After enjoying Las Vegas and especially Valley of Fire State Park it was time to head over to Southern Nevada’s other major attraction Death Valley National Park. There are two ways to go when RVing to Death Valley. You can choose to stay down in the valley at one of the campgrounds or stay up out of the park in one of the surrounding communities. We choose to stay in a little town called Beatty (pronounced BayDee) about 8 miles outside of the parks eastern entrance. We decided on Beatty for a few reasons. It was high enough at 3300 feet that it would have pleasant temperatures in the 70’s versus Death Valley’s 90’s during the day. Also it was close to a neat little ghost town called Rhyolite and had a well reviewed full hook up RV Park for $150 a week. The negative is it takes about 45 minutes of driving to get to the main sections of Death Valley NP.
Beatty RV Park
The Beatty RV Park is basically a gravel parking lot with full hookups. This is not a destination park but rather a nice place to park the rig while exploring Death Valley National Park. It is a very clean and well maintained little park with nice new electrical pedestals, friendly owners, pull-thrus, and on-site propane. The park does have some trees which attracts hundreds of small black birds and doves which create an amusing and interesting chorus of calls. There is also some BLM land next door to walk the dog or go for a desert hike.
Rhyolite Ghost Town
Around 4 miles west of Beatty is an interesting place to stop and have a walk around. The Rhyolite Ghost Town has a dozen or so buildings to take a look at and an outdoor sculpture park. We arrived an hour or so before sunset as the light was fading and an almost full moon a rising. Tucked in among the surrounding hills with a view of the nearby valley it was a little chilling walking around the dead quiet ghost town imagining life there 100 years ago.
Death Valley National Park
Ahh, the main attraction! Driving into Death Valley your stuck by a sense of grandeur and desolation. The bottom of the valley is covered with either sand, stone or white salts and is surrounded by rocky mountains. The place is seemingly devoid of life or anything interesting. It is not until you get a little closer that things begin to appear. Small plants and shrubs clinging to life, beautiful colored rock outcroppings, delicate and interestingly patterned salt deposits, and here and there patches of greenery where underground springs surface and life explodes.
First place we had to check out was Badwater Basin home to the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level and an ever-changing salt flat. There is a small spring fed pool of water that gives the place it’s name. Due to the surrounding salt flats the water is undrinkable. The place does make for an interesting photo-op and Anne and I walked out on to the salt flats. It’s amazing how dry and hot it was, you could feel your bodies moisture being sucked out of you. It was only around 85-90 degrees, I can’t even fathom what it would be like in summer at 120 degrees or more.
Next we visited a place in the park called the Devils Golf Course. It is another mineralized salt area but has dried mud formations of a foot or two high with delicate salt crystals embedded in them. Anne spent a good hour hunkered down taking photos of the fascinating landscape.
My video clip of Badwater Basin and Devils Golf Course
Unfortunately for us most of the week we were visiting the weather was cloudy and very hazy so it was hard to get any great photos from some of the famous overlooks at Zabriskie Point and Dantes View but we did have one spectacular day where the sun shone and the temps were reasonable at around 85 degrees. We drove through a section of the park called Artists Drive home to a multicolored badlands environment. It is amazing the varied hues of green, purple, oranges, reds, etc. and the way the water and wind has eroded the rock and sandstone.
Finally we spent the last evening watching the sunset at Mesquite Dunes, an area of the park where grayish-brown sand dunes pile up and small Mesquite Trees sprout up around them. The Mesquite trees were in full bloom covered with small yellow flowers and buzzing bees. We walked about a mile out into the dunes and sat back and watched the sunset. The air was warm, silence greeted our ears, beauty and pure nature surrounded us and life was good.
Exploring Death Valley National Park was an interesting experience but it’s huge! It’s the largest national park south of Alaska so be ready to drive a bunch when visiting. Sometimes it can take an hour to drive from one attraction to another. Make sure your vehicle is in really good condition mechanically to handle the heat and elevation changes and full of fuel. Bring lots of H2O, hat and sunglasses and extra food.