The Best Time to Visit Death Valley National Park

Best Time to Visit Death Valley National Park

When is the best time to visit Death Valley National Park?

The best time to visit Death Valley National Park is in December.

In December, average highs are in the 70s with lows in the 40s at night, making it comfortable for enjoying the park’s low elevation areas.

Death Valley National Park, which gets its name from the blistering heat it experiences each summer, is by far the hottest and driest of the national parks.

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Best time for good weather

The best time for good weather in Death Valley National Park is from mid-October to mid-May.

This is when the temperatures are cool enough to enjoy the park’s most famous attractions, with daytime temperatures ranging from the upper 60s to the mid-80s.

These temperatures are moderate enough to take hikes in and around Furnace Creek. While you’ll still want to carry a water bottle with you, you don’t need to worry about the extreme temperatures the park sees in mid-summer. 

In fact, in mid-winter, you should also plan on bringing a jacket and rain gear for cooler nighttime temperatures and inclement weather.

Best time for camping

Camping​ in Death Valley

The best time for camping in Death Valley National Park is in October.

By this time, the weather has cooled enough to make daytime camping in the park tolerable while evening temperatures are cool enough for comfortable nighttime sleeping.

This season also does not have the wind that makes camping difficult in the spring in Death Valley. That said, this is a popular time of year to camp, so you’ll need to book early to claim a spot at one of the park’s campgrounds. 

Top campgrounds at Death valley include Furnace Creek Campground, and Sunset Campground.

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Best time for hiking

Hiking in Death Valley

The best time for hiking in Death Valley National Park is in December.

Most activities in the park are dictated by temperature. Many of the most iconic hikes in Death Valley National Park are too dangerous to take in the extreme summer temperatures.

In December, highs reach into the 70s with lows in the 40s at night, making for perfect weather for hiking around Badwater Salt Flats, into Mesquite Dunes and up to Zabriskie Point. Keep in mind that terrain can be rocky and loose, so make sure to pack good hiking boots with good traction.

Read More : Hiking Trails in Death Valley National Park

Best time to avoid crowds

The best time to avoid crowds in Death Valley National Park is in December.

The park sees the fewest number of visitors from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Couple that with the cooler temperatures, and December is perhaps the perfect time to visit the park to beat the crowds.

Reservations for campgrounds and other lodging are easiest to find during this month. While other winter months also see fewer crowds, avoid the period between Christmas and New Year’s, Martin Luther King Day weekend in January, and President’s Day weekend in February, all of which see a spike in visitors.

Best time to photograph the sand dunes

The best time to photograph the sand dunes is December.

This is for a few reasons. First and foremost, it’s much easier to wander further into the dunes carrying camera gear when the temperatures are more moderate.

If photographing during the summer, you need to stay within a short distance to the car as the heat can quickly creep up on you. December also offers the fewest crowds, so you’ll be spending less time waiting for visitors to get out of your shot. 

Aside from that, most photographers suggest arriving at the dunes about 1 to 2 hours before sunset to catch the best colors on the dunes.

Best time to see Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin​ in Death Valley

The best time to visit Badwater Basin is December.

In the summertime, this low area of the park experiences deadly heat, making it a difficult and dangerous time to visit this area.

The best time to see it is really in the cooler months from mid-October through Mid May. December affords the best opportunity because you’ll experience fewer crowds. You also won’t face the winds that blow dust through the area in the spring.

Best time for a 4 wheel drive to Racetrack Playa

4 Wheel Drive to Racetrack Playa​​ in Death Valley

The best time to 4 wheel drive to Racetrack Play is spring.

Although Death Valley is dry pretty much year-round, there are times in the winter and summer when the park sees rainstorms and flooding. At these times, making the four-wheel-drive trek to Racetrack Playa can be treacherous.

It’s also not a good idea to make this trip in mid-summer. If you become stranded due to a flat tire or other mechanical problem, you could be caught exposed in extreme heat, which is very dangerous.

Best time to see the Wildflower Bloom

The best time to see the wildflower bloom in Death Valley National Park is in March.

That said, the best time is really in a range between mid-February and mid-May, depending on the weather.

The amount of precipitation the park receives affects just how good the wildflower viewing will be. Wildflowers are best seen at lower elevations from mid-February to mid-April and at higher elevations from early April to May, with the park’s highest elevations seeing wildflowers from early May to mid-July.

Best time to visit Dante’s View

Dante’s View​ in Death Valley

The best time to visit Dante’s View is September.

At an elevation over 5,000 feet, Dante’s View avoids the scorching heat of the park’s lower elevations.

So, even though September is still one of the hottest months at the park, temperatures are tolerable at Dante’s View. 

And, in September, you won’t experience the crowds that usually flock to this location.

Best time to see wildlife

Wildlife​ in Death Valley

The best time to see wildlife in Death Valley National Park is March.

Believe it or not, there is quite a bit of wildlife to see in Death Valley National Park. In fact, there are numerous species of tarantula and numerous mammals including coyotes, bobcats, desert bighorn sheep, gopher, kangaroo rats, foxes, and even a few mountain lions.

Of course, Death Valley is also home to the Devil’s Hole Pupfish, which can only be viewed from late fall to early spring, when water flows through TK creek.

Death Valley National Park Seasons

Summer

Death Valley National Park - Summer

Summer in Death valley is brutal, with highs hovering around 110ºF and higher at the park’s lower elevations with lows in the mid-80s.

If you visit the park during the summer, be prepared to face the intense heat. If you visit attractions at lower elevations, do so in the early morning to avoid the brunt of the heat.

Also, make sure you have plenty of sunscreen and water bottles to prevent dehydration and sunburn.

Read More : Summer Camping Checklist

Fall

Death Valley National Park - Fall

Fall sees much cooler temperatures, making it a better time to visit the park. Highs can still reach into the 90s in October, but, by late fall, highs drop into the 70s.

Lows at night will drop into the 50s and even 40s, making nighttime sleeping much more comfortable. You’ll even need a sleeping bag to keep warm. This is a popular time of year for the campaign in the park.

Make sure to book early if you plan on coming to camp at the park during this season.

Winter

Death Valley National Park - Winter

Winter is a great time to visit Death Valley National Park. During this season, the experiences much lower highs in the 60s and 70s, making hiking at the park’s lower elevations enjoyable. Lows drop in the 40s at night, requiring jackets for comfort.

With the exception of holidays, winter is also one of the least busy seasons for Death Valley National park, making it a great time to avoid crowds.

Read More : Winter Camping Checklist

Spring

Death Valley National Park - Spring

Temperatures range significantly from early spring when highs only reach the low 80s to late spring when highs will reach triple digits. Lows range from the mid-50s at the start of spring to the mid-70s by late spring.

This is the time of year when wildflowers are in full bloom, adding color to the earth tones that make up this desert landscape. For this reason, spring is a popular time of year in the park, drawing a significant number of visitors.

Andrew Dodson

Andrew Dodson is an avid camper who enjoys the great outdoors with his wife and two-year-old son. He resides in Colorado, where you can often find him enjoying hikes with a toddler strapped to his back and mini goldendoodle Percy nearby.