Death Valley National Park

Introduction

Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 states. It is my personal favorite winter destination. Death Valley's Furnace Creek area is only about two hours from Las Vegas, and Stovepipe Wells is only four hours from Los Angeles. Many of the best photo opportunities in Death Valley require only short hikes. These include Zabriskie Point, Badwater, the Mesquite Dunes, the Racetrack, and Scotty's Castle. There are three lodges within the park and many campgrounds. This makes it easy to stay within Death Valley most of the year. Exceptions include holiday weekends, and during rare "superblooms" of wildflowers. In short, Death Valley is an easy park to visit with short hikes, pleasant temperatures, and many great photos to be had.

Visiting Death Valley is not without its problems. Distances are vast and there are only two gas stations. 4WD is needed for some of the destinations such as "The Racetrack", lodging and food can be pricey, and internet and cell service are scarce to non-existent. Summers in Death Valley should be avoided; they are incredibly hot. Clear skies and haze sometimes make photography difficult.

Official Park Map

Below is the official Death Valley National Park map as a jpeg and in three geocoded formats, as a GeoTIFF, as a KMZ file, and in Oruxmaps format. The official park map as a Geo PDF can be found here. The jpeg image below displays in low resolution, however if you download it you will get a full resolution 300dpi image. To download the full resolution jpeg right click on the image and choose Save Image As.

Death Valley Park Service Map

When to Go

Death Valley is open every day of the year. Some campgrounds and hotels are closed from mid-May through mid-October. The period from mid-October through April is the best time to visit the park. isitation peaks over holiday weekends and lodging may be unavailable then. Avoid Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's, Martin Luther King Day, and President's Day if you wish to dodge the crowds. Wildflowers peak from mid-February through mid-April. During a rare "superbloom" visitation in March can be double that of normal levels and lodging will be impossible to get. The superbloom in 2016 peaked on the valley floor in late February, an excellent time to visit. The National Park Service maintains visitor statistics on their website here.

Overnight stays by month - 2015

2015 overnight stays by Month

Lodging and Campgrounds

Lodging within Death Valley is moderately expensive and cell and internet service are poor to non-existent. Cell service is best in the Furnace Creek area. There is no service near Stovepipe Wells. When I visit Death Valley I either camp in the park or stay at Stovepipe Wells or in Beatty, Nevada. While Beatty lodging is on the economy side, food and rooms are inexpensive, and gas, cell and internet service are readily available. Beatty is only ten minutes from Rhyolite ghost town (a great photo op), and forty minutes from the Mesquite dunefield. The Mesquite Dunes are the best photo op in Death Valley. Official information on lodging can be found here. Information on campgrounds can be found here. Information on "backcountry" camping can be found here.

Death Valley Climate (°F)

Data below is measured near the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, elevation -190 feet. The highest ground temperature ever recorded in the US was 201°F in 1972, the air temperature that day was 128°F. Expect temperatures exceeding 100°F from mid May through the end of September. The world record, highest air temperature of 134°F (57°C) was recorded in Death Valley on July 10, 1913 at Furnace Creek Ranch.


Landmarks and Shooting Locations

Location Latitude Longitude 24K Topo Map Rating Comments
Aquereberry Point 36.35795 -117.0479 Wildrose Peak **** Late afternoon, 4WD, use a polarizer to cut haze
Artists Palette 36.36352 -116.80266 Devils Golf Course **** Best late afternoon to sunset.  
Ashford Mill Ruins 35.91863 -116.68322 Shore Line Butte **** Excellent at night light painted or lit by the moon, good in the blue hour, sunrise, and sunset. Wildflowers in foreground help image greatly.
Badwater 36.22985 -116.76743 Badwater *** Good early morning, late afternoon.  Use a wide to emphasize the salt ridges.  Quality of the salt ridges varies greatly from year to year.
Charcoal Kilns 36.24659 -117.07629 Telescope Peak **** Best late afternoon, but not too late.  An ultra-wide or panorama head is needed to get all ten kilns in your image. Great at night, place led lights in the kilns.
Dantes View 36.22066 -116.72661 Dantes View ***** Best near sunrise and during the blue hour, sunset works also.
Eureka Dunes 37.11226 -117.68102 Last Chance Range SW **** Arguably the tallest sand dunes in the United States. Best late afternoon to sunset. At some point of almost every afternoon you'll be greated by a squadron of low flying fighter jets buzzing the dunes. A long 4WD is required, I suggest you camp at the dunes to avoid doing the drive at night. Eureka is a linear dune running north south so it is often front lit.  Eureka is rarely visited, you might have it to yourself.  The lower dunes at the south end may be better subjects than the main dune.
Golden Canyon 36.42065 -116.84683 Furnace Creek **** Mid-late afternoon, start trails?
Ibex Dunes Talc Mine 35.69124 -116.36252 Saddle Peak Hills *** Best late afternoon
Lee Flat 36.43659 -117.62194 Lee Wash *** Many Joshua Trees, best blue hour, sunrise, sunset, night
Marble Canyon 36.61886 -117.33055 Cottonwood Canyon *** Best around noon, long 4WD drive from Stovepipe Wells.
Mesquite Dunes 36.60548 -117.11098 Grotto Canyon ***** Best photo ops in the park.  Only good near sunrise and sunset or during the blue hour.  Sunrise works better than sunset as there will be fewer footprints, less wind, less haze, fewer people, and the angle the sand ridges present to the light is better. I find the east end of the dunes to be the most photogenic, so  I usually park about 1/4 mile east of the main parking area along the side of the road.  Compressed telephoto shots work well, hike to the top of a dune and scan the dunefield for interesting sand patterns.  150mm - 300 mm can work well.  Consider including someone in the image for scale.  A polarizer can do wonders if there is haze.
Mosaic Canyon 36.57197 -117.14433 Stovepipe Wells *** Best around noon, short 2WD drive from Stovepipe Wells.
Mushroom Rock 36.38707 -116.85158 Furnace Creek *** Late morning is probably best, shoot low to the ground to the NW.
Panamint Dunes 36.45739 -117.45886 The Dunes *** 4WD required, and a seven mile RT hike.  Guaranteed you'll have these to yourself.  Best at sunrise and sunset around the winter solstice.
Racetrack 36.66574 -117.56822 Ubehebe Peak **** Best at sunset and at night.  It has become very popular and there will be many other people present requiring patience or cloning.  A long 4WD over a rocky road is required so if you'll be shooting at sunset  plan on camping at Homestake Dry Camp. AMny poeple get flat tires on the drive to/from the Racetrack.
Scottys Castle 37.0323 -117.34139 Scottys Castle **** Unfortunately closed until 2019 due to road and other repairs.  When it reopens be sure to do the tours of the interior, even though no tripods are allowed and light levels are low.  There is a good circular staircase.
Zabriskie Point 36.42006 -116.81223 Furnace Creek ***** Good in the blue hour, and until Manly Beacon becomes harshly lit after sunrise. Very popular at sunrise. Arrive well before dawn if you wish to shoot during the blue Hour. Also good at sunset.

 


Google Map showing various Points of Interest

 

 


USGS 24K Topo Maps

Death Valley is the largest national park in the 48 states and it takes 117 topo maps to cover it together with the surrounding area. I've divided the 117 maps into five regions by latitude. The maps together with merged maps can be downloaded in a variety of formats by clicking or right-clicking below:

Death Valley North

Ten topo maps are covered in this region. Click on the overview map below to display larger.

DV North Overview Map

Geo Tiff/Avenza KMZ Oruxmaps KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
East of Joshua Flats KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Gold Point SW KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Hanging Rock Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Horse Thief Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Joshua Flats KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Last Chance Mountain KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Sand Spring KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Soldier Pass KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Tule Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
West of Gold Mtn KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merge of all ten maps NA NA KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

Death Valley North Central

27 topo maps are covered in this region. Click on the overview map immediately below to display larger.

DV North Central Overview Map

Geo Tiff/Avenza KMZ Oruxmaps KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Bonnie Claire SE KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Bonnie Claire SW KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Bullfrog Mountain KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Daylight Pass KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Dry Bone Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Dry Mountain KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
East of Tin Mountain KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
East of Waucoba Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
East of Waucoba Spring KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Fall Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Grapevine Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Last Chance Range SE KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Last Chance Range SW KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Lower Warm Springs KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Pat Keyes Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Saline Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Scottys Castle KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Springdale SW KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
TeaKettle Junction KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Thimble Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Tin Mountain KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Ubehebe Crater KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Wahguyhe Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Waucoba Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Waucoba Spring KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
West of Teakettle Junction KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
White Top Mountain KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merge of all 27 maps NA NA KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

Death Valley Central

30 topo maps are covered in this region. Click on the overview map immediately below to display larger.

DV Central Overview Map

Geo Tiff/Avenza KMZ Oruxmaps KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Ashton KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Beatty Junction KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Big Dune KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Chloride City KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Cottonwood Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
East of Chloride City KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
East of Echo Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
East of Sand Flat KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Echo Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Emigrant Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Furnace Creek KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Grotto Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Harris Hill KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Jackass Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Leeland KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Lees Camp KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Lee Wash KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Mesquite Flat KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Nelson Range KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Nevares Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Panamint Butte KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Sand Flat KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Santa Rosa Flat KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Stovepipe Wells NE KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Stovepipe Wells KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
The Dunes KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Tucki Wash KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Ubehebe Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
West of Furnace Creek KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
West of Ubehebe Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merge of all 30 maps NA NA KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

Death Valley South Central

18 topo maps are covered in this region. Click on the overview map immediately below to display larger.

DV South Central Overview Map

Geo Tiff/Avenza KMZ Oruxmaps KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Badwater KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
China Gardens Spring KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Dantes View KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Darwin KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Devils Golf Course KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Devils Speedway KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
East of Ryan KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Emigrant Pass KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Greenwater Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Hanaupah Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Jail Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Maturango Peak NE KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Nova Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Panamint Springs KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Revenue Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Ryan KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Telescope Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Wildrose Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merge of all 18 maps NA NA KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

Death Valley South

32 topo maps are covered in this region. Click on the overview map immediately below to display larger.

DV South Overview Map

Geo Tiff/Avenza KMZ Oruxmaps KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Anvil Spring Canyon East KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Anvil Spring Canyon West KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Ballarat KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Confidence Hills East KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Confidence Hills West KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Copper Queen Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Deadman Pass KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
East of Deadman Pass KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
East of Owl Lake KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Epaulet Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Funeral Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Galena Canyon KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Gold Valley KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Hidden Spring KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Ibex Pass KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Ibex Spring KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Layton Spring KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Manly Fall KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Manly Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Mormon Point KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Old Ibex Pass KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Owl Lake KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Panamint KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Quail Spring KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Saddle Peak Hills KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Salsberry Peak KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Shore Line Butte KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Shoshone KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Sourdough Spring KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Wingate Pass KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Wingate Wash East KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Wingate Wash West KMZ Oruxmap KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared
Merge of all 32 maps NA NA KMZ Decollared Oruxmap Decollared Avenza Decollared

 


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