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Death Valley National Park
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Introducing Death Valley National Park

The very name evokes all that is harsh, hot and hellish – a punishing, barren and lifeless place of Old Testament severity. Yet closer inspection reveals that in Death Valley nature is putting on a truly spectacular show: singing sand dunes, water-sculpted canyons, boulders moving across the desert floor, extinct volcanic craters, palm-shaded oases and plenty of endemic wildlife. This is a land of superlatives, holding the US records for hottest temperature (134°F/57°C), lowest point (Badwater, 282ft below sea level) and largest national park outside Alaska (over 5000 sq miles).

Peak seasons are winter and the springtime wildflower bloom. From late February until early April, lodging within a 100-mile radius is usually booked solid and campgrounds fill before noon, especially on weekends. In summer, when the mercury climbs above 120°F (49°C), a car with reliable air-con is essential and outdoor explorations in the valley should be limited to the early morning and late afternoon. Spend the hottest part of the day by a pool or drive up to the higher – and cooler – elevations. Most of the park is served by paved roads, but if your plans include dirt roads, a high clearance vehicle and off-road tires are essential.