Death Valley National Park, Part 4: Sightseeing and Touristing

Our last day at Death Valley was packed with multiple short hikes, pieced together from our plans that had included areas effected by recent mudslides. We began the morning driving up to Dante’s View where I had planned our first hike along the Black Peaks. But at 5,500 feet the gusting wind, combined with below-freezing temperatures made us think twice. Even Abby sought shelter from the bitter wind. So instead of hiking up the peaks we decided to walk out along a path from the viewpoint for about a half mile. The view is pretty incredible to say the least. The blue and white of Badwater Basin below is gorgeous, offset against the oranges and browns of the valley floor and the colored badlands visible at the base of the Black Mountains are fantastic, but what I thought was truly spectacular were the alluvial fans bursting from the base of the Panamint Mountain range to the west.

Walking out along ridge from Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, California

Walking out along ridge from Dante’s View, Death Valley National Park, California

Badlands seen from Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, California

Badlands seen from Dante’s View, Death Valley National Park, California

Zoom shot of Badwater from Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, California

Zoom shot of Badwater from Dante’s View, Death Valley National Park, California

Zoom of Badwater below from Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, California

Zoom of Badwater below from Dante’s View, Death Valley National Park, California

Looking south while walking from Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, California

Looking south while walking from Dante’s View, Death Valley National Park, California

Near Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, California

Near Dante’s View, Death Valley National Park, California

Me overlooking Badwater Basin from near Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, California

Me overlooking Badwater Basin from near Dante’s View, Death Valley National Park, California

After descending from the Black Mountains we made a brief stop at the famous Zabriskie Point, a section of warm brown and creamy beige striped badlands near the valley proper. We then proceeded south towards an even more famous place in Death Valley: Badwater Basin. Dropped by tectonic activity 282 feet below sea level, the basin is coated in crystallized salt, deposited from mountain runoff. Being so far below sea level the water remains trapped until it eventually evaporates, leaving only the collection of salt and other minerals. A month prior to our visit there had been record flooding which left much more water in the basin than usual (as we saw earlier that morning from Dante’s View) but the salt flats near the lowest point remained above water and so I was able – along with about a hundred other people – to walk out and see the crystallized patterns and shimmering deposits up close.

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

People walking out to the salt flats at Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

People walking out to the salt flats at Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Salt flats, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Salt flats, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Salt flats, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Salt flats, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Crystallized salt, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Crystallized salt, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Badwater Pool, Death Valley National Park, California

Badwater Pool, Death Valley National Park, California

Me at the salt flats, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Me at the salt flats, Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California

Badwater Pool, Death Valley National Park, California

Badwater Pool, Death Valley National Park, California

Looking for some more opportunities to walk (and fewer people) we then headed to Natural Bridge Canyon which contained, as promised, a natural bridge formed by water erosion. We reached the bridge fairly quickly from the trailhead and decided to keep walking, soon encountering a series of dryfalls that required some scrambling. The canyon never really narrowed nor became remarkable after the natural bridge, but it was a nice little walk with a few fun scrambles.

Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Under the bridge, Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Under the bridge, Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

A chute in Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

A chute in Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Me taking photos up the chute in Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Me taking photos up the chute in Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Looking up the chute, Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Looking up the chute, Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Tom climbing to top of dry falls, Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Tom climbing to top of dry falls, Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Climbing another dry falls, Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Climbing another dry falls, Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Natural Bridge Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

With a couple hours left before dark we decided to make one more stop to do the 2 1/2 mile out and back in Golden Canyon despite it being another popular place that would likely be busy. Though we were more-than-over the crowds we found enough in the canyon to pique our interest, such as the creamy mudstone and swirled badlands as we approached the red sandstone wall at the end of the canyon. I too enjoyed attempting to capture the disappearing sunlight and the growing shadows as they moved over the canyon rim, and also the way the low light illuminated the rock at the mouth of the canyon.

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Walls of Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Walls of Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Exiting Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California

Exiting Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California