Death Valley National Park is about 195 km from Las Vegas. It takes just about two hours to get there. Please keep in mind that Pahrump is the last small city where you should fill up your tanks as the petrol is very cheap there. Once you get to Death Valley it is about $5.40 to $6 a gallon in comparison to the $3.50 in Pahrump. There are a few choices for accomodation in Death Valley like Furnace Creek Ranch, or Stovepipe Wells, but we certaintly don't recommend camping especially during hot summer temperatures.
Since I was a little girl reading cowboy stories set in Death Valley, it was my dream to see the hottest, lowest and driest place in North America. It was exactly like I imagined it. Dry and extremely hot. The park is massive and driving distances between its major features make the use of a motor vehicle essential. Since it is so hot, there are signs on the road that advise you to turn off air-conditioning in your car.
I knew that temperatures in Death Valley can get pretty hot, but I didn't expect that during our visit they would reach one of the official highest temperatures on record. It was 54.4C or 130F and I can tell you, that's really hot. Even a small breeze felt hot on our faces and I felt like my cakes in a fan forced oven.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
We tried to takea few pictures of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes just before sunset but our cameras and tripods were so hot, that we could barely touch them. We even attempted to walk closer to the dunes, but after 30 minutes of walking we were so exhausted from the heat that we had to return to our car. It was near impossible to walk further in 54C temperatures.
The late afternoon light accentuates the ripples and patterns of the sand and along with the long shadows, it creates a great opportunity for photography.
After the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes we rushed to the Badwater Basin to take photos of the sunset. The distance between the dunes and Badwater Basin is quite large and it took us about an hour to drive there. Badwater Basin is the lowest point of elevation in North America at 86m below sea level. As you drive to the basin, you can see the "sea level" sign on the left hand side high on the hill (circled on the right hand picture below)
As mentioned above, Badwater Basin is the lowest point below sea level but the interesting fact is, that the highest point in America, Mount Whitney, measuring 4421m above sea level is only 136km WNW away.
During summer, the lake is almost dry so you will be walking on nearly pure white table salt. Please stay on the path as there are tiny Badwater snails living under the salt crust which you don't want to crush.
The hexagonal salt crust at Badwater is an excellent and interesting object for photography. We were quite lucky to get few clouds that night which caused spectacular colours on the sky after sunset.