Death Valley National Park is a lot different than what people typically picture in their minds when told it’s a desert. At least for me, I thought it was going to flat, dry, plain, and very sandy. Some parts are like that, but there’s a lot of variety throughout the massive park. There’s even a waterfall surrounded with greenery.
Death Valley Historic Mines
In Death Valley National Park and the small parts of Nevada close to the park, there are an abundance of abandoned mines. You can explore any of the mine holes you see, but be careful because we saw a sign that warned tourists about dangerous ruins, left over land mines, and more things like that. Throughout the park, if you look around on the mountains, there are a ton of holes all over the place. Those are the mine holes.
Keane Wonder Mine was my favorite mine we explored and hikes around. From this mine, you could see so much of Death Valley from the very top of the mountain. This mine had the most ruins from old trestles with original wires and mine carts, mining holes, and equipment. During this hike, you have to climb a lot of elevation in a short distance which made it challenging but still very fun. Eureka Mine was interesting because you could look down into a ton of old mine shafts and holes. There was also lots of machines and equipment left over here too. Harmony Borax Works wasn’t exactly a mine. It was an old borax factory and now you can go and see cart and building ruins. We only explored one of the main mines in Leadfield Ghost Town, but it was worth it. You can peer in through the spaced out grate and you can see that the mine tunnel go on for a long ways.
These are some of the coolest mines to check out, but there are so many more you can explore on your own as much as you want.
Ghost Towns in the Desert
Turns out, Death Valley National Park and Nevada were hot spots for bustling miners. As a result of the people leaving as fast as they came after the mining boom, they left behind tons of ghost towns. Weather conditions and time have worn some of the buildings, but you can explore them all and see what they were. Some of them are a little creepy, but also really cool.
Leadfield ghost town requires some hiking around, but it’s worth it because the buildings are still fantastic to check out. These buildings are spread across the side of a hill with some mines sprinkles in. Aguereberry Camp is the creepiest in my opinion. The buildings that remain are only a small portion of the mining camp. They’re different colors and built a little nicer that Leadfield. Rhyolite ghost town was the fanciest one of all of the ones we explored. The buildings were built taller with multiple stories, electric lighting, water systems, phones, hospitals, a school, and more. If you’re in to supernatural or some neat history, these towns are just for you.
Features of Death Valley
Death Valley is full of different canyons you can walk and drive through. Titus Canyon was one of my favorites because of the gorgeous vies and colors in the first part and then the tight part. The canyon is a 27 mile dirt road that twists through very thin roads. Another canyon to drive through is Twenty Mule Team Canyon. Basically, you drive through, but can stop along the way to climb and explore as much as you want. It’s a great place to let kids go crazy in to burn off energy. Mosaic Canyon is one you hike through and its walls are made of smooth marble and rocks embedded in the sides to give it a mosaic look, hence the name. You can also walk through Golden Canyon. The best time to do it is in the morning when the sun illuminates the canyon’s walls. At the end you can get to the base of Cathedral Rock with a little bit of rock scrambling.
In the park, you can also check out Ubehebe Crater and Little Hebe Crater. These were not formed by volcanic activity, but by steam and gas explosions from the ground. Ubehebe Crater s easy to access right off of the parking lot, but the littler one requires an uphill hike to see it. If you have the energy then you can also walk around the entire crater.
Another quick thing you can do is Natural Bridge. It’s a pretty easy hike and you get to not only see the magnificent arch, but you also get to see a few dry waterfalls if you go a little further.
Huge salt flats throughout Death Valley National Park were definitely a surprise for me. Badwater Basin is the most famous on that attracts the most attention. This salt flat is 5 miles by 44 miles and is the lowest point, at 282 feet below sea level, in all of North America. You can actually eat the salt that covers the round in white and it makes for some great pictures. If you wanted, you could stop at any salt flat along the road and check it out. Another weird thing, close to the salt flats, is Devil’s Golf Course. You can go walk around and get up close to the crystallized salt formations.
During your trip there are a bunch of look outs to go see beautiful views from. The best is the top of Keane Wonder Mine, but there are some other really cool ones too. Zabriskie Point has a great view of rock hills, and mini canyons you can hike down to and explore. It’s also the best place to watch the Death Valley sunsets. Dante’s View has an incredible view of Bad Water Basin and huge plains below you. You can walk out on little trails to get an even better spot to see different features of the land. It’s also one of the Star Wars lookouts and hot spots to hunt down in the park.
One of the must-do things to hike in Death Valley is the Darwin Falls trail. It takes you through a canyon and starts out dry, but then it narrows and there’s some creek crossing and greenery. The waterfall is not spectacular compared to the ones on Yosemite or any other famous waterfall place, but it’s unique because it comes from and underground spring in the middle of a desert region.
Death Valley National Park is a must see for anyone. From easy going walks and drives to strenuous hikes, this national park has something for everyone. Want even more cool things to do? Want to see my first hand experiences? Check out my Video Blog on YouTube at Natalie Bourn.