? So, what is a waterfall doing there?

You’ll just have to take this easy yet rewarding hike to explore this oddity, a small but perennial waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation in the middle of the hottest and driest place in North America!

To see it, drive to the Darwin Falls parking lot just off Old Toll Road, only 3 miles from Panamint Springs. The trail is only a mile each way but it requires a bit of scrambling and creek crossing. You’ll see vegetation increase gradually, until you find the falls right in front of you at the end of the trail. 

Badwater Basin Crossing

Distance 6.5 miles one way / Difficulty Intermediate / Time up to 4/5 hours

Death valley things to do in winter
The start of the trail into Badwater Basin

This trail allows you to cross the vast depression known as Badwater Basin, which also includes the lowest place in North America. 

Total length is 6.5 miles point-to-point, and it does get kind of tedious after a while, so we don’t actually recommend hiking all of it – just turn back when you get fed up, or else arrange for someone to pick you up.

The trail starts at the parking lot along Badwater Road, and the first mile or so is well beaten, as this is what most people hike. After that, the path gets narrower and less clear, until it disappears completely.

It’s hard to get lost as the landscape is quite open, but don’t underestimate distance. The complete crossing is a full-day affair, and it can get very hot!

Badwater Basin is also one of the coolest places in Death Valley for stargazing, and winter offers perfect conditions – this Death Valley day trip includes stargazing, a fantastic experience!

Best Places to Visit in Death Valley National Park

Part of the appeal of visiting Death Valley in winter (or any other season, really) is the incredible landscape variety, and the opportunity to see several different scenic locations within relatively short driving distance. 

The following places can all be visited in one day. I’ve listed them in the same order we visited them, entering the park from the east (closest entrance if you’re driving from Vegas), and ending in Panamint Springs.

Don’t forget that Death Valley is huge, so follow the same order to minimise driving time!

This drive can be the perfect itinerary to follow if you’re in Death Valley for just one day. Let us know what you think!

Dante’s View

Death valley things to do in winter
Sweeping vistas at Dante’s View

From the east entrance, Dante’s View is only about half an hour drive away. If you wish to start your Death Valley in winter experience with a bang, Dante’s View is the ideal place – a viewpoint on a mountaintop at 5,476 ft (1,669 m), overlooking Death Valley. 

It’s the perfect place to get a sweeping view of Death Valley National Park – you can see the entire depression right before you, flanked by mountains. You can also see the shimmering expanse of Devil’s Golf course, which you’ll be visiting later on. 

The ‘Dante’ in the place name was chosen in reference to Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy. 

A stop at Dante’s View is included in this small-group tour of Death Valley NP from Las Vegas, the closest town to the park!

Zabriskie Point

Death valley things to do in winter
Crazy rock formations

20 miles and about 30 minutes drive from Dante’s Peak you’ll find Zabriskie Point, the most famous Badlands expanse in the national park, known for its colourful rocks.

You can leave your car at the parking lot and follow the short trail described above, or head into the Badlands on a longer trail to get close to the various rock formations.

The colours are due to the fact that the area was once the bottom of an ancient lake – what you see today are sediment layers, worn away by millions of years of erosion. 

In the early 20th century, borax was mined in Death Valley. The general manager was Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, after whom the location was named. You may also remember the name from Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1970 film, Zabriskie Point. 

On your way in or out of Zabriskie Point, you may also want to drive across Twenty Mule Team Canyon, a short, scenic unpaved road through the badlands named after the 20 mule teams that ferried borax away from the mines. 

Devil’s Golf Course

Death valley things to do in winter
Would you play golf here?

The next location is only 12 miles from Zabriskie Point. Devil’s Golf Course used to be the bottom of a lake – when this evaporated, it left a thick layer of salt, which was eroded over time into sharp, jagged shards, some of which are over two feet high. 

The name comes from one of the early National Park Service guidebooks, which described the location saying ‘only the devil could play golf’ there. Nowadays you may indeed find golfers there attempting to play – but be very, very careful as you walk around, as those salt spikes are sharp!

A fun way to visit Devil’s Golf Course is this 4×4 tour of Death Valley NP on bright pink jeep!

Artists Palette 

Death valley things to do in winter
Check out all the colours!

If you thought nothing could beat the colours of Zabriskie Point, think again! There’s a reason why this sedimentary hill is called Artists Palette – from vibrant pink, to ochre and even aquamarine, mineral layers and erosion have created a true colourful masterpiece of nature. 

To reach Artists Palette, you’ll have to drive down Artists Drive, a 9-mile scenic drive just off Badwater Road. Don’t forget it’s one way, so you’ll have to drive it south to north, which requires a little detour if you’re coming from Devil’s Golf Course. 

Distance from Devil’s Golf Course to Artists Palette is about 15 miles, also considering the scenic drive!

Badwater Basin

Death valley things to do in winter
The mighty Badwater Basin

Together with the badlands at Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin is THE place people associate with the image of Death Valley, a pool of salty water surrounded by salt flats, set in a 200-square mile depression.

As we mentioned before, Badwater Basin also includes the lowest point in North America, at 282 feet below sea level.

There’s a sign marking the spot, which gets crowded with visitors – but you just need to hike a little further to have the place to yourself, surrounded by the giant plains. If you want to hike all the way across, be sure to read the hiking informations we described in the previous section.

Fun fact – as you hike back towards the car park, you’ll see a sign on a mountain right in front of you marking sea level, giving you an idea of how ‘deep’ you are!

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Death valley things to do in winter
Sand dunes and sunset

You can’t have a desert without dunes, right? Well, Death Valley delivers also in this department! 

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is best place in Death Valley National Park to see dunes, especially at sunset. It’s 40 miles from Badwater Basin, not far from Stovepipe Wells were you can also find accommodation, so it’s the ideal conclusion to your 1 day itinerary around Death Valley in winter.

The dunes can get up to 100 feet high, and if you’ve never hiked on dunes before, you’ll soon see how hard it is! There’s no trail as such to follow, but if you’re visiting for sunset you’ll definitely see other people, so there’s no need to worry about getting lost. 

After night falls, you’ll just have to look up to see the marvel of a Death Valley starry sky! 

Death valley things to do in winter
Yes, Death Valley can indeed be dusty!

Where to Stay in Death Valley

Inside the National Park

-Camping: the most affordable way to stay inside Death Valley National Park is definitely camping. There are several campsites around the park, varying in terms of facilities, and opening times. The campsite at Furnace Creek is the only one that can be reserved in advance, all the others are available on a first come, first served basis. 

You can find more info about camping in Death Valley on this page on the NPS website. 

-The Oasis at Death Valley Resort: this resort located in Furnace Creek is definitely the best place to stay in the national park.

It is made up of two separate properties – The Inn at Death Valley, a luxury hotel dating back to the early 20th century with a spring-fed pool, and The Ranch at Death Valley, offering slightly more affordable motel-style accommodation.

-Stovepipe Wells: this is the second of the three accommodation options inside the hotel. It’s a Western-themed hotel with a saloon, restaurant and heated outdoor pool.

The main benefits of staying here are that rates are considerably cheaper than the Oasis at Death Valley, and it’s in an official dark sky viewing area. There is also an adjacent campsite and RV park.

-Panamint Springs: here you’ll find the most budget-friendly option inside Death Valley National Park.

Outside the National Park

The three hotels located inside Death Valley National Park are all quite steeply priced, and fill up fast in winter considering it’s also high season. 

For something a little more budget friendly, you may look for hotels in Beatty or Pahrump, two Nevada towns about 40 minutes away from the park. Here are some options!

— Update: 11-02-2023 — found an additional article Should You Visit DEATH VALLEY in WINTER? (Helpful Guide + Video) from the website for the keyword death valley things to do in winter.

Death valley things to do in winter
Snow on Telescope Peak | Death Valley in Winter

Winter in Death Valley

The best season to visit Death Valley National Park is Winter. Winter brings cooler, more manageable temperatures to Death Valley, and even some clouds! While December and January can be a bit rainy, February and March are a dream.

This makes winter our favorite season to visit Death Valley.

  • December weather in Death Valley is usually a bit chilly (the coldest month of the year for the park) and can be quite rainy, even to the point of flooding!
  • January weather in Death Valley is a bit cool with some rain showers that move in and out quickly.
  • February weather in Death Valley is wonderful with warmer (but not hot) temperatures and abundant sunshine (with some partly cloudy days) making it one of the best months to visit the park.
  • March weather in Death Valley is great with warm (even hot by the end of the month) temperatures and lots of sun.
WATCH: 4 minute visually stunning journey through Death Valley

RELATED: Comprehensive Death Valley National Park Guide

Winter Monthly Temperatures in Death Valley

December66F / 41F
January68F / 41F
February75F / 48F
March84F / 57F

RELATED: 10+ (FASCINATING) Death Valley National Park Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Winter Activities in Death Valley

Death valley things to do in winter
Death Valley in Winter

Winter is a great season for all sorts of activities in Death Valley National Park as cooler temperatures allow for extended time outdoors with significantly reduced risk of succumbing to the elements. Popular winter activities in Death Valley include:

  • Snowshoe up to Telescope Peak. It’s pretty cool to be able to say you went snowshoeing in Death Valley!
  • Explore the sand dunes like Eureka Dunes, Mesquite Dunes, Ibex Dunes without melting
  • See the mesmerizing reflections from water pools on the valley floor in Furnace Creek. 
  • Cool off in Lake Manly, a once massive lake that has now completely dried up and can only be experienced occasionally in Winter after heavy rains. 
  • Catch a sunrise at Zabriskie Point (great anytime of year)

RELATED: 16 STUNNING Things to Do in Death Valley National Park 2021

About Death Valley

Death valley things to do in winter
Ibex Dunes | Death Valley National Park

Situated on California’s southeastern border with Nevada, Death Valley National Park spans over 5,000 square miles of otherworldly vistas. The largest national park in the continental United States, Death Valley is a park for superlatives.

Read more  What to do in Death Valley in Winter

Death Valley is the hottest place on earth, the lowest place in North America, and the driest place in the United States. Death Valley is also the largest National Park outside of Alaska.

Death Valley Map

Death Valley Video

In the remote far reaches of the Mojave Desert lies the largest national park in the continental United States. Hidden here in the hottest place on earth is another world full of diverse life and colorful landscapes.

Join us as we take life to the extreme and explore Death Valley. Filmed primarily in 8K.​

Details About Death Valley National Park

  • Location: Furnace Creek, California
  • Established: October 31, 1994
  • Size: 3.37 million acres
  • Native Land: Timbisha Shoshone
  • Visitors: 1,678,660 (2018)

RELATED: 10+ (FASCINATING) Death Valley National Park Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

— Update: 12-02-2023 — found an additional article 14 Awesome Things To Do In Death Valley National Park [And Where To Stay] from the website for the keyword death valley things to do in winter.

.Things To Do In Death Valley National Park

We are excited to share this guest post from Matt at Ditching Suburbia. Him, his wife and 7 kids share their experience at Death Valley and all the places they recommend you stop!

Death valley things to do in winter

As we drive away from amazing places, we will often say to each other, “We’ll have to come back”. With so many Things To Do In Death Valley National Park, our tent camping visit in 2016 wasn’t enough and we went back in our RV in 2019 (but don’t worry if you don’t have an RV there is a great hotel on site!).

Death valley things to do in winter

Death Valley gets really hot in its off season. Though some do visit in the summer, and staff live in the small town of Furnace Creek year round, it really is more of a warm winter family vacation destination. It is one of the best National Parks to visit in January. In the winter it’s beautiful, nearly the perfect temperature, the star gazing is great as the air is still a bit cold (which I hear helps), and the animal life isn’t hiding from the sun as much.

One thing to note about Death Valley is that there is a lot more life here than the name suggests. Though it’s a desert, there are plants and animals that make this their home to which our kids like to call it valley of life in protest of it’s given name. When you visit, keep a watchful eye for all the life here.

Badwater Basin

Death valley things to do in winter

This is the lowest point in all of North America. At 282 feet below sea level, this basin of salt crystals is one of the main attractions for visitors to Death Valley National Park. This is truly a surreal landscape with a salt plain that is crisscrossed with a patchwork of hexagon formations that look like inverted cracks on white concrete.

We went in the late afternoon which is a great time to go as the sun shines on the mountain behind you and you can see, 282 feet up the mountain side, a sign that shows where sea level is. Late afternoon is also a great time to go as the sun casts long shadows of the patchworks onto the white salt giving a great light and dark contrast.

This is a popular place and depending on when you go you might have a hard time finding parking. It’s a decent sized parking lot, but there are a lot of visitors too. There is also an outhouse that is equally busy when the parking lot is.

After parking you walk out onto a small boardwalk that leads to a long trail through the salt flats. There were foreign tourists speaking many different languages and some walked barefoot saying they would pay good money for a foot treatment like this back home. Our kids kept their shoes on as the salt would sting tiny cuts in their feet (from all the other times when they don’t wear shoes when they should).

Devils Golf Course

On the road from Furnace Creek to Badwater Basin, there is a turn to the west that goes to Devils Golf Course. Here you will see a large area of salty mineral deposits that were formed long ago and are now shaped by wind and rain water. Though it also has salt crystal formations, being a few feet higher in elevation from Badwater Basin this place is dry as the rainwater pools in Badwater Basin and not here.

Salt Creek

Death valley things to do in winter

One of our children’s favorite places here is Salt Creek where a long boardwalk traverses vegetation and the water. This place looks far from what you would think you would see in Death Valley.

The creek below the boardwalk is home to pupfish, a tiny unique type of fish that are adapted to live in this environment. They are a bit hard to find, but there is a trick. Stand right next to a small bush that overhangs the creek and give the bush a light shake with your foot and watch for the fish to dart out.


Death valley things to do in winter

In addition to the pupfish and their adjacent plants, there is a lot of life throughout the valley to look out for. Notice the plants, birds, and trees (with our favorite being the palm trees) at Furnace Creek. Devil’s corn field is another place with living plants. The best for us though was seeing an elusive kit fox crossing the road – so be on the lookout for one of those.

Dante’s View

One thing to note about Death Valley is that it is full of contrasts. With the distinction of having the lowest point in North America, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the enormous mountains that surround the valley. The best place to get a view of these extremes in elevation is the overlook at Dantes View.

At over 5,400 feet in elevation, the clouds were surrounding the mountain, the parking lot and obscuring the view. From the lookout we only got glimpses of the valley below through occasional gaps in the clouds which made us feel like we had climbed Jack’s beanstalk and could only occasionally look down on the land below.

We did it during the day but apparently the best time to venture up to Dante’s View is early morning to catch the sunrise. You need to get there early so you can watch as the sunlight first hits Telescope peak on the other side of the valley before descending the Panamint Mountains and eventually across the basin. It gets really windy and cold up there so you will probably want to dress warm with gloves and something to break the wind.

While you are up there, you should do one of the hikes. There is a fairly easy trail that goes to the north and has it’s own spots that are great for a lookout. As we hiked, the clouds parted and the sun shone through giving us a great view.

Scotty’s Castle

This attraction has been closed for years due to flooding. Apparently on August 5, 2022 Death Valley recieved torrential rain causing flooding. Scotty’s Castle is expected to be closed until sometime in 2023 due to the flooding. Always verify that it is open prior to visiting.

Ubehebe Crater

We didn’t make it to Ubehebe Crater as it was over an hour drive from our campground on the road that also splits off to the closed roads to Scotty’s Castle. The fuel prices in Death Valley are very high, so we decided that we would save Ubehebe for next time when we can do both it and the castle on the same day. We were told that there are trails to explore and that you should schedule no less than 30 min to see it (and that’s if you don’t hike the trails).


Way beyond Ubehebe Crater is the Racetrack, a flat valley where fallen rocks that have left trails behind them as wind and ice have slowly moved them across the landscape. Driving here is a risky endeavor as the long dirt road is covered in sharp rocks that frequently pop tires. A park ranger told us that people often need to be towed out and that the bill for towing is over $2,000. Potentially being stranded in the desert with an impending huge tow bill didn’t appeal to us so we skipped this.

Artist’s Drive / Artist’s Palette

Death valley things to do in winter

This was my favorite place this trip. The Artist’s Drive is a colorful one way road that loops away from and then back to Badwater Rd. This thin road was fun to drive as it goes up and down small hills and around sharp curves.

What’s best about Artists drive is all the colors on the rock formations around you. Being colorblind, colorful rocks have never a big deal to me before. However, last year I was given a pair of Enchroma color correcting glasses for the colorblind and driving Artist’s drive with them on was unreal.

Along the drive is a parking area where you can look out on what is known as the Artists Palette. This is a colorful rock formation that is well worth a stop as it’s pink rock swirls seem to glow in the sunset. There are lots of things for you to see in Death Valley at sunset, so stay several nights and be sure that one of those sunsets you are at Artist’s Palette.

Golden Canyon

Death valley things to do in winter

Golden Canyon is a great hike for the whole family. The parking area isn’t very big, but it’s not as popular as some of the more heavily visited areas so you should be able to find a parking spot without too much issue.

This trail is where the old road used to come into the valley. We didn’t hike to the end and eventually turned back, but there were several small outcroppings that the kids had fun exploring.

Zabriskie Point

As you come into the valley off highway 190, you will drive right by Zabriskie Point. We all enjoyed going here as the trail was easy to walk up for some amazing views.

The best thing here is the colorful rocks and how the sun makes them look like they are almost on fire. Though you can’t really see the valley, you still have a unique view as there is a stark contrast between the colors of the more immediate Zabriskie rock formations with the Panamint Mountains in the far background. It’s really cool.

Harmony Borax Works

This is a small historical stop just north of Furnace Creek. They used to mine borax here and take it out of the valley with a 20 mule team. It’s an easy stop and our kids liked looking at the ruins.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Death valley things to do in winter

One of our kids’ favorite places in all of Death Valley is the sand dunes. These are your quintessential sand dunes. Though they don’t go on forever, the area is big enough that you can spend a long time here.

We went just a little before sunset along with with seemed to be every photographer in the park. The parking lot is probably big enough when it’s not sunset. By the time we got there, there was only parking in the non-paved sections on the outskirts of the lot.

The dunes are fun to climb, slide down, and of course wrestle. Our children had a blast playing king of the hill. And having a free for all wrestling match to see who could get to the top of each dune first. If you go at sunset, the shadows are long and make for great photos.

Death valley things to do in winter

Star Wars

If you are a fan of the original Star Wars (and you should be), much of the Tatooine scenes were filmed in Death Valley. Go watch the movie before you visit for a fun way to interact with the scenery.

Where to stay

RV Park – Stovepipe Wells – there are full hookups for RVs and access to a swimming pool. There are also cheaper primitive sites with no hookups. Years ago we tent camped (though there are RV spots) at Furnace Creek. Which is a beautiful place right near the Visitors Center which is great for the evening ranger programs.

Are you interested in RV Living but haven’t taken the plunge yet? Consider trying out the RV lifestyle on your trip to Death Valley by renting an RV! Check out our post on how to rent an RV and how to plan an RV trip.


The Inn At Death Valley – Located right in the middle of Death Valley is a beautiful hotel with a spring-fed pool and a restaurant on site.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Pahrump Located in Pahrump, NV

Vacation Rentals

3 Bedroom with Hot Springs  

3 Bedroom 2 Bath Whole House

Getting Around

You will need to drive everywhere. The valley is huge! Depending on how long you stay, plan on having to fill up with overpriced fuel at least once.

You could also book a guided tour. Here is one that departs from Las Vegas if you choose to stay in that area instead. This Small Group Guided Tour will also depart from your Las Vegas hotel.


Verizon (don’t know about AT&T or T-Mobile) internet coverage is spotty. We were offline most of the time and many times couldn’t even get a signal for phone calls. Ask the rangers and they can tell you where the sweet spots are for coverage.


Here is a video of when we Crazy Family Adventure visited Death Valley in 2016. You will see we visited a lot of the places that Ditching Suburbia recommended!

Want to spend more time in California? Check out more posts on what to do when you visit this epic state! From Joshua Tree to Disneyland, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and Redwoods National Park. Plus all the posts below:

18 Fun Things to Do in Big Sur

53+ Amazing Things To Do in Baja, California

12 Epic Things To Do In Northern California [Map Included]

15 Magnificent Things To Do In San Diego With Kids

The 23 Most Epic Things To Do In Los Angeles With Kids

17 Unforgettable Things To Do In San Francisco With Kids

14 Magnificent Things To Do In Big Sur California

11 Awe Inspiring Things To Do In Southern California

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— Update: 12-02-2023 — found an additional article Tips for Visiting Death Valley National Park in Winter – 2023 Ultimate Guide from the website for the keyword death valley things to do in winter.

Tips for Visiting Death Valley in Winter

Death Valley National Park in Winter: Death Valley transforms into a desert wonderland in the winter.

Death valley things to do in winter

Winter in Death Valley is the perfect time to visit. Visiting Death Valley in December, January, or February is the best time to see this national park.

If you are wondering where to stay near Death Valley National Park you can check out my post on Death Valley Airbnbs and Death Valley Glamping. You can also check out my post on How to Spend One Day in Death Valley.

Weather in Death Valley in Winter

Temperatures in the winter range from the mid-60s to the low 70s, with overnight lows regularly falling into the upper 30s. The average temperature is 67F in winter.

Death valley things to do in winter
Beautiful natural stone arch bridge at Death Valley, National Park California

Winter is the ideal time to visit Death Valley National Park because of the cooler temperatures and clear, sunny days. There is virtually no rain in the Death Valley over winter.

You can be basking in warm, dry days with the endless sun when the rest of the country is shivering.  You can hike without breaking a sweat after 5 seconds, and there’s no need to be concerned about rain since Death Valley rarely rains, even in the winter.

Hiking in Winter in Death Valley

Winter weather is also ideal for hiking trails into the park’s canyons and viewing its unique geology. Along Badwater Road, you’ll find easy-to-reach trailheads, including the renowned Golden Canyon hike, which is only five minutes away. However, many visitors overlook the neighboring Desolation Canyon hike, which is far less busy. It’s a simple cross-country trail that leads into a canyon that gradually narrows and leads to multicolored rocks reminiscent of the Artist’s Palette.

Things to do in Death Valley in Winter

Take a Drive in Death Valley

There are various driving routes across Death Valley, and it is a fantastic way to spend a winter day in the park. Highway 190, which enters the park via Highway 395 from California, and Highway 160, which enters the park via Highway 190 from the south end of Las Vegas, are two significant highways that enter the park.

Dante’s View, Twenty Mule Canyon, Zabriskie Point, and others are among the many vistas along Highway 190’s driving route. From Furnace Creek to Badwater, you can continue south and stop at various vistas along the way, including Desolation Canyon, Artist’s Drive, Devil’s Natural Bridge, and Devil’s Golf Course.

Zabriskie Point Trail

You’ll pass Zabriskie Point on your way into the valley from Highway 190. Zabriskie Point is located on the Park’s east side, nearly opposite Father Crowley Point.

Death valley things to do in winter

Wiki Commons
King of Hearts

The Furnace Creek formations can be seen from a viewpoint near the road, and the stark badlands landscape is easily visible in broad sunshine. You can hike down into the area or start the hike near Badlands Loop if you like. Golden Canyon, Gower Gulch, and Red Cathedral are all accessible through connecting trails.

The best part about this place is the multicolored rocks and how the sun makes them appear to be on fire. Even if you can’t see the valley, you still have a unique vista because the hues of the more immediate Zabriskie rock formations contrast sharply with the Panamint Mountains in the distance.

Although the hike is paved and presents no technical problems, it is uphill and in direct sunlight.  There is also a 2.7-mile loop departing from the viewpoint that takes you close to the rock formations if you want to go deeper into the Badlands at Zabriskie Point. Remember to bring your water bottle!

Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater is near the Eureka Dunes and Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley National Park’s north end. Three trails and a parking lot near the rim provide even better views of the crater.

The magnificent Ubehebe Crater is a monument to Death Valley’s violent volcanic past. Ubehebe is the largest of a series of craters that pockmark the landscape, measuring 600 feet deep and half a mile across.

Explore numerous smaller, more eroded craters by walking along the rim of the crater’s loop trail. Observe the huge blanket of grey-black cinder left by Ubehebe’s eruption from the rim’s high point.

Taking the short but steep trail to the bottom of the crater is another excellent opportunity to appreciate the vastness of Ubehebe. The 600 feet of elevation gain on the way back up may not seem like much, but it might seem like twice that when hiking up the steep, loose cinder trail. Ubehebe Crater is a great place for hikers of all ages and abilities.

Badwater Basin Crossing

Badwater Basin is a well-known attraction in Death Valley that you should not miss. At 277 feet below sea level, it is also the lowest point on land in the Western Hemisphere.

If you’re willing to walk a mile or so from the parking lot in the winter, you’ll be able to view it with a tiny bit of water in it. And, if there’s water, the Amargosa Mountains to the east can be seen in a stunning reflection.

If you walk out into the flats, you’ll be able to see the rain and evaporation process, which results in a pattern of rough hexagonal salt ridges. A fascinating process that you can’t fully appreciate unless you visit in the winter.

The path begins at the Badwater Road parking lot, and the first mile or so is well-traveled, as here is where the majority of hikers begin. After that, the trail becomes narrower and less visible until it vanishes entirely.

Dante’s View

Dante’s View is approximately about a half-hour drive from the east entrance. Dante’s View, a viewpoint on a mountainside at 5,476 ft (1,669 m) overlooking Death Valley, is the best site to start your Death Valley in winter adventure with a bang.

Death valley things to do in winter

Wiki Commons Mikenorton

It’s the perfect location for a panoramic view of Death Valley National Park, with the entire depression in front of you flanked by mountains. In addition, you can also see Devil’s Golf Course.

Early morning is the best time to visit Dante’s View to witness the sunrise. You’ll want to arrive early to see the sunrise over Telescope Peak on the other side of the valley before descending the Panamint Mountains and crossing the basin. It becomes windy and chilly up there, so dress warmly in gloves and something to shield you from the wind.

Devil’s Golf Course

The salt flats in Death Valley’s Badwater Basin are minerals that remained after Lake Manly evaporated around 10,000 years ago. Devils Golf Course is the area’s largest example of this phenomenon, having been formed by wind and rain.

Death valley things to do in winter

Wiki Commons Supercarwaar

The landscape is dominated by these halite salt crystal formations, which resemble hard, jagged rocks. Although it is safe to bring around the golf course, it is not advised because the ground is uneven and sharp, making visitors vulnerable to cuts, twisted ankles, and broken bones. This salt flat takes its name from a 1934 National Park Service manual that says “On such a course, only the Devil could play golf.”

Devils Golf Course is a short drive down Badwater Road and onto a rocky access road that leads to the middle of the salt flat from the Furnace Creek Area. Devils Golf Course is accessible by driving, although an SUV or off-road vehicle is recommended. The road comes to a halt in a small parking lot with a capacity for around a dozen vehicles. There are no trails that lead farther into the Golf Course, although they aren’t necessary.

The views from this vantage point are spectacular. The Panamint Mountains tower above you, providing a stunning background for the eerie “golf course.” In this area, there are no restrooms or water. Leashed dogs are permitted; however, they are not advised.

Artists Palette 

The Artist’s Drive is a colorful one-way road that loops out from Badwater Rd. This narrow road is enjoyable to drive because it rises and descends small hills and curves sharply.

Death valley things to do in winter

Wiki Commons Tuxyso

The hues on the rock formations around you are the best part of Artists Drive. There is a parking spot along the drive where you can see what is known as the Artists Palette.

The pink granite swirls of this spectacular rock formation seem to shimmer in the dusk, making it well worth a visit. There’s a lot to see in Death Valley at sunset, so plan on staying a few nights and making sure you see one of them at Artist’s Palette.

Remember that it’s a one-way street, so you’ll have to drive it from south to north, which will need a slight detour if you’re coming from Devil’s Golf Course. The distance between Devil’s Golf Course and Artists Palette is approximately 15 miles, including the lovely drive!

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

The Mesquite Sand Dunes, which rise about 100 feet in height and are known for their sand-boarding potential, are another prominent attraction in the US national park.

Death valley things to do in winter

Wiki Commons Tuxyso

While there is no special established trail due to continuous sand movements, walking across the dunes is worthwhile and one of the best things to do in Death Valley in the winter. You can also go straight up to the highest dunes to get a good view of the surrounding area.

Since there are no paths into the dunes, getting to the more pristine and higher dunes will require a half-hour walk through the deep sand. It’s a good workout, particularly when climbing the higher dunes. However, the further back you go, the fewer other hikers’ footprints you’ll find. There are hardly any back to the top of the last dunes.

You can also take fantastic photos of sunrises and sunsets, as the light at these moments properly adorns and ornaments the area’s magnificence! The incoming light creates ripples and patterns on the sand during sunsets.

The Mesquite Sand Dunes are a must-see site in Death Valley National Park and are located directly alongside the main road.

Eureka Dunes

The Eureka Dunes, a glittering mountain of sand flanked by the rugged dark mountains of the Last Chance Range, rise from the Eureka Valley floor, isolated, gorgeous, and pristine. The Eureka Dunes are the tallest sand dunes in California, soaring more than 680 feet above the confined valley floor. They are three miles broad and one mile long. Everything appears to be stripped down to its most basic yet breathtaking parts at the Eureka Dunes.

It’s difficult to resist the urge to climb the sand dunes. A trip into the dunes from the Eureka Dunes Dry Camp at the base of the dunes can take anything from 0.5 to 2.5 miles, depending on how far you walk. The ascent is hard, with one stride forward followed by a slide back. Depending on whatever ridge you tackle, you may be ascending 300 to 600 feet. You’ll be rewarded with more sculpted dunes and expansive vistas of the valley once you reach the crest.

A little rumbling sound may break the silence in all this silent sand and desert. The Eureka Dunes are singing dunes, and little avalanches of sand produce a powerful booming sound now and then. Then there’s the possibility that fighter planes from Nellis Air Force Base, located to the east, will be out displaying their skills.

Ibex Dunes

Ibex Dunes are perhaps the most photogenic and remote dunes in the park. These dunes may be found on the park’s southern edge, off of a rough, high-clearance road. These dunes are fun to explore but get there early because they heat up quickly, even in the winter, and can put hikers in danger.

Finding the abandoned mine on the further side of the dune, set against the mountains, is one of the most exciting elements of exploring Ibex Dunes. This eerie location is a relic from the park’s past and offers a great photo opportunity.

Since there is no shade in or around the dunes, bring plenty of water as well as sunscreen. If you want to visit Ibex Dunes, you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle because the drive into the dunes is rough.

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, which were built in 1876, is a famous tourist site in Death Valley, California. It was established to provide fuel for the processing of silver and lead ore from George Hearst’s Modock Consolidated Mining Company, which operated from 1878.

The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns’ bee-shaped structures are a popular tourist destination and are among the best preserved in the western United States. Once you’re inside, you can even smell the smoke!

This is located near Panamint Springs in Upper Wildrose Canyon. The trip to the location is a little tedious but will be worth your time and effort.

Twenty Mule Canyon

The rich mining history of Death Valley National Park is well-known. The Twenty Mule teams and wagons that previously hauled tons of borax through this rugged terrain have left an indelible mark. Around the turn of the century, Twenty Mule Team Canyon was actively prospected for borax, leaving behind a plethora of loading platforms, mining tailings, and tunnels.

The picturesque journey down this amazing canyon leads to a plethora of hiking opportunities in the Black Mountains’ brightly colored badlands. Along the way, you can choose from a variety of small hikes across canyons and ridges. There are no designated trails, so pick your adventure carefully. The badland hills along this journey are brimming with opportunities for exploration.

To get to Twenty Mule Team Canyon, take Highway 190 southeast from Furnace Creek for 5 miles (One mile past Zabriskie Point). Twenty Mule Team Canyon is indicated by a road sign to the west (right). Here is where you should turn and begin your journey. Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road leads back to Highway 190 after 2.8 miles.

Take this trip early in the morning or late in the afternoon for a spectacular show of light and shadow.

Inn at Furnace Creek

The Pacific Coast Borax Company of the Twenty Mule Team established the Inn at Furnace Creek as a way to save their recently built Death Valley Railroad, which has been a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2012. The Inn was built in 1927 and designed by notable Los Angeles architects Albert C Martin and Daniel Hull.

The Inn has been an elegant getaway for almost 85 years and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Guests can enjoy great cuisine in one of the world’s most remote locations, relax in the spring-fed pool, stroll through magnificent palm gardens, or shop for unique items in the gift shop or neighboring General Store. The architecturally gorgeous Inn also has a one-of-a-kind function space that is excellent for small business meetings and social events.

Tennis, sports courts, horseback riding, and romantic carriage rides are all available during the winter season. At 214 feet below sea level, guests can play golf on the world’s lowest golf course. The nine-hole course was opened in 1931, then in the fall of 1968, it was enlarged to 18 holes. In 1997, acclaimed golf course architect Perry Dye renovated the course and included a high-tech irrigation system. The resort’s spring-fed swimming pools are used to irrigate the course.

Golden Canyon

Some of the best hiking in Death Valley National Park can be found on this trail through the Golden Canyon and the Zabriske Point badlands. The trail starts at the Golden Canyon Trailhead, which is located just 3.5 miles south of the Furnace Creek Visitor Center on Badwater Road. Golden Canyon has an interpretive trail guide available at the trailhead information kiosk.

The canyon is carved through golden yellow sediments that were deposited at the bottom of Lake Manly about 5 million years ago.  The various color bands on the walls indicate the presence of various minerals. 

For the first mile of the hike, the trail gently ascends the canyon. The Red Cathedral Access on the Upper Golden Canyon Trail can be used to enjoy close-up views of the Red Cathedral, which stands above Golden Canyon.  At 1.5 miles, the path meets Gower Gulch for the first time, where the Gower Gulch Circle Connector trail offers for a shorter loop trip to Gower Gulch. 

Read more  Visiting Death Valley In December: 10 Things You Need To Know

Return to the Golden Canyon Trailhead via the Gower Gulch Trail. Continue on to Zabriske Point by following the signs. The trail will eventually arrive at Zabriske Point, where the paved Zabriskie Point Access Trail provides a great perspective of the canyons and badlands you have traversed.

Salt Creek Interpretive Trail

Most people don’t expect to find animals living nearly 150 feet below sea level, where temperatures can reach 100 degrees by mid-morning and water salinity is higher than the ocean. Yet, when you explore the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail, you might be shocked by what you find.

Death Valley National Park’s severe salt marsh environment provides a habitat for a diverse range of plants and fauna. The Salt Creek Pupfish is a unique species found nowhere else in the world. It tells the story of environmental change and how an animal adapts to it. Death Valley was once a land of vast lakes and marshes during the last Ice Age, roughly 15,000 years ago. The geology and environment have changed over time, and the pupfish’s life has changed as well.

This short, ADA-accessible loop walk offers a great opportunity to see wildlife, including the endangered pupfish. Along the trail, interpretive markers detail the various flora and animals that can be found in this unique desert environment. A few benches are also strewn throughout the boardwalk.

Stay on the boardwalk to help conserve the fragile ecology. Dogs are also prohibited.

— Update: 12-02-2023 — found an additional article Top 5 Reasons To Visit Death Valley National Park This Winter from the website for the keyword death valley things to do in winter.

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Last Updated 3 months ago

Death Valley National Park, located along the border of California and Nevada, is best known for its infamously high temperatures and harsh conditions. However, the winter months offer far milder temperatures, making it a great time for a visit. Here are the top 5 reasons you should consider planning a trip to Death Valley National Park this winter.

Death valley things to do in winter

1. There’s Pleasant Weather

If there’s one thing Death Valley National Park is known for, it’s hot weather. And while this is true in the summer, with the area having been home to record-breaking heat waves, winter temperatures are much milder. Temperatures hover in the 70s during the day and can drop as low as the upper 30s at night. This makes the cooler months the perfect time to explore this gorgeous desert area!

The pleasant weather will allow for outdoor activities such as hiking and camping without worrying about concerns such as heat stroke, as well as providing a more comfortable experience overall. December and January are typically the coolest months. The weather starts warming up to a still mild 80 degrees Fahrenheit in March and begins to soar again by April. This makes Death Valley National Park a great choice for a vacation over winter break.

Death valley things to do in winter

2. It’s Home To Stunning Scenery

Death Valley is home to some gorgeous and surreal sights. Head over to Badwater basin, for example, to take in the stunning salt flats stretching on for as long as the eye can see and making up the lowest point in North America. Artist’s Palette, as well as Ubehebe Crater, are two other jaw-dropping natural sights worth adding to your itinerary!

Many of these sights can also be viewed from in your car or viewpoints located nearby parking lots, so these are great choices for those looking for some quick stops or not wanting to embark on longer hikes.

Top 5 Travel Insurance Plans For 2023 Starting At $10 Per Week

Death valley things to do in winter

3. You Can Explore After Dark

The adventure doesn’t stop at Death Valley National Park when the sun goes down! Not only do the already cool winter temperatures get even chillier – potentially enough so to warrant a sweater or jacket – the night skies above come alive with constellations, planets, and even glimpses of the International Space Station.

Spots such as Badwater Basin can also make for a great location for a nighttime stroll, though you’ll want to bring a flashlight and keep your eyes and ears peeled for any nocturnal critters! Finally, for those who aren’t sure if they want to explore the area in the dark on their own (or those looking to learn more about the park), consider checking out the scheduled ranger programs.

Death valley things to do in winter

4. It’s A Great Place To Camp

Summer temperatures would probably make camping in Death Valley an uncomfortable experience at best, but the milder weather in the winter makes it the perfect time for sleeping under the stars! This national park is home to a variety of campgrounds.

For those looking for a more established site, Furnace Creek and Sunset Campgrounds both offer potable water, restrooms, and a camp store. If you’re looking to rough it a bit more, Eureka Dunes Campground sits at the base of some of the tallest sand dunes in California, though it does require a vehicle with high clearance to reach.

Death valley things to do in winter

5. There Are Great Hiking Opportunities

Death Valley National Park is home to a wide variety of trails, from shorter paths leading around popular sightseeing attractions to longer, more remote hikes. If you’re looking for a fun, beginner-friendly hike, check out Ubehebe Crater Loop (1.5 miles) or Natural Bridge (1 mile). For a longer hike, Mosaic Canyon, a 4-mile out-and-back trail, features some gorgeous rock formations.

Death valley things to do in winter

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— Update: 12-02-2023 — found an additional article Visiting Death Valley In December: 10 Things You Need To Know from the website for the keyword death valley things to do in winter.

Are you thinking about visiting Death Valley in December? Perfect! We have personally explored the vast and diverse Death Valley landscape on several trips, including the winter month of December. We’re going to answer 10 important questions you might have about your visit, covering key things to know about weather, costs and crowds.

Is December a good month to visit Death Valley, California?

December is the best month of the year to visit Death Valley if you’re looking to escape the crowds, hike in cooler temperatures and find last minute accommodation more readily available than usual.

All things considered, we think December is an excellent month of the year to plan a trip to Death Valley National Park and we’re going to show you exactly why.

In this guide we will cover:

  • 10 key things to know about visiting Death Valley in December
  • In depth information about temperatures, prices and tourist numbers
  • Out of season impacts
  • Best things to do on a visit to Death Valley in December

Let’s get right into the 10 most important things you should know about visiting Death Valley, California in December!

1. Is Death Valley Crowded In December?

Death valley things to do in winter
Badwater Basin all to ourselves on a quiet day in December

Death Valley is one of the best national parks to visit in the USA but it rarely suffers from serious overcrowding issues.

The good news for your visit is that December is the single quietest month of the year in Death Valley.

Both a blessing and a curse, the sheer size and scale of Death Valley is immense. Hiking trails and top attractions are spread out so people rarely flock to one single place all at once.

Now, take the enormous park and couple that with a plummet in tourist numbers between Thanksgiving and Christmas and you have yourself an incredibly peaceful winter escape.

How Many People Visit Death Valley Annually?

Over one million tourists visit Death Valley annually but this is a year round destination. Tens of thousands still visit the hottest place in America during summer months when temperatures are dangerous and extreme.

March and April are the two busiest months of the year, as wildflowers bloom and spring break brings a spike in visitation.

But even at its peak in March and April, Death Valley never clogs up with dense crowds like you see at Yosemite National Park or Yellowstone National Park during peak season.

What Does That Mean For You?

Well, it means December is the perfect month to visit Death Valley if you prefer to avoid crowds. Plus, as a direct result of fewer crowds, certain other benefits become apparent.

Here are the benefits of a winter visit to Death Valley:

  • More availability and better prices on hotels inside and outside the park
  • Smaller parking lots at top sights won’t fill, even around noon
  • Hiking trails will be even quieter than usual
  • Temperatures are cooler and better for hiking
  • Low position of the sun creates stunning light
  • Flanking mountains are snow capped in winter
  • Your car won’t struggle with overheating as much

2. What Is Death Valley Weather Like In December?

Death valley things to do in winter
December weather in Death Valley is comfortable

December brings much cooler and even stormy weather to Death Valley, which is a complete contrast to the rest of the year.

The statistics make Death Valley weather in December sound terrible, as you will find out below. But we can tell you from first hand experience it is not as bad as it appears.

One of the key things to note is that early December mornings and late evenings can come in chilly.

Those planning sunrise or sunset photography shoots or hikes in Death Valley should consider taking plenty of light layers.

However, don’t let the words cooler and chilly put you off.

We are talking about a place that far exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit every single day in June, July and August. The average high in July is a swelteringly oppressive 116 Fahrenheit, which is 47 Celsius.

So the weather in Death Valley during December may be cooler, but it is still very comfortable indeed.

What Is The Temperature In Death Valley In December?

Here are the high, low and average temperature statistics for Death Valley in December:

  • High Temperature – 65°F (18°C)
  • Low Temperature – 38°F (3°C)
  • Average Temperature – 51°F (10°C)

Source: NPS

Is Death Valley cold in winter?

Comparatively speaking, yes Death Valley is cold in winter. In fact, December is the coldest month of the year in Death Valley National Park.

Average highs and average lows are the lowest they will be throughout the year.

However, considering it is December, Death Valley is one of the few national parks you can visit in relative comfort. In addition, these colder conditions are part of the reason crowds stay clear.

We noticed a huge difference in temperature between our October and December visits to Death Valley. In October we were struggling with heat on hikes and even at night it felt like we were trapped in a sauna.

Personally we would prefer the cooler temperatures and fewer crowds every time, how about you?

More December Weather Statistics

The temperatures during December in Death Valley might not be as high as you expected considering it is the driest and hottest place in the US and holds the record for hottest place on Earth.

But trust us, you will be grateful for the cooler weather.

Let’s take a quick look at other weather features you might be interested in:

  • December has the fourth highest amount of precipitation (but it is still very low)
  • Humidity is at its highest in December and January (around 41%)
  • December is the month with the least amount of sunshine (just over 7 hours per day)

Source: Weather US

As we mentioned earlier, it sounds like December is going to be the worst month of the year to visit Death Valley in terms of weather conditions.

However, on the contrary these exact conditions allow you to explore the best of Death Valley in comfort. Plus, we still managed to get a cracking suntan during our winter visit to the desert!

3. How Long Do The Days Last In Death Valley During December?

Death valley things to do in winter
Stunning Death Valley landscape close to dusk

Now here’s one of the rare negative aspects to visiting Death Valley in early winter. The month with the shortest days in Death Valley is December with less than 10 hours of daylight every day.

Plus, it will get darker earlier in December versus most other months of the year because the clocks go back for daylight savings at the beginning of November.

Here are sunrise and sunset times to be aware of in Death Valley throughout the month of December:

  • Sunrise: Dec 1 – 6.40am and Dec 31 – 7.00am.
  • Sunset: Dec 1 – 4.30pm and Dec 31 – 4.40pm.

Check sunrise and sunset times here.

What Do Shorter Days Mean For Your Visit?

Shorter days mean you have less time to see and do the best things in Death Valley. There are very few things you can do at night in Death Valley unless you are interested in astrophotography.

The earlier sunset times are particularly important for photographers and hikers who tend to stay out later in the day. Pay close attention to the time if you are out hiking in the afternoon.

We were caught out a few times with the darkness creeping in by 3.30pm when we were still out on hikes. Play it safe by taking headlamps and keeping your phone fully charged in case you need the flashlight.

Start Early

The best thing you can do on a visit to Death Valley in December is wake up super early and get a head start on the day. This is our most important piece of advice.

Not only will you give yourself more of that precious daylight, but you will also beat the (comparatively low!) Death Valley day trip from Las Vegas crowds begin to arrive.

Plus, if you’re staying outside the park, you are going to need time to get into the park.

If you get up late and have a slow breakfast, you’re eating into daylight hours, which after water are your most valued commodity.

4. Are Death Valley Hotels Available And Affordable In December?

Death valley things to do in winter
Entrance to the Ranch at Death Valley

Climbing back aboard the benefits to visiting Death Valley in December train, you are going to have more success at finding hotels with more availability and cheaper nightly rates.

After multiple trips to Death Valley, we can confidently say figuring out places to stay is the most difficult part of itinerary planning.

Why? Let’s take a look.

Staying Inside Versus Outside The Park

Hotels inside Death Valley are excessively expensive, especially for what you get in terms of quality. You are essentially paying for prime time location near the top attractions.

Your alternative is to look at several tiny towns around the outskirts of Death Valley. They have cheaper hotel rooms and more amenities such as food options, but you have to drive in and out of the park each day.

Personally, we have so far avoided staying at hotels inside Death Valley. Of course we would prefer the location, but we also value our bank balance.

We tend to plan our Death Valley itinerary so that we stay at different hotels each night according to the attractions within the park we are visiting that day.

Remember, Death Valley is huge.

Where To Stay

So where should you stay on a December visit to Death Valley?

Well, you have the option to stay in a campground or RV park which would be cheap and give you the central location.

Not interested in camping? Well, you can start by looking into the 4 hotels inside Death Valley:

If the prices work for you, book one of those because you will get the central location near top Death Valley attractions.

However, if you’re traveling on a lower budget or you are driving through Death Valley point to point (such as Las Vegas to Yosemite), take a look at these alternatives:

Whether you stay inside or outside Death Valley for your visit in December, what we do know is you will get cheaper rates compared to peak season.

Where will you stay in Death Valley? If you’re not quite sure yet, read our comprehensive guide to the 13 best Death Valley hotels which covers the best places to stay inside and around the National Park.

5. Can You Hike The Top Death Valley Trails In December?

Death valley things to do in winter

December is among the very best months of the year to hike the most popular Death Valley hiking trails in the bottom of the valley.

Cool and comfortable conditions for hiking make this a perfect time of year compared to the hotter spring, summer and fall months.

However, adventure hikers looking to get off the beaten path and up into the mountains will have to wait until late spring due to snow and dangerously cold temperatures.

Remember about the lack of daylight and earlier sunsets if you plan to hike a lot in Death Valley during your winter visit.

Popular hikes in Death Valley

  • Golden Canyon (Red Cathedral Loop)
  • Mosaic Canyon
  • Desolation Canyon
  • Natural Bridge
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
  • Salt Creek Interpretive Trail
  • Sidewinder Canyon
  • Darwin Falls

6. Is December A Good Month For Photography In Death Valley?

Death valley things to do in winter
Rhyolite is one of the top photography spots in Death Valley

Death Valley is one of the most underrated photography spots within the US national park system. Yes, it is barren and bleak, but if you look hard enough, Death Valley is also raw and strikingly beautiful.

December is a wonderful time for photography in Death Valley for several reasons:

  • It is the time of year when storms are most common
  • Earlier sunrises mean far fewer people will be about at the most popular sunrise spots
  • Earlier sunsets mean you can shoot sunset and be back for dinner at a normal hour
  • Lower angled sunlight makes for deeper contrasts inside canyons
  • It is much cooler in general which means you can reach more places more easily

Death Valley is a fantastic place for hobbyist and beginner photographers to challenge themselves in a unique environment.

This is an arena of unspoiled nature, where you still feel like you might be the first person to take a certain photo at a certain location in the park.

However, the wide open desert landscape oozing a perpetual feeling of isolation and lost world can take a bit of getting used to for photographers who typically look for a subject or star attraction.

Best Death Valley Photography Spots

  • Rhyolite Ghost Town
  • Titus Canyon
  • The Racetrack
  • Ubuhebe Crater
  • Mesquite Sand Dunes
  • Badwater Basin
  • Zabriskie Point
  • Dante’s View

7. How Is The Death Valley Food Scene In December?

Death valley things to do in winter
Badwater Saloon in Stovepipe Wells

The Death Valley food scene is the same in December as it is the rest of the year, not great. In fact, we’d go as far as saying the facilities really could do with some improvement.

There are general stores in Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells and Panamint Springs with snacks, drinks and light groceries but they are mostly designed for people staying at the nearby campgrounds.

Visiting Death Valley in an RV or tent camping?

We strongly recommend you stock your fridge or bring a big cooler full of food. Plan out your meals before arriving in the park.

If you decide to stay in one of the 4 hotel inside the park, you can eat at a restaurant in each of the hotels.

Eating Inside The Park

The Inn and Ranch in Furnace Creek have decent food but the prices are heavily inflated. You don’t really have any other choice so you have to eat here and pay the prices.

Stovepipe Wells has the top rated eateries inside Death Valley, with a bar and restaurant serving up good quality food at more reasonable prices. Panamint Springs also has a good place to eat with a huge selection of beers available.

The problem with Stovepipe and Panamint is that unless you are staying there or you are on your way in / out of the park to the west, they are quite a way out from the major tourist area around Furnace Creek.

Eating Outside The Park

If you choose to stay outside of Death Valley in a surrounding town, you have far more dining options. Plus, you can buy food in the morning to use as a packed lunch when you are inside Death Valley.

Here are some highly rated places to consider:

Lone Pine

  • Upscale American – Seasons Restaurant
  • Chinese – Merry Go Round (fun place to eat)
  • Diner – Mt Whitney Restaurant
  • Grill – The Grill

Are you planning to stay in Lone Pine? Here’s our detailed guide to the 5 best hotels in Lone Pine CA complete with the most popular things to do nearby.


  • BBQ – Smokin J’s Barbecue (we love this one)
  • Breakfast – Mel’s Diner
  • Mexican – Happy Burro Chili + Beer
  • Breakfast – Gema’s Cafe

8. Are There Any Safety Concerns In Death Valley During December?

Death valley things to do in winter
Sky high gas prices at Furnace Creek

The most important topic we will cover in this guide is safety when visiting Death Valley. This is a harsh and hostile environment year round.

You could argue that the things we are about to cover should be done on any trip to any place. However, Death Valley is different. It is enormous, isolated, hot, barren and mountainous.

On top of that, cell phone service is extremely limited in most areas of Death Valley.

So you really don’t want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere an hour before sunset because you forgot to top up your coolant!

Despite the supposed cooler Death Valley temperatures in December, you still have to be prepared before and during your visit to the desert.

In fact, the only time we had an issue with our own car overheating was when we drove through Death Valley in December.

Here are some safety tips:

Car Service

If possible, we would strongly recommend you have your car checked out before you visit Death Valley. You might be able to do this yourself, if not have someone take a look.

You will need to top up the following fluids:

  • Engine oil
  • Brake fluid
  • Coolant
  • Transmission fluid
  • Power steering fluid
  • Windscreen wash

Make sure your tires are in good shape and your brakes are working correctly. Carry a spare tire and know how to change it in case of emergency.


There are three gas stations inside Death Valley National Park. Furnace Creek, Stovepipe Wells and Panamint Springs all have gas pumps.

However, they sometimes have strange opening hours and the prices are astronomical.

We’re talking over $7 a gallon at Furnace Creek. Stovepipe Wells sometimes has cheaper prices and it is owned by the NPS.

During our visit to Death Valley in December, the gas station at Stovepipe Wells was closed for a few hours in the middle of the day, so there were loads of people literally sat around for hours waiting for gas.

Top your gas tank up each day before you enter Death Valley if you are staying outside the park. If you decide to stay inside the park, you are going to have to use the pumps in the park.


Just because temperatures aren’t as high as summer, you will find the days still get hot in Death Valley during December.

We found ourselves burning through water and feeling fatigued on hikes due to heat, even in December.

The low sun angle helps with being able to find a little more shade than usual but the valley traps heat between two mountain ranges flanking Death Valley.


Water sounds like the obvious safety tip but it’s even more important in Death Valley. You could be miles and miles away from civilization and have problems with your car.

It really is critical that you carry more water than you think you need. Take a few gallons in containers and leave them in the trunk. Then simply top up your water bottle to carry around on hikes.

9. What Should You Pack For Death Valley In December?

Death valley things to do in winter
Layers are key for a visit to Death Valley in winter

Packing is pretty straightforward for visiting Death Valley in December. You need to treat it like you’re going to any of the popular northern US national parks in spring or fall.

Here’s what you are going to experience throughout the day:

  • Chilly mornings
  • Hot around lunch time and early afternoon
  • Cool early evening
  • Chilly nights

Easy, lightweight, removable layers are the key to your comfort on this trip!


For most, we would suggest simply packing your regular hiking gear. You won’t need any specialist equipment.

In Death Valley we wore shorts and moisture wicking t-shirts, lightweight pants, light long sleeve tops and slightly heavier long sleep tops for the mornings and evenings.

Two things you can’t forget to pack are sunglasses and sunscreen, you are going to need both in Death Valley in December.

You might want to take a warmer jacket in case of any extremes but you certainly don’t need snow pants or thick boots. It won’t snow and probably won’t rain.

Maybe take a light pair of gloves or a hat if you plan to be out at sunrise or later at night.

10. What Are The Best Things To Do In Death Valley In December?

Death valley things to do in winter
Mark taking a quick break from photographing sunset at Zabriskie Point

The best things to do in Death Valley in December are hiking, photography, driving 4WD roads and sightseeing at the top attractions.

So, that’s pretty much the same as every other month!

One of the most rewarding things about visiting national parks in the American southwest is that you can do all of the same things in winter that you would do any other time of year.

The same can’t be said of many popular US national parks.

Things To Do In Death Valley In December

  • Hike awesome canyon trails
  • Photograph spectacular landscapes
  • Watch sunrise from Zabriskie Point
  • Watch sunset from Mesquite Sand Dunes
  • Drive the incredible Titus Canyon
  • See Rhyolite Ghost Town at night
  • Climb to the rim of Ubuhebe Crater
  • Find moving stones at The Racetrack

FAQ’s For Visiting Death Valley In December

Let’s take a closer look at some of the frequently asked questions about visiting Death Valley in the month of December.

Our Popular Death Valley Guides

Day Trip – Are you planning a day trip from Las Vegas? Read our guide on exactly how to plan the perfect Las Vegas to Death Valley day trip.

Best Hotels – Need to find the right hotel in Death Valley? Read our detailed guide listing the best hotels at Death Valley and exactly where to stay.

Our Popular Southwest Guides

Zion – Planning to visit Zion at the same time as Death Valley? Here are our popular guides to the best hikes in Zion and different ways you can spend the perfect one day in Zion itinerary.

Sedona – Visiting Sedona on your southwest road trip? Here are our guides to the best Sedona hikes, the top things to do in Sedona and the perfect Sedona itinerary.

Las Vegas – Are you basing yourself in Vegas to visit Death Valley? Don’t miss our guides to the best things to do in Las Vegas, the best shows in Las Vegas and the best hotels on the Las Vegas strip.

Valley of Fire – Love hiking and photography? Don’t miss a visit to the stunning Valley of Fire State Park on the other side of Las Vegas from Death Valley.

Other Winter Destinations

New York City – Have you considered visiting New York at Christmas? Read our hugely popular guide to visiting NYC in Winter to find 10 key things to know before you go.

Zion – Doubling up Death Valley with Zion in December? Read our guide on exactly what you need to know about visiting Zion National Park in Winter.

Grand Canyon – Heading to Grand Canyon before or after Death Valley? Here’s our guide explaining the key things you need to know about visiting Grand Canyon in Winter.

Sedona – Want to see the stunning town of Sedona in Winter? Read our guide to the 10 most important things to know about visiting Sedona in December.

Las Vegas – Flying into Vegas before heading to Death Valley? Here are the 10 key things you need to know about visiting Las Vegas in November.

We hope this guide to visiting Death Valley in December helps with planning your winter visit to California!

Please let us know if you have any questions about visiting Death Valley in December below in the comments.

Happy Travels,

Mark and Kristen

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Death valley things to do in winter
Death valley things to do in winter

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— Update: 13-02-2023 — found an additional article How to Plan a Trip to Death Valley in Winter from the website for the keyword death valley things to do in winter.

While there are a lot of great National Parks I would recommend visiting in the summer, Death Valley isn’t one of them.

Located in the Mojave Desert near the Nevada border, Death Valley was aptly named as such by pioneers in the 1800s who got lost attempting to pass through its harsh climate. 

Not only is it the hottest and driest location in the United States, it also holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth—130 degrees Fahrenheit! 

Due to the intense heat, most outdoor activities aren’t just uncomfortable…they can be downright dangerous in such high temps. Early spring and late fall can be more pleasant times to visit, but if you ask me, visiting Death Valley in winter is the way to do it. 

Death valley things to do in winter

I first visited in February of 2019 and while it definitely got chilly as the light disappeared, the daytime temperatures were perfect for days out exploring under the beating sun.

Daytime temperatures tend to be in the 60s and 70s (which is perfect park weather if you ask me), and while nights get quite cold, it usually doesn’t drop below freezing. 

Death Valley in winter is also a surprisingly less crowded time to visit since spring draws out the most crowds hoping to peep the wildflowers in the park.

If you visit December through February, you’ll experience a more secluded adventure, often feeling like you have endless panoramic views all to yourself. 

Death Valley is truly an incredibly unique landscape with some of the most spectacular desert scenery anywhere in the United States.

However, as you’ve realized by now, planning a trip here requires you to be mindful about what time of year to visit—especially if you want to make the most of it and enjoy everything this national park has to offer. 

In this guide, I’m giving you all the info you need to plan a successful trip to Death Valley in winter, from what to pack and where to stay, to all the tips and tricks I picked up on my own adventures.

Read more  Should You Visit Death Valley in Winter? (+ Tips if You Do!)

Death valley things to do in winter

Why Should You Visit Death Valley in Winter in the First Place?

  • The Weather is Great: Death Valley is located in the northern Mojave Desert in California. So, as I mentioned before, it gets brutally hot in the summer, making most outdoor activities nearly impossible (unless of course you enjoy this kind of physical torture). Temperatures in the winter are much more comfortable, so you’ll have a lot more freedom to hike and explore without having to worry about heat stroke.  
  • It’s Less Crowded: Spring is the most popular time to visit the park (the possibility of Spring wildflowers is a big draw) so while it can get packed in March and April, January and February tend to be much less crowded.
  • Photography Opportunities Abound: You might have to bundle up a little, but it’s worth it to have some of the park’s most photo-worthy spots all to yourself! Death Valley in winter is a great time for photographers to capture the park with fewer people. There are also really great opportunities for astrophotography this time of year.
Death valley things to do in winter
Death valley things to do in winter

Quick Tips for Traveling to Death Valley in Winter

  • Keep in mind that peak winter dates to visit Death Valley are between Christmas and New Year’s, Martin Luther King Day weekend and Presidents’ Day weekend. Otherwise, traffic and crowds are much lighter when compared to other times of the year. 
  • Since you’ll have fewer daylight hours in winter, plan your itinerary accordingly. It might be a good idea to give yourself an extra day to see everything on your list. 
  • The temperature can vary a lot throughout the day (up to 30 degrees), so definitely pack lots of layers. 
  • Furnace Creek Visitor Center is the main hub for park info and it’s open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. year-round (except on federal holidays). 
  • Facilities are a bit limited near Death Valley, especially in the park itself, so it’s a good idea to stock up on what you need before traveling. Also, fill up on gas whenever you see a station just to be on the safe side.
  • While camping is popular in Death Valley (even in winter), it can get really cold at night, so make sure your gear is rated properly for low temperatures. 
  • If you’ll also be traveling to nearby areas of California like Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon, etc. you’ll want to make sure you have a vehicle that can handle winter weather (4WD and maybe even snow chains for your tires). 
  • The entrance fee is $30 per vehicle to enter Death Valley National Park, which allows you access for 7 days, or you can purchase an annual pass for $55 if you plan on visiting multiple times throughout the year. 
Pro tip: Visiting multiple national parks on a longer road trip? Make sure to pick up an annual America the Beautiful pass to save money on park entrance fees throughout the country!
Death valley things to do in winter

What Kind of Temperatures to Expect During Winter in Death Valley 

While snow in Death Valley is unlikely (but still possible at higher elevations), temps can drop into the 30s and 40s in the winter months, so you’ll want to be prepared for mild winter weather.

Average daytime temps are typically in the 60s and 70s, so layers are KEY. It’s not uncommon to start the day all bundled up, but be hiking in a t-shirt by mid-day. 

Here’s a chart with an annual temperature breakdown for reference: 

MonthMaximum Temp. Minimum Temp. 
January67°F (19°C) 40°F (4°C)
February 73°F (23°C)46°F (8°C)
March 82°F (27°C)55°F (13°C)
April 90°F (32°C)62°F (17°C)
May100°F (38°C)73°F (23°C)
June110°F (43°C)81°F (27°C)
July116°F (47°C)88°F (31°C)
August115°F (46°C)86°F (30°C)
September106°F (41°C)76°F (24°C)
October93°F (34°C)61°F (16°C)
November77°F (25°C)48°F (9°C)
December65°F (18°C)38°F (3°C)

Weather data via the National Weather Service

While we’re talking about the weather, it’s probably worth noting that it can also get super windy in Death Valley. It won’t necessarily have a negative impact on your trip (unless you’re camping), but don’t be surprised if you experience some mighty gusts.

What to Pack for a Winter Trip to Death Valley 

Death valley things to do in winter
Death valley things to do in winter

As I’ve mentioned, the temperature can vary quite a bit throughout the day in Death Valley in winter, so packing warm clothes and a variety of layers is probably my number one piece of advice. 

Not only will you need to pack layers in your overnight bags, but you’ll want to have a smaller day bag on hand in the car with layers at the ready so you can remove and add throughout the day as needed.

Here’s my full list of winter packing essentials:

  • Sun protection – Yes, even in winter! Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and long sleeved-clothing are definitely necessary as there is little to no shade in Death Valley. 
  • Water – Dehydration can happen quickly in the desert, so the National Park Service recommends that you drink one gallon of water per day. Always carry water with you, especially while hiking. I love this insulated water bottle that will help keep your water cool on warmer days. 
  • Warm clothing – You’ll definitely want to pack a winter jacket, hat, and gloves for when the temperature dips in the evenings and early mornings.
  • Layers, layers, layers! While it might be near freezing when you wake up, by noon it can be in the 70s, so make sure you dress in layers. Tank tops, long-sleeved shirts and zip ups are great for this.  
  • A light day backpack for hiking 
  • Hiking shoes or sneakers – The terrain in Death Valley is dramatically different from site to site (think everything from rock and salt flats to sand dunes), so you’re probably going to want a few different footwear options to work with. Keep in mind if you plan on walking on Badwater Basin, the salt can destroy your shoes. I made the mistake of wearing cute leather boots for photos and am regretting it to this day 😬 (Click here to see my favorite Merrell hiking boots I use religiously) 
  • Camera – You’ll want this no matter what time of the year you visit!
  • Food, snacks, beverages – There aren’t a ton of food options in the park (especially healthy ones) so load up on all your favorites before you start your adventure. 
  • A cooler – Speaking of snacks, you’ll want to bring a cooler in the car filled with any beverages and perishables so that you’re prepared when thirst and hunger strike. This collapsible cooler bag is sturdy, has great reviews and even has a bottle opener built in!
  • Warm camping gear – If you are camping, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the right cold-weather gear so you’re comfortable and safe. It can get really cold at night, so just make sure you’re prepared.
Death valley things to do in winter

Where to Stay in Death Valley in Winter

I’ll be honest…unlike other Southern California parks like Joshua Tree, there aren’t a ton of fabulous lodging options in the Death Valley area (in my opinion). 

You could book an Airbnb or hotel in a town outside of the park (Beatty or Pahrump in Nevada are each about 40 minutes away), but I recommend staying in the park itself to cut down on driving time.

Death Valley is huge and you’ll inevitably be spending a lot of time in the car driving around regardless, so I would avoid doubling that time in the car if you don’t have to.

Here are my top picks for places to stay in the Death Valley area:

The Oasis at Death Valley

Death valley things to do in winter

With an old Hollywood type vibe, The Oasis at Death Valley has beautiful grounds, a dreamy pool with panoramic desert views, and some pretty decent restaurants and bars on site. 

It’s made up of a few different properties which include: The Inn at Death Valley, The Ranch at Death Valley, the Inn Casitas, and Fiddler’s Campground, so there are a number of options and price ranges to choose from.

If you’re looking for comfort and convenience, this place is in the heart of the park and is definitely worth splurging on if you can swing it.

Stovepipe Wells Village

Stovepipe Wells Village is another lodging option inside Death Valley National Park with an Old West feel.

It’s not nearly as fancy as the hotels above, but is more affordable and still provides easier access to locations within the park like Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes.


Camping is an affordable way to stay in the park (a lot of the campsites are actually free), and even though it can get pretty cold, Death Valley in winter is one of the most popular times for camping. 

There are a bunch of campsites in the park and most are open year-round (weather permitting) and don’t require reservations.

The Furnace Creek Campsite is one of the more popular campsites because it has facilities (drinking water, picnic tables, flush toilets, and etc.) and they take reservations, which is worth doing in winter because it can get booked up. 

Also, remember that camping in Death Valley in winter can be cold and windy, so make sure you’ve got the appropriate clothing and camping gear.

Death Valley Inn and RV Park

For a more budget-friendly option, the Death Valley Inn and RV Park in Beatty, NV is a solid option with simple rooms and nice amenities like a pool and BBQ area. It’s a good choice if you’re traveling by RV too!

Note that this is outside of the park, so you’d still have to drive in.

Death valley things to do in winter

The Best Things to Do in Death Valley in Winter 

Visiting Death Valley is all about exploring the variety of dramatic landscapes and panoramic views that are so unique to this part of California.

Plan for lots of time driving from site to site and make sure to give yourself enough time to see all the top places on your bucket list.

I have another post that gives a more detailed breakdown for what to do in Death Valley that you can read here, but these are some of the biggest highlights:

Visit the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Death valley things to do in winter
Death valley things to do in winter

An absolute must during your visit to Death Valley, these 100+ ft. sand dunes will make you feel like you’re halfway across the world. They’re shockingly right off the main road so they’re easy to access.

What’s fun is that there aren’t any marked trails, so you can pretty much just wander in whichever direction you’d like and quite literally ‘choose your own adventure.’

Explore Badwater Basin

Death valley things to do in winter
Death valley things to do in winter

Bring your camera because this is one of the most iconic photo spots in Death Valley in winter.

The salt flats here cover almost 200 square miles and the landscape feels otherworldly. It’s also the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

Catch Sunset at Zabriskie Point

Death valley things to do in winter
Death valley things to do in winter

An easy drive-up overlook, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views that are truly breathtaking at sunset. Pack a picnic, arrive a little before golden hour, and enjoy the show.

Go Hiking

Death valley things to do in winter

Most hikes are pretty much off-limits in the summer heat, but visiting Death Valley in winter means perfect hiking weather! In addition to hiking around the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Badwater Basin, I’ve done the 3-mile Golden Canyon Trail, which I definitely recommend. 

Some other popular hikes in Death Valley National Park are the short Natural Bridge Canyon trail, Ubehebe Crater Loop, and Mosaic Canyon Trail.


As a certified International Dark Sky Park, Death Valley has some of the darkest night skies in the US—and wintertime in the park offers some of the most incredible stargazing.

If you’re not sure of where to post up, Harmony Borax Works, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, and Badwater Basin are all excellent spots. Just remember to give your eyes about 30 minutes to adjust and bring binoculars if you have some!

Death valley things to do in winter
Death valley things to do in winter

Artist’s Palette

Artist’s Palette is a series of rock formations boasting colorful sediment in shades of pink, orange, and turquoise. It’s seriously one of the most unique landscapes to be explored in Death Valley!

In order to access Artist’s Palette, exit off of Badwater Road and drive the one-way Artist’s Drive loop. It takes about 20 minutes without any stops, but you’ll definitely want to get out and explore.

If you can, arrive before sunrise so you can watch the colors change as the sun slowly rises across the rocks.

Read More National Park Posts
Winter Guide to Sequoia National Park
8 Things You Need to See in Yellowstone
Best Things to Do in Yosemite National Park

Planning a trip right now? Don’t miss my go-to websites for booking everything from flights and tours, to accommodation and more:

Death valley things to do in winter
Death valley things to do in winter

— Update: 13-02-2023 — found an additional article Should You Visit Death Valley in Winter? (+ Tips if You Do!) from the website for the keyword death valley things to do in winter.

Visiting in summer is practically a ‘no-go’ but should you visit Death Valley in winter? 

This guide spills all the details and tells you exactly what to do during winter in Death Valley if you plan a trip there!

Death Valley, California. The thought of the place makes me shudder as a person who hates extreme heat. And, Death Valley is extreme heat (it is one of the hottest places on the planet!).

But… traveling to Death Valley in winter is a pretty epic experience and one that should definitely be on your California bucket list!

We break down a trip to Death Valley National Park in winter in this post.  Should you visit?  What is there to do in Death Valley in winter?  Where to stay?  And, of course, what to expect from a winter trip there.

If you have additional tips or recommendations, please drop them in the comments! Thanks!

Reasons to Visit Death Valley in Winter

First of all, it is one of the most optimal times to visit Death Valley.  Simply because summer is too hot.  With summer temperatures in excess of 116F on average, it is unbearable, unpleasant, and just not a comfortable trip for travelers.

In winter, the temperatures are far more tolerable with an average high of 67F in January.  There is still little rain (on average, you will see maybe 1 day of rain monthly throughout the winter), but when it does rain, it can be excessive and cause flash flooding.

But, we will talk about temperatures and weather in Death Valley below a bit that will help you figure out how many days you need (we recommend a minimum of 2 days in Death Valley).

Death valley things to do in winter
Dante’s View in Winter

The reason you really should visit Death Valley in winter is that there are so many things to do and you can pretty much do them all then (except maybe see some desert wildflowers unless you’re going there mid-February on).

It is the perfect season for photography as the skies become dramatic from Pacific storms and the low-angle light during the winter. You can also see Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley, with snow on it.

In addition, the stargazing is out of this WORLD during winter. It is one of the best places on the planet for the activity and winter, while chilly at night, is the prime time to venture there and do it.

Death Valley is also a golfer’s and hiker’s paradise in winter.

Death Valley National Park is at its least crowded between Thanksgiving and before Christmas but it will be at its peak from Christmas to New Year’s, on MLK Day weekend in January, and on Presidents’ Day weekend in February.

When is it Winter in Death Valley?

It depends on what you would classify as winter.  The temperatures are fairly mild and comfortable during the months of December, January, and February.

Death valley things to do in winter

Therefore, we can safely say that winter is in December, January, and part of February (wildflowers usually begin to bloom in the middle of the month).  And, of course, Death Valley is definitely one of the best places to visit in California during winter.

Death Valley Winter Weather – Temperatures

Just how cold is it in Death Valley in winter?  Below are the average winter temperatures and the number of average rainy days per month.

**Please note that even though the number of rainy days isn’t high, the amount of rain that can pass through can be significant.

Death Valley National Park Weather in December

While the middle of December gets fewer crowds, the period from Christmas until New Year’s is far more bustling at the national park.  It is one of the best national parks to visit in December and the weather is a large reason why.

In December, you can expect comfortable temperatures (particularly at the beginning of the month) and a lot of activities.  Do be warned that while it doesn’t really rain, if it does, it can be excessive and cause flash flooding and chaos.  Wear sunscreen! 

Does it Snow in Death Valley NP?

No.  However, it does snow on the peaks and in the mountains around Death Valley National Park, so you can observe it from the low-lying parts without an issue.

It has snowed in the park but the last time the park saw flurries was allegedly in the 1970s.

What to Wear in Death Valley in Winter

Our suggestions for what to wear in Death Valley in winter is quite similar to what we may suggest for summer or shoulder season in other parks.

However, please note that the nights get extremely cold in Death Valley, so if you’re going to be out after dark, dress accordingly!

Here are some essentials that you should pack for a winter trip to Death Valley National Park:

  • Hiking boots: I swear by my Keen Targhee hiking boots and they are an excellent choice for traipsing the wild landscapes of Death Valley National Park. Click here to see the Keen hiking boots I use.
  • Reusable water jug: Water is so essential if you’re visiting Death Valley and you definitely need to remain hydrated, even in winter! I always tote along a Klean Kanteen water jug with me for the journey.
  • Sunscreen: Lather on up as there is literally no shelter or shade in Death Valley! The California desert sun is ruthless and you definitely need to put sunscreen on before your trip out of the vehicle!
  • Light-colored clothing with long pants: Make sure you wear something that is light-colored and preferably, long, that covers your body from head to toe. Even though it is hot, you need to protect yourself from the sun in the California desert.

Things to Know Before Traveling to Death Valley During Winter

If you happen to be traveling to Death Valley during winter, the following things are essential to know before venturing to the park.

Facilities Open at DVNP in Winter

The following facility is open in Death Valley National Park in winter

Furnace Creek Visitor Center: Open daily from 8am until 5pm.

At Furnace Creek Visitor Center, you can watch a film about the park as well as listen to ranger-led talks, walks, and slide presentations (from November until April only).

There is a fully-staffed info desk there and you can find out everything you need to know about this remote and barren park.

Death valley things to do in winter
Scotty’s Castle

Death Valley Crowds in Winter

As noted above, Death Valley’s high season is what would be many other parks’ off-seasons.  However, if you’re visiting Death Valley in December during the middle of the month, expect very few crowds as it is the least crowded time during winter.

You will see a spike in visitors during the period from Christmas until New Year’s, as well as a spike during MLK Day weekend (if you’re visiting the national park in January) and Presidents’ Day weekend (if you’re visiting the US national park in February).

Death Valley in Winter Driving Tips

You will need to figure out which way you’re coming to Death Valley NP during winter in order to see the driving recommendations for the route.

However, when you get to Death Valley National Park, you will likely find snow anywhere around or above 4,000 feet.

If you’re coming from the west, you will likely end up on SR190 (Towne’s Pass) and the summit sits around 5,000 feet. Another way to come in from the west is Wildrose-Emigrant Canyon Road and it is actually higher in elevation than Towne’s Pass. Snow can be prevalent.

Other areas where you are likely to see snow and have driving complications are Scotty’s Castle, Dante’s View, Daylight Pass Road (on way to Beatty), and the Saline Valley Road – Hunter Mountain area.

Best Things to Do in Death Valley in Winter

One thing to note about Death Valley is it is very spread out and most people drive from place to place.  So, it is essentially a driving park.

There are opportunities for hiking in Death Valley as well as camping and we note both below as fantastic activities for those visiting Death Valley in winter.

Visit the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

Built in 1876, the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns is a top attraction in Death Valley, California. It was founded to provide fuel for processing silver and lead ore from George Hearst’s Modock Consolidated Mining Company which was in operation until 1878.

The bee-shaped structures of the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns serve as a special attraction for people to visit and are among the best preserved in the western parts. You can even smell the smoke once you’re inside of them!

The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns are located in the Upper Wildrose Canyon near the Panamint Springs area. It is a bit tedious to reach the place but trust me, it is completely worth your time and effort.

Photograph the Mesquite Sand Dunes

Another major attraction in the US national park is the Mesquite Sand Dunes which rise almost up to 100 feet in height and are renowned for their sand-boarding opportunities.

In addition, you can take awesome pictures of sunrises and sunsets as the light during these times perfectly adorns and ornaments the beauty of the area! During sunsets, ripples and patterns are formed on the sand due to the incoming light.

Death valley things to do in winter

You can take walks on the dunes and while there is no specific marked trail due to continuous shifts in the sand, it is worthwhile and one of the best things to do in Death Valley in winter. You can also walk up straight towards the highest dunes to achieve a proper vantage point over the local area.

The Mesquite Sand Dunes are located right beside the main road through the Death Valley National Park and is a must-see attraction of the area.

Take a Drive in Death Valley

There are several driving routes throughout Death Valley and it is definitely a great thing to do in the park during winter.

Some major roads entering the park are Highway 190 via Highway 395 from California and Highway 160 from the south end of Las Vegas which eventually ends up to Highway 190 entering the park.

There are several viewpoints along the driving route of Highway 190 including Dante’s View, Twenty Mule Canyon, Zabriskie Point, etc (please make sure you’re comfortable with snow if over 4,000 feet!). The route eventually ends up in front of the park visitor center in Furnace Creek.

You can further drive southwards from Furnace Creek to Badwater and stop at several viewpoints along the way like Desolation Canyon, Artist’s Drive, Devil’s Natural Bridge, and Devil’s Golf Course. Golfing is a popular thing to do in Death Valley, especially in winter.

Once you’re done visiting Badwater, you can reverse to Furnace Creek and proceed further to the Harmony Borax Interpretive Trail that leads to the Mustard Canyon and the Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells.

Death valley things to do in winter

On an early start to the drive from Furnace Creek, you can further embark on a half-hour drive to Panamint Springs and then proceed towards Father Crowley Point which is another 20 minutes away. 

You can then proceed to Beatty via the ghost town of Rhyolite. Make sure to stop at Rhyolite and check out the old ruins of a California mining town from the yesteryears! There are some creative art installations as well.

Check Out Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin is a famous place in Death Valley that you should not miss while you’re there. It is also considered the lowest point of land in the western hemisphere, situated at a whopping 277 feet below sea level.

The area is extremely hot throughout the year, even during winter… so plan accordingly!

Badwater Lake is an extremely shallow yet picturesque lake that is surrounded by mountains and sand dunes and is rimmed with salt. Depending on the climatic conditions of the specific year, you may or may not find water in the lake.

In case you do not find any water, you can walk on the endless salt bed on the lake. And, if there is water there, then you can enjoy the beautiful reflections of the surrounding mountains during early mornings and evenings when the sun is low.

Death valley things to do in winter
Death Valley in winter

It is an extremely pleasing place for photography enthusiasts with many award-winning shots having featured this wonderful area- it truly is one of the highlights of Death Valley, in my opinion.

If you are into four-wheel driving and offroading, then the infamous “Racetrack” is the ideal place for you to go. The area comprises a huge, dried-out mud bed with stone chips of various shapes and sizes.

Please note: the offroading is on the road THERE and not permitted once you’re there.  Click here to see regulations and restrictions from the national park’s site.

Find a Vantage Point in Death Valley NP

Another significant and mind-boggling photogenic area in the park is Zabriskie Point presenting surreal views of the undulating and hard-packed surrounding landscape.

The landscape comprises of gold, brown, and orange-colored Earth that presents spectacular views during early mornings and late evenings. 

If you want to enjoy the overall Death Valley landscape from one single point, then Dante’s View is the place for you to check out next.

You need to drive through a 16-mile, twisty but paved road that leads from the highway to the top of Dante’s Point located at 5,478 feet above sea level. Please note the elevation and realize that snow may exist!

The Ubehebe Crater is a large volcanic crater that was naturally formed due to steam and gas explosions from rising magma on groundwater. It is 600 feet deep and half a mile wide. It was earlier confused as a meteor crash site and is a must-see location in Death Valley National Park.

Artist’s Palette is a significant attraction of the park with its colorful landscape. It is a volcanic and sedimentary hill painted in a variety of colors like pink, purple, blue, green, etc.

Finding a vantage point may be a bit more challenging during the depths of winter in Death Valley, but if you can manage it, you will be greeted with some of the most beautiful views in your life!

Go to Furnace Creek

You can find the park’s visitor center, campgrounds for overnighting, restaurants and eateries, stores, gas stations, as well as Furnace Creek Resort, at Furnace Creek located centrally in the park. 

Death Valley Winter Hiking

Another popular activity in Death Valley in winter is hiking.  There are some fantastic hiking trails in Death Valley National Park and they are much better to take to during comfortable temperatures than in the hotter months!

Here are some of the most popular Death Valley winter hiking trails (for all skill levels!):

Easy Hikes

  • Harmony Borax Works (0.4 miles)
  • Salt Creek Interpretive Trail (0.5 miles)
  • Badwater Salt Flat (1 mile)
  • Natural Bridge (1 mile)
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (2 miles)

Moderate Hikes

  • Ubehebe Crate Loop (1.5 miles)
  • Darwin Falls (2 miles)
  • Badlands Loop (2.7 miles)
  • Willow Canyon (4.2 miles)
  • Dante’s Ridge (8 miles)

Difficult Hikes

  • Panamint Dunes (7 miles)
  • Little Bridge Canyon (7 miles)
  • Telescope Peak (14 miles)
  • Wildrose Peak (8.4 miles)

While temperatures are definitely better in Death Valley in winter, you will still need to take precautions.  There is no shelter from the sun and sunscreen is a must.  Also, bring a lot of water with you for these Death Valley hikes!

Death valley things to do in winter
Hiking Telescope Peak in winter

Death Valley Lodging and Accommodation

There are a few different options for where to stay in Death Valley during winter.  You can camp at one of the designated sites in the park, stay at a camp nearby, or find lodging near one of the entrances.

Below are some recommendations for where to stay in Death Valley National Park in winter.

Hotels near Death Valley NP

There are a few places nearby that are recommended to stay, and some of our favorites are:

  1. The Inn at Death Valley (inside of the National Park!)
  2. Shady Lady Bed and Breakfast (Scottys Junction, NV)
  3. Shoshone Inn (Shoshone, CA)

Death Valley Winter Camping

You can camp anywhere for free in Death Valley (technically speaking) but if you’re keen to be based at an actual campsite, we recommend the tent camps at Emigrant, Wildrose, Mahogany Flat, or Thorndike.  These are also free.

Please note that it does get cold at night in the park and desert coldness is arid and can feel different than ‘cold’ on the east coast where there is more humidity.

Also, Death Valley winter camping brings more crowds than in summer. The most popular time to go camping in Death Valley is from November until March. So, plan ahead!

The tent camps do not take reservations and are free but the camps at Furnace Creek, Sunset, Texas Spring, Stovepipe Wells, and Mesquite Spring are not free. All are no reservations in winter but you will need to reserve at the one in Furnace Creek during winter.

Death valley things to do in winter

Renting an RV

Another unique alternative for your trip to Death Valley in winter is to rent an RV.  While I definitely wouldn’t recommend doing this without feeling comfortable driving one or on roads during winter and previous experience, it is a viable option for many adventurous travelers.

I recommend renting one in Las Vegas and driving toward the park from there. My trusted RV partner is Outdoorsy and they have options from full-size to trailers and more!  Click here to check availability for Las Vegas RVs with Outdoorsy.

Should You Visit Death Valley in Winter?

If you have your sights set on a trip to Death Valley, winter is definitely an optimal time to visit!  We hope that our guide to visiting Death Valley in winter helps you plan your trip and feel encouraged to visit this otherworldly US national park.

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Death valley things to do in winter


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About the Author: Tung Chi