Death Valley National Park is famous for a lot of things; being the hottest place in the world, being the lowest place in North America, and more seemingly unappetizing feats. So, you might ask yourself, “Is Death Valley worth visiting?” And the answer to that is HOLY SHIT YES. Whether you’re planning to spend a week or one day, you’re going to have an amazing time (assuming you don’t go during summer so definitely check the weather before you plan). There is truly so much to do in this incredible park and while you could fill up a whole week, you absolutely can do a lot in a day at Death Valley.
If you’re unfamiliar with what to do in Death Valley, you’re in luck because the terrain there is all over the place. There’s a little bit of everything for your day trip! I drove in from Las Vegas to Death Valley in just about three hours and stayed outside the park in Pahrump, NV. We packed a lot into our one day Death Valley itinerary and truly fell in love with this park. So to help you plan your trip, I’m going to break down all we were able to do/see, even in the short days of winter.
Short Version of One Day in Death Valley
You can pack all of these activities/locations into a day, but keep reading for my location-specific recommendations:
- Zabriskie Point
- Mesquite Sand Dunes
- Pick another one of the amazing viewpoints that are about an hour drive
- Drive out to Father Crowley Overlook
- Drive back to Dante’s View
- Artist’s Drive
- Natural Bridge trail
- Devil’s Golf Course
- Badwater Basin
Long Version of One Day in Death Valley
The most basic answer to the question, “what to do in Death Valley in one day?” is “everything you can” and I mean that. There is so much variation in the landscape of this park it’s truly pretty magical. I only spent a day in Death Valley and that park shot up my list of favorite National Parks, it was truly so cool and so unique. I was able to do all of the things on this list and am going to detail a little more about what we did, when we went, and how cool it was.
Sunrise at Zabriskie Point
If you’re looking for the best place to watch the sunrise at Death Valley, it doesn’t get much better than Zabriskie Point. This popular vista is truly stunning. I’ve never seen a sunrise quite like it; the mountains just glowed more and more as the sun rose. It was truly spectacular and I think a must-do on your one day Death Valley itinerary. While we visited on a holiday weekend and it was a little busy for sunrise, there was still plenty of space to see the view and take photos.
If you wanted to skip Zabriskie Point for sunrise and choose somewhere else, Aguereberry Point, Badwater Basin, Mesquite Sand Dunes are all supposed to be just as magical.
Hike and Explore the Mesquite Sand Dunes
Speaking of the Mesquite Sand Dunes, wandering around these was definitely a highlight of my day. These dunes are SO special and I had such a fun time at them just like I did exploring the Great Sand Dunes at sunrise.
These are particularly amazing because there are mountains no matter what direction you turn. Like literally a 360° mountain-dunes sandwich; these dunes are just plopped in a valley and it’s so cool! These were absolutely a highlight of my day and super high on my “what to do in Death Valley in a day” recommendations list.
Check Out Father Crowley Overlook
So you can do Dante’s View which I mentioned above or head out the other way toward Furnace Creek and out to Father Crowley Overlook, which is what we did. No matter what outlook you go to it’s a little bit of a drive, but that’s not a complaint because everything is beautiful even from the road.
This overlook was super cool and if you’re lucky you’ll see some military test flights while you’re there!
Drive and Hike Around Artist’s Drive
If you’re planning a day trip to Death Valley, chances are you’ve heard of Artist’s Palette and it’s on your one day itinerary. This area of the park with its pastel badlands/mountain hiking area is TRULY special. It’s not even over-edited in the photos you’ll see on Instagram. Hiking around this area is one of the best hikes in Death Valley National Park for sure, not due to difficulty but because of how unique it is. Your day in Death Valley is NOT COMPLETE without a stop here, I promise.
Natural Bridge Trail
This was a quick and easy hike through some beautiful canyons that ends in a massive natural bridge. If you’ve ever seen the planet of Tatooine in Star Wars, this looks exactly like where Anakin races in his pod. There are lots of hikes you can add to your one day Death Valley itinerary but this is a nice, easy one that doesn’t take a long time, and is gorgeous. So I was a fan!
Devil’s Golf Course
This is a really cool stop along the way to Badwater Basin. More strange salt formations in the shape of a million little golf balls. This is really just a little stop along your day in Death Valley.We honestly didn’t even stop to walk around, we just drove by! So stop if you want to explore, but you can see this really cool geoloical formation from the car.
Sunset at Badwater Basin
Finally, one of the most famous spots in Death Valley and the lowest place in North America; Badwater Basin. These salt flats are SO COOL. These are definitely on every “What to do in Death Valley” blog that exists and for good reason. Not only are you in such a unique spot below sea level but the salt flats you’re watching on are so cool and special.
We spent sunset here and had an absolute blast!
So there you have it, a packed but doable one day itinerary. So whether you’re planning on driving from Las Vegas to Death Valley, or just trying to decide what to do, I’ve got you covered.