Planning a trip to Death Valley, USA? Want to know the best Death Valley photo spots for epic shots? Here are 10 of the best Death Valley photography locations and tips to make the most of your visit.
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Death Valley Photography- planning your visit
Death Valley National Park is home to some of the most beautiful natural US landmarks. From sweeping views of snow-covered mountains to an abundance of rocks shaped by wind and sand and even crater lakes formed by meteor strikes, there are all sorts of places which make the perfect Death Valley photography spot.
You just need to know where to look! To help you plan your trip, here are ten of the best photo spots in Death Valley National Park, plus tips on when you should go and how to make the most of your visit to this incredible park.
Map of some of the best Death Valley Photo Spots
To help you visualise where everything is and plan your trip, here’s a map of the Death Valley photo spots we talk about in this post. Directions are found beneath each location.
Tips for Visiting Death Valley National Park
Cost: There is an entrance fee to visit the park. It’s $30 per vehicle for a 7-day period. Alternatively, get an America the Beautiful park pass.
Best Time of Year: The best time to visit Death Valley National Park is between October and May because these months have cooler and milder temperatures. It’s best not to visit during the summer. Summertime temperatures can reach 120 degrees F (49c) and it isn’t safe to experience intense heat for a long period of time.
Be Prepared: Make sure you have plenty of water (at least 1 gallon per person) so you don’t get fatigued and dehydrated. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and pack other essentials when you’re exploring this park.
Fuel up before entering the park. This is THE largest US mainland National Park and it’s a desert. You don’t want to be running out of fuel here…
There’s limited cell phone service across the park.
Best guides and maps for Death Valley:
- This is the best guide and map for driving around and planning a visit to Death Valley.
- This guide was awesome for day hikes and this one for photography spots and tips.
- Don’t forget to grab this one for more California Bucket List adventures.
Want a new camera for Death Valley Photography? Consider these cheap vlogging cameras with flip screen
Death Valley Photo Spot #1: Artist’s Palette
The Artists Palette is a geological formation of brightly colored rock that’s been eroded into various shapes. It’s all part of the same giant rock slab that has been exposed by recent winds.
What most photographers like about it is the contrast between the colors of purple, red, yellow and orange on the mountains that occurred due to oxidation.
How to reach this Death Valley Photo Spot:
Artists Palette can be found on Artist’s Drive. This 9 mile one-way loop is found off Badwater Road, between Devil’s Golf Course and Furnace Creek. The road is clearly marked and will take you about 45 minutes to complete the loop, not including photo stops! Artist Palette is found about 5 miles from the start of the Drive.
Best time to visit this iconic Death Valley Photography Spot:
The best times of day to visit Artists Palette are during sunrise and sunset to see the colors of Artists Palette match the colors of the sky.
Death Valley epic photo spot #2: Badwater Basin
Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America- about 282 feet below sea level! It’s also one of the most photogenic destinations in the entire park, famous for its salt flats consisting of salt crystals.
How to find this iconic Death Valley Photography Spot:
Getting to Badwater Basin is pretty straight forward and suitable for any vehicle. It’s located about 43 miles (roughly 45 minute drive) from the Death Valley junction (stay on highway 190 until you reach Badwater road) and about 15 miles from Furnace creek (20 minute drive).
It’s well signposted to the parking lot, although parking can be busy if you come later in the day.
The best time to visit Badwater Basin for photography:
The best time to take photos is either early morning or late afternoon when shadows are most dramatic. Zoom into the salt crystals and capture close-up photos of these unique salt crystals. It’s also much cooler at these times, so will be much more manageable. There is no shade, at all, in Badwater Basin so be sure to dress appropriately, bring and drink plenty of water and wear suncream.
Death Valley epic Photography Location #3: Dante’s View
For a perfect view of all that Death Valley has to offer, make your way to Dantes View. From here, you can see everything from Badwater Basin to Telescope Peak, take in views of Devil’s Golf Course, and revel in the natural beauty of this desert valley.
How to get to Dante’s View:
To get to this photo spot, drive southeast for 11 miles from Furnace Creek (going past Zabriskie Point). Turn right on Dante’s View Road and the viewpoint is about 13 miles drive 13 miles up the road. It’s paved and suitable for all vehicles.
Best Time to visit this incredible Death Valley Photo spot?
Dantes View is the perfect place to see the sunset. It’s also a beautiful place to watch the sunrise, but be sure you don’t miss taking sunset photos. For the best photos, use a wide angle photo lens to capture panoramic views of much of Death Valley.
Epic Death Valley photo spot #4: Devil’s Golf Course
WARNING: The Devil’s Golf Course is not actually a golf course. Don’t bring your clubs. It’s a large salt pan that looks like a rugged golf course and can be compared to a moon’s surface. It’s like nothing you’ll see anywhere else. You don’t need to stop here for long- 20/30 minutes should be enough.
How to get to the Devil’s Golf Course photography spot?
Death Valley Golf course can be found between Badwater Basin and Furnace Creek. It can be accessed by all vehicles but the route can be bumpy, so an SUV might be best.
What is the best time to visit this photo spot?
The best time of day to visit the Devil’s Golf Course is either early morning or late afternoon as the sun’s light shines bright on this uneven terrain.
Death Valley Photo Spot #5: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are incredible sand dunes- much bigger than you’d imagine. They have a variety of patterns and textures, from spiky crescent shapes to smooth yet irregular slopes. The dunes are easy to reach by visitors, so you can drive up close and climb them.
How to get to the dunes?
There is a parking lot just off Route 190, about 22 miles northwest of Furnace Creek. About two miles before Stovepipe Wells, you’ll see the parking on the right. There’s an easy one mile hike to see the best of the dunes.
Best time to visit Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes?
Like with most places in the park, the best time to visit these particular sand dunes is just after sunset or just before sunrise when the light is most dramatic. This will also make the sand a deeper color. If you visit when the sun is higher, the sands will appear more white and washed out.
Death Valley Photo Spot #6: Racetrack Playa
An interesting attraction to see is Racetrack Playa. This is a dry lake bed about 3 miles long by 2 miles wide. It’s famous for having stones which move by themselves. This playa is worth exploring not only to see these moving rocks, but also because of its stunning surrounding scenery. As you walk across the playa, you’ll be able to gaze at the mountain ranges around it.
If you walk when it is dry, you’ll leave no foorprints. Walk when it’s wet and your footprints could take years to be erased.
The stones apparently move due to a little moisture below the surface, making it slippery. Wind then moves the stones and they can move several hundred feet in a day!
How to get to Racetrack Playa
Racetrack Playa is in a pretty remote part of the park. Its about a 3 and a half hour drive ONE WAY from Furnace Creek. The distance is around 83 miles and about a third of that is on unpaved roads, so not suitable for all vehicles.
Best time to visit Racetrack Playa
Early morning is the best time of day to visit the Racetrack for its fewer crowds and the sun starting to shine on this cracked surface. It’s also best to visit on a non-windy day so there’s less dust in the air, making it easier on your eyes.
Places to visit in Death Valley #7: Salt Creek Interpretive Trail
If you’re looking for a hike that’s perfect for photographing a water body in the desert, the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail is an easygoing 0.5-mile loop. The flat trail is accessible to hikers of all ages and abilities. This trail runs along Salt Creek and has paths to travel to the backcountry.
How to visit?
Located just off Highway 190, you’ll see signs for Salt Creek about 13 miles north of Furnace Creek. The road from 190 to the parking lot can be rough, but doable in a 2 wheel drive car.
Best time to this Death Valley photo spot?
Visit either after 8am or before 6pm for fewer crowds at the trail. As you head north on the loop, focus your camera on Salt Creek running beside you—this is an excellent opportunity to shoot some photos of pupfish spawning during the spring.
Death Valley Photography locations #8: Ubehebe Crater
Ubehebe Crater is a volcanic crater that’s roughly a half mile wide and 600 feet deep. When you look at the crater from the top you can see that there are other craters that surround Ubehebe with smaller ones located on top of it.
There are several hiking trails, including a 3 mile loop which goes around the edge of the crater. But you can see much of it from right next to the parking lot.
How to get to Ubehebe Crater:
To get to the parking lot, drive approx. 17 miles west on Highway 190 from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center to Scotty’s Castle Road. Turn right onto Scotty’s Castle Road and drive approx 33 miles until you reach Ubehebe Crater Road. Stay Left and drive 5.3 miles to the Ubehebe Crater Parking Area. It’s well signed.
How to take the best photos of Ubehebe Crater
Use a wide angle lens to capture Ubehebe Crater and its surrounding craters. The best time of day is during mid afternoon to see the sun’s shadow on the crater.
This is also a fantastic place to visit if you want to try astrophotography- you’ll see incredible views of the Milky Way if you time it right.
Best Death Valley Photo spots #9: Zabriskie Point
The most popular Death Valley photography spot has to be Zabriskie Point. This is a barren, yet colorful region and it’s an excellent place to see the badlands and learn about the park from a geological standpoint. What makes this location so spectacular is its pinkish hue, which comes from salt and clay deposits eroded by water on its wavy, wrinkled surface.
How to get to Zabriskie Point?
Zabriskie Point is close to Furnace Creek- only about 4 miles southeast on Highway 190. There’s parking right nearby, or you can hike the Badlands Loop which is about 2.5 miles if you’d like to see more.
Best time to photograph Zabriskie Point?
Visit Zabriskie Point during sunrise. You’ll see bluer skies with less haze and fewer crowds during sunrise compared to other times of day; plus you’ll get great lighting for photographing these interesting formations!
Death Valley Photo Spot #10: Highway 190
You’ll spend most of your time in Death Valley driving along it, but Highway 190 is in itself an epic photography location in Death Valley. Choose a quiet stretch, pull over somewhere safe and jump out to take a few quick snaps of the road with the iconic Death Valley background. Bonus points for getting a person in shot too, but please do keep eyes and ears open for other road users.
Final Thoughts for Death Valley photography
With the best photo spots ranging from beautifully empty desert to marvelous natural formations, Death Valley National Park is a photographer’s paradise. As one of the largest national parks in the United States, it’s no wonder that Death Valley has countless spots for taking breathtaking photographs- much more than we’ve listed here.
But, if you only have a short time for your visit, be sure to hit these nine best Death Valley photo spots to make the most of your time.
Have an epic trip!
About the Author
Rasika is the owner of the travel blog Bae Area and Beyond. She is from the Bay Area and her blog covers California destinations. She hopes that her readers will fall in love with California, just like she did. Here’s a little more about her:
- Favourite camera to take travel photos: Sony A6400
- Favourite editing software? Adobe Lightroom Classic
- Favourite place you’ve taken travel photos/ videos of? National Parks in California!