Imagine seeing a sandy landscape bursting with wildflowers or rocks that move. Picture yourself gazing straight into the Milky Way or seeing the Devil’s golf course. You can do all these quintessential desert activities in Death Valley National Park!
However, as the name suggests, the heat in Death Valley is rather extreme; knowing when to visit makes all the difference to your experience.
In our opinion, the best time to Visit Death Valley National Park is in the springtime. The days are warm and sunny, and the nights are cool.
From March to early May, you can hike and explore more of the park on foot as opposed to visiting during much hotter months of the year. The floral display in the desert is spectacular around this time, and the colors in Artist’s Palette are at its best.
While most people probably think about Death Valley as having a stark, desolate atmosphere about it, this valley is one of the fascinating places to visit with lots of super interesting and must-see landmarks.
Let’s dive into the details a bit more about the best time to visit Death Valley National Park!
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Best Time To Visit Death Valley National Park
- For colorful wildflowers: The absolute best month to visit Death Valley for wildflowers is in April.
- For the coolest weather: The best months to visit are during November to February.
- For warm days and cool nights: The periods between March-April and October-November have the most pleasant weather for your Death Valley visit.
- For fewer crowds: December and January are the quietest month, with the period after Thanksgiving and before Christmas being the least crowded time of the entire year.
Weather In Death Valley National Park By Season
Spring (March to May)
This is the most popular time to visit Death Valley. Besides the pleasantly warm and sunny days, the possibility of spring wildflowers is what makes the park so popular at this time.
In terms of temperatures, you can expect daytime temperatures ranging from the low 70’s to high 80’s °F and nighttime temperatures ranging from the mid 40’s to mid 50’s °F.
Death Valley is typically most crowded during the spring break between mid-March and late April. You’ll find that campgrounds and lodging options are at max capacity at this time of year, with reservations booked up months in advance.
Summer (June to August)
Summer in Death Valley starts from early May and lasts almost until the end of September. Typically during these months, the valley becomes too hot for most visitors to bear, so you can expect fewer crowds during this season.
Summer temperatures often top 120°F (49°C), with overnight lows dipping into the 90s°F (mid-30s°C).
Due to the intense heat, most visitors will explore the park by drive to the main attractions rather than hiking to them.
Fall (September to November)
Autumn usually comes late in Death Valley. Even in October, it can still be really hot with temperature highs reaching up to 93°F (34°C) and temperature lows of 61°F (16°C).
Come November, things start to cool off with average temperature highs of 77°F (25°C) and lows of 48°F (9°C). At this time of the year, the weather is still warm but comfortable enough to explore on foot, and the skies are usually clear — great for stargazing!
During the fall season, the camping season starts back up again. Typically, the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Death Valley 49ers Encampment (second week in November) are busy.
Winter (December to February)
In contrast to the extremes of summertime, winter temperatures are very pleasant. Winter daytime temperatures are mild in the low elevations, with cool nights that only occasionally reach freezing.
The temperature lows can range between 39° and 54° F, while the temperature highs can reach between 68° and 77°F.
Higher elevations are cooler than the low valley, with temperatures dropping 3° to 5°F (2 to 3°C) with every 1000 feet of vertical height gained.
And while you can expect sunny skies throughout the winter season, there can be occasional winter storms that can bring clouds and rain.
This time of year is great for exploring the valley because of the mild temperatures, snow-covered peaks in the background, and the low-angle winter light. As you can imagine, this is a pretty popular time to visit, so you should expect more crowds during these months.
Spring Is Best Time To Visit Death Valley National Park
As its name suggests, Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth. Temperatures soar so high that during summer months, it is not safe to spend more than 10 – 15 minutes out in the open without experiencing some sort of fatigue from the heat.
The spring months from March to early May have the most pleasant and bearable temperatures, plus the perk of gorgeous scenery, making it the best times to visit Death Valley. The days are warm and not unbearably hot, and the nights are moderate but not cold.
Aside from the excellent weather, if there had been good rains the previous winter season, what you’ll find is that the desert comes to life with beautiful carpets of white, yellow, and pink wildflowers! This floral display is at its best near Badwater Basin.
With the pleasant weather comes the opportunity to explore more of the park on foot and spend time outdoors taking in the natural wonders of Death Valley National Park.
But even during spring, it’s best to exercise caution with the heat because you’re still in the desert, after all.
It’s still best not to be out in the midday sun, but instead, in an air-conditioned vehicle. Fortunately, not everything requires a hike at Death Valley. You can easily view some of the park’s wonders from the comfort of your vehicle! We suggest doing your hikes in the morning and exploring other parts of the park by car in the afternoons.
It takes at least one full day to experience the park. If you plan to stay longer, book accommodations in advance.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that spring is considered the high season for visiting Death Valley NP. As such, we recommend booking accommodations for your trip as soon as possible for the best availability and prices!
Death Valley Has A Myriad Of Things To Do In Spring
Head out to Death Valley National Park in springtime when the temperatures are most conducive to exploring the park on foot and not from the inside of a car.
The good weather makes it possible to touch and feel the sand and rock formations underneath your feet and picnic along the edge of wildflower fields.
Take To The Trails and Hike In Death Valley
Visiting Death Valley in the springtime (and even in the wintertime) allows you to walk on foot in the park and hike any one of the hundreds of hiking trails. Two trails, in particular, are noteworthy for their unique landscape.
Zabriskie Point offers exceptional sunsets and excellent hiking trails into the surrounding hills. From this point, you can see the Panamint Mountains in the distance and admire the gold and brown hues of the immense rock formation.
Mosaic Canyon is a short hike from Stovepipe Wells Village. The rock surface results from water that has made its way into the canyon for hundreds of years. The rocks resemble water-polished marble, and the many rock fragments create a mosaic effect.
Enjoy The Incredible Scenery The Valley Has To Offer
Dantes Peak is the highest point in Death Valley and offers incredible 360-degree views of the valley. The peak is just above Badwater Basin, and the salt pans in the basin resemble snow from above. Visit in the morning for the best panoramic sights and excellent photographic opportunities.
Artists Palette is on Artists Drive and en route to the black mountains. The colors of blue, green, orange, and pink resemble an artist’s paint palette. They are most charming in the late afternoon, particularly in Spring when the hues from metal in the rocks are at their best.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, the only place you can surf in Death Valley, are flatter than expected, providing a desert playground. The sun hits the dunes in the morning and late afternoon and creates long dark shadows, a photographer’s dream. You won’t be able to endure the heat on the dunes in summer, so plan to explore in the spring.
Darwin Falls are a surprising highlight of visiting Death Valley. The falls have water all year round, and you will pass through a desert oasis to reach the falls. In contrast to the arid desert, the oasis is a lush green stretch where plants and vegetation grow in abundance.
Death Valley National Park has dark skies, and in the Ubehebe Crater, you can experience the magic of gazing into the Milky Way. The nights in Spring are not too cold; turn your telescope or binoculars to the south and see the Milky Way.
Experience The Mystery of Death Valley
One super interesting spot to explore within Death Valley National Park is Badwater Basin.
Badwater Basin is located below sea level, and you can hike to the saltwater flats. The name ‘Badwater ‘hails from the salty water in the basin that is not drinkable. On occasions, the bay is full of water, allowing visitors to paddle out to the salt pan!
The Devil’s Golf Course is another must-see. The landmark is composed of nearly vertical salt crystals that have been carved out by wind and rain over time. Large salt crystals in odd patterns may not be the most appealing landscape, but the solitude and desolation of this area makes for a strangely calming experience.
Go Stargazing and Sand-Surfing
In the springtime, it is possible to surf the Mezquite Dunes because the heat is not yet sweltering.
And when the night falls, there’s a whole other world to discover in the dark! Death Valley National Park has been deemed a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association, which is the highest rating of darkness! You can’t miss the opportunity to stargaze at Death Valley at least once in your life!
Stargazing in March and April in the Ubehehe Canyon allows you to see the Milky Way.
What Is Death Valley Best Known For?
Death Valley is most commonly known as the largest national park in the contiguous United States, covering an area of over 3 million acres.
Death Valley National Park is most well-known for its extremes — it is North America’s driest and hottest area, with fewer than 2 inches (5 cm) of rainfall annually and a record high of 134°F. It also has the lowest elevation on the continent, clocking in at 282 feet below sea level, at Badwater Basin.
Death Valley is also known for its amazing stargazing opportunities. In fact, the International Dark-Sky Association has designated Death Valley National Park a Gold Tier Dark Sky Park, which is the highest rating of darkness!
The valley also contains salt flats, canyons, sand dunes, and mountains. Visitors can come to camp, hike, photograph, and sightsee throughout the year.
Annual Events In The Death Valley Area
Death Valley Dark Sky Festival (February) – Death Valley offers some of the best stargazing in America, and visitors are invited to explore the night sky with auditorium talks, astrophotography events, astronomy programs, family programs, and more.
Death Valley Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K (February) – The entire course is below sea level with fantastic vistas of the surrounding mountain ranges: the Panamints, the Funerals, the Cottonwoods, the Blacks and the Grapevines.
Death Valley ’49ers Annual Encampment (November) – Yearly encampment featuring old-time and western-style music, art and vendor shows. There is also a costume contest, gold panning, wheelbarrow racing, and a couple of parades to enjoy.
Bishop Annual Christmas Parade (December) – Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Street of Lights event
Essential Tips: Death Valley National Park
Even if you visit Death Valley at the ‘best time of the year’ where conditions are more pleasant, you still need to consider the harsh desert conditions and plan for your trip accordingly. Here are some essential tips for visiting Death Valley NP:
- The first piece of advice is to take plenty of water with you! You’re in the desert, and you should never forget that while visiting Death Valley NP.
- There is minimal mobile phone reception in the park, and if you get lost, you will not easily be able to call for help.
- Download Google Maps for offline use! Having a map and a planned route is of the utmost importance.
- Death Valley has five roads that lead to an entrance into the park and none of them are gated. Access to the park is open all year round and at all times. The National Parks Service relies on the honor system for park visitors entering, but you will need to purchase a pass and display it in your car.
- The entrance fee for Death Valley is $30 per vehicle for a 7-day pass. Instead of buying this pass that only lasts 7 days, we highly recommend getting the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, which costs $80 and will get you into any of the 2,000+ National Parks, National Monuments, or National Forests for an entire year!
- Fill up your gas tank before you embark on your adventure, and take extra gas with you if you plan on venturing to further areas.
- There are three places within the park boundary to get gas: Panamint Springs (on the west side), Stovepipe Wells Village (north/central), and Furnace Creek (next to the Visitor’s Center). NOTE: These are small gas stations and they can sometimes run out of gas.
- Make sure your spare tire is useable, and that you have the necessary tools to change the tire.
- When you’re outside, even in cooler weather, regularly apply sunscreen, and wear a sun hat and sunglasses. Keep yourself well hydrated and do not spend prolonged periods of time outdoors, especially in fully-exposed areas with no shade at all.
- The Furnace Creek Visitor Center is your best friend if you’re not sure where to start. Bring all your questions there and get hiking recommendations for the day as well!
- Bring snacks and picnic lunches with you, as there are no real grocery stores within Death Valley. If you are in a pinch, you can get snacks and light grocery items at the Panamint Springs store, Stovepipe Village, and the Ranch at Furnace Creek.
ARE YOU ROAD TRIP READY? YOUR QUICK CHECKLIST:
License and registration | This is a no-brainer, but always good to check you have all documents before it’s too late and you get too far away from home. Do NOT leave home without them. They are road trip essentials!
Spare Tire | In addition to carrying a spare tire with you, don’t forget to check your current tire conditions before you set off as well.
Jumper Cables / Car Jump Starter | A must-have for any road trip! If you’re looking to invest in something exponentially more powerful/convenient than simple jumper cables, get the NOCO Boost HD Car Battery Jump Starter Box. This tool was sent from heaven and serves as a car jump starter, portable power bank, LED flashlight, and 12-volt portable power–all in one!
iOttie car mount | This is my partner in crime on any road trip. It’s got an amazing grip and popping your phone in and out of the mount could not be easier. If you’re renting a rental car and you’re not sure if it has a navigation screen, bring a phone mount with you. The iOttie attaches by suction, so it’s easy to transport from car to car.
Roadside Emergency Kit | You never know what kind of car trouble you may encounter on the road. This convenient little kit contains 42 roadside emergency components, including jumper cables, an aluminum flashlight and batteries, 2-in-1 screwdriver, duct tape, poncho, cable ties, bandages, towelettes, and zipper-lock bags.
Trunk Organizer | With any road trip comes lots and lots of stuff to pack. Keep your road trip essentials organized with a trunk organizer. Not only will this make it so much easier to find what you need, but it will also lead to more space in your trunk for you to pack other necessities.
Portable Cooler | Coolers are a must for any road trip. Not only will you be able to keep beverages cold and refreshing, but you will also be able to keep perishables fresh. A portable hard cooler will allow you to pack picnic lunches, bring cheese and jams, and more.
Towns/Attractions Near Death Valley National Park
Where To Stay For Death Valley NP: The Inn at Death Valley
In our opinion, spring is the best to visit Death Valley National Park. If you’re looking for colorful scenery paired with temperatures that are just right, this is the time to go!
The moderate weather in the spring allows you to spend time on foot in the valley. With so many hikes and trails to explore, who wouldn’t want to visit in the spring?
Looking for more Southern California travel tips near Death Valley? Read More: