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There are so many great stops on Bad Water Road and awesome things to see in Death Valley and it’s super easy to get away from the crowds in the parts closer to Furnace Creek.
We had just one full day in Death Valley and I knew there would be a lot of driving since we were coming from St. George, Utah. To avoid backtracking, once we got to the park, we went in near Shoshone and went up Bad Water Road instead of down it.
This way we ended the day by Furnace Creek and were closer to the hotel. There are only two hotels in Death Valley and we stayed at Stovepipe Wells. It’s super convenient being in the park but I don’t think this one specifically is worth the price.
It’s very expensive and it’s the cheap hotel in the park. I would like to try the fancy one, too to see what it’s like. There is also a lot of camping in the park if that works for you. Or you can stay in nearby Beatty or Pahrump.
If you drive all of Bad Water Road (Shoshone to Furnace Creek) without stopping, it takes about an hour and a half, but of course you’ll want to stop. South of Badwater Basin there isn’t as much going on, so you don’t have to do all of that but that is the best part to not see people.
There is only one thing on this list below Badwater Basin and it’s not the most thrilling stop. If you’re coming from Shoshone, it’s a nice stop but I probably wouldn’t go all the way down to it if you’re not driving the whole road.
So, here are the best stops on Bad Water Road in Death Valley, plus a few other great stops in the park! Just remember, Death Valley is huge and it takes forever to drive between places. Keep that in mind when deciding what you want to see and do there, especially with limited time.
Death Valley safety
- There is no phone service in almost all of the park. There is some in Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells but it’s not great. It was mostly 3G for me. They do have WiFi but it wasn’t very good.
- If you do any hiking, be sure to wear sunscreen (face sunscreen, too) and I would also recommend a hat to keep the sun out of your eyes.
- Bring lots of water. And then some extra. And then some more, just in case. And don’t forget to drink that water. And then some more. Because it’s hot.
- Read the story of the Death Valley Germans before going and don’t drive down any roads your car can’t handle. And if you do, turn around if you get to a point you can’t pass.
- I just wouldn’t visit at all in the summer unless experiencing the incredible heat is part of the novelty for you. It can be 120+ degrees and you don’t want to be caught unprepared in that. If you do visit in the summer, bring even more water than I said.
- Get gas before going into the park because, while it’s expensive outside the park, it’s even worse in the park. And you can only get it at Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek.
Ashford Mill is the only stop on Bad Water Road below Badwater Basin. It’s a cool stop if you’re already driving the whole thing to/from Shoshone or if you really, really love history.
It also does have some great views in the area and probably way less people that anywhere else on Bad Water Road though. This whole section of the road feels so remote.
We probably saw less than ten cars below Badwater Basin when we were there in October. We even just pulled over (in one of the pull outs, of course) to have a little lunch.
There isn’t much for hiking trails down here but the views are pretty impressive and I definitely enjoyed them. If you’re super limited on time though and coming from the north part of the park, you could probably skip this area.
Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in North America at 282 feet below sea level! On the rock wall across from the parking area you can even see a sign showing where sea level is. Can you spot it in the picture above?
There is a short trail taking you to the salt flats here and a sign showing the elevation. If you want to see the best salt flats, you’ll probably have to hike out a mile or two after thee main trail ends but it’s still easy to follow.
We just stopped at the end of the main part because even though it was only like, 80 degrees, it felt so hot in the sun. I liked this stop and wouldl ove to go further the next time I’m there.
Natural Bridge is, you guessed it, a natural bridge made of rock in a canyon area. AllTrails says it’s a 4.4 mile hike, but I believe it’s closer to a mile for the actual trail. There is a dirt road to the trailhead and it counts that in the hike.
It sounds like any car can make it but I would use your best judgement when you get there. This is one of two stops on Bad Water Road I have here that I didn’t make it to this time.
Devils Golf Course
The Devils Golf Course gets its name because only the devil could play golf in a place like this. This is a short drive down a dirt road but any car can make it. There is plenty of room for parking at the end.
There isn’t really a hiking trail here but I think you can hike out a bit. If you do, just be careful because the ground is all delicate salt crystals. They can be sharp and it can be dangerous, plus they’re fragile so I would just stick to the edge right by the parking area.
The Artists Drive is a one-way scenic drive off the side of Bad Water Road. It’s a 9.7 mile paved drive through the colorful hills of the park. There are a couple of short hikes along here if you want to stretch your legs.
I think this was one of my favorite parts of the park and if you’re coming from the south part of Bad Water Road, this would still have you heading in the right direction going north.
If you want to see the part of Bad Water Road that you missed by taking this you’ll have to do a little back tracking but nothing too bad or inconvenient. We didn’t go back over that part, just kept going north since it was getting late.
The Artists Palette is a stop on the Artists Drive. If you see pictures of bright pastel rock/dirt in Death Valley, this is it. It’s not as bold as most people make it look though.
There is a short hike here to get into this and there is a good parking area for pictures even if you don’t want to hike. I liked this stop a lot and it reminded me of Zabriske Point, my favorite place to go in Death Valley.
If you want a hike on Bad Water Road a little longer than Badwater Basin, then Golden Canyon is perfect. Just hiking Golden Canyon is 0.8 miles but you can combine it with Red Canyon for a 2.6 mile hike.
We didn’t get to do this one because we didn’t have time but I would love to do this one. It looks pretty impressive. It does seem like a popular trail, so maybe go early or later in the day, but anytime I’m sure it’s great.
Other Great Spots in Death Valley
While Bad Water Road is the most popular part of the park, there are tons of other great places to go in Death Valley. These aren’t really hikes in Death Valley, though some of these places do have trails, it’s mostly just cool stops in Death Valley.
This was my favorite stop in Death Valley and I’m sure the lighting helped. We made it here right before sunset so there was a little glow but i was cloudy and it was just perfect with the golden hills.
If you keep going up the road from Zabriske Point, you’ll get to Dantes View. This view overlooks Badwater Basin 5,575 feet below. We didn’t make it up here but I can only imagine how good the view is.
This is a great place for sunrise, sunset, and stargazing. It’s a dark sky park so if it’s clear, I would highly recommend getting outside to check out the milky way because it will blow your mind.
Ubehebe Crater is a 600 foot deep crater about an hour and a half from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. You can hike down to the bottom of it, just be prepared for the hike out, too.
If you want a slightly easier hike, you can do the 1.5 mil. loop around the crater rim, seeing smaller craters along the way. This is a great place to go in death Valley if you have more than one day in the park. Either way, be sure to stay on the trail.
The Racetrack is probably one of the most unique things to see in Death Valley. You might even know what it is, even if you don’t actually know what it is.
The Racetrack is a playa with rocks that look like they move! You may have seen pictures of these rocks with trails in the dirt behind them.
If you want to see this though, you’ll need a 4WD, high clearance vehicle with sturdy tires since there are some sharp rocks and not so great roads to get here.
Mesquite Sand Dunes
The Mesquite Sand Dunes are much easier to get to since they’re just off the road near Stovepipe Wells. While they’ aren’t as big as Great Sand Dunes National Park, they’re still a fun stop in Death Valley.
We didn’t spend tons of time here since we had a day of driving ahead of us, but you might have to hike a little ways if you want to see dunes with fewer foot prints. The close ones are all covered with them. You can sandboard here.
They’re the most photographed dunes in the park and easiest to get to but if you want to see more, you have a few options! The Eureka Dunes are much more remote and need a 4WD high clearance drive vehicle (no sandboarding here).
The Saline Dunes also require a long, rough drive and don’t get many casual visitors. Finally, the Panamint Dunes. These can be seen from the main highway but requires some dirt road driving then a three-mile hike.
Harmony Borax Works
Finally, the Harmony Borax Works. I haven’t been to this stop in person, but Geoguessr did drop me here once (before I went to the park) and I knew right away where it was! This is just past the Furnace Creek Visitor Center (there’s also a Borax Museum there)right on the main road.
In it’s heyday, three tons of borax were produced here every day! The plant was only open for five years but you can see some of it still there today. This is a good stop for history buffs.
Have you been to any of these places in Death Valley Which ones? What is your favorite thing to see in Death Valley?