Death Valley National Park is one of my favorite nat'l parks- it's huge, and around every turn there's some new landscape you can't take your eyes off of. I've visited Death Valley twice now, once in January and once in mid-April. I would suggest going in winter time, because even in mid-April it was 96 degrees F and I was dying. And please- bring water. All the water. You will need it. And after you drink your water, check out these cool spots!
Badwater Basin- This was my favorite spot in Death Valley. At-282 ft below sea level, it's the lowest point in North America. If you walk out the 1/4 mile to the middle of the basin, you can see mountains all around you, and if you're lucky, there will be a few inches of hella salty water at your feet. I say
if you're lucky because it dries up in the summer time, but if you go in the winter, you may get to see the sky and mountains shimmering off the reflection of the water. Also, the ground resembles a honeycomb pattern from the salt deposits. It's so gorgeous and surreal here, hence why it's #1 on my list.
2. Devil's Golf Course- Probably one of the saltiest places on earth (after your dumb ass of course), this crazy terrain is a must see. Formed by salt piling up, the entire ground is just pointy rock-like salt piles, and if you fall here, you legit might die because this shit is sharp. How do I know it's salt? I licked it. But anyway, it was so cool stumbling around here, drinking a beer, looking up at the surrounding mountains and seeing all the crazy shapes the salt made.
3. Artist's Palette- This place is dope, and a great place for pictures. It's a bunch of beautifully colored hills, and the most colorful spot in Death Valley. You can climb on top of the hills or walk along little trails in-between them. You could potentially spend a lot of time here, it's really neat. You'll find Artist's Palette along a paved, 9 mile long, one-way, scenic drive. I highly recommend this spot!
4. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes- I don't know why they're called flat sand dunes, they're not flat at all. They're legit sand dunes. This place is pretty cool, you can run up and down the sand dunes all day. Absolutely gorgeous, because again, you're surrounded by mountains.
5. Dante's View at Sunrise- This gorgeous viewpoint sits at 5,475ft elevation, and has some breathtaking views of Badwater Basin and Panamint mountain range. The road to get here is paved, but the last 1/4 mile has an intense grade and lots of turns, so no RVs are allowed. I suggest going here at sunrise because the sun illuminates Badwater Basin as it rises, throwing some gorgeous colors onto the canyon and distance mountain range. And at this elevation, don't forget to bring a jacket. It was hella chilly up here, and the only time in Death Valley I was actually cold!
Honorable mention: Natural Bridge Canyon- This short 2 mile hike takes you through a beautiful canyon full of high rocky walls and dry waterfalls to a 50 foot tall natural bridge that spans the canyon. There's some pretty cool geological features throughout this hike and it's easy enough for the whole family.
If you put your mind to it, you can probably do all the things on this list in one day. Most of these sites are all off the 190 and Badwater Road. I would highly suggest spending more than one day in this National Park though, as there are so many other things to do that are not on this list. I would also suggest bringing a 4-wheel drive vehicle if you wanted to do something not on this list- many of the cool sites not listed here require 4WD and are on very rocky dirt roads. Also, did I mention bring water?
As far as places to stay overnight go, if you're on a budget I would suggest Panamint
Springs. Pre-pandemic they had these cute, little cheap cabins, but apparently when they tried to open these cabins back up, none of their employees came back to work because they were making more on unemployment... (That's what the owner told me) So, post-pandemic, they have nicer, brand new, more expensive cabins (about $250/night) and tents with cots in them (about $45/night). I'm a cheap bitch, so I did the tent and had a great night. There's also multiple places to camp throughout the park, some with reservations and some are first come, first serve only.
There's also a little Oasis Resort and Ranch area with two fancy hotels. They are overpriced and look really out of place in the middle of the park in my opinion, but to each their own.
ALSO- do not go in the summer. I can't believe I have to say this, but I'm sure some idiot is gonna wanna hike here in July. It records some of the hottest temps in the world- like 134 degrees F. But either way- enjoy!