On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
I had a few days off from the Home of the Orange Apron around Labor Day, so I decided to take the opportunity to get away from the oppressive heat in LA by driving 5 hours to someplace much, much hotter. The weather reports on cloud cover looked good, so I decided to go, I mean it was hot in LA, how much worse could it be? I learned that it could in fact be much worse, the temperature got down to a balmy 99 degrees just before sunrise and the promised clear skies were overcast much of the night.
This was not my first trip to Death Valley, I’ve been there a couple of times before; however my last visit to the valley was 55 years ago before it was a National Park. Many parts of the Park were not open due to flooding in early August. The road north to Ubehebe crater was closed and the road south was closed south of Badwater. So there were only two ways in and out of the park, I decided to drive in from the east taking I-15 to Baker and then heading north to Death Valley Junction and then east to Dante’s View for the sunset over the valley, this worked well. I had planned to head down to Badwater from there and shoot for the night, but pretty thick passing clouds made that impossible. I drove to the Mesquite Sand Dunes to get a shot of the setting moon, but that was about it. I drove back to Badwater to get the sunrise and then drove back out to the west to meet up with the familier US-395 for the trip back to sunny(and still hot) Glendale.
This probably the last set of photos that you’ll see taken with the NX-1, the next set you’ll see will be shot with the Sony A7iv.
Death Valley Junction is pretty much a ghost town, but they do have a large plaza anchored by the Amargosa Opera House.
Dante’s View is about 5,000 feet above the valley floor to the east and offers a fine view of the valley below and Panamint Range to the west. There were just enough clouds for a nice sunset.
Looking south from Dante’s View at the moon.
I do not remember seeing Artist’s Pallet during my previous visits to the Park(on the Monument), but I did take the opportunity to see it this time and shot Andromeda as it was setting over the landscape. The different colors of rock were caused by volcanic activity in the area.
I decided to head over the Mesquite Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells to get a shot of the setting moon among the dunes.
Badwater is the lowest land elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level, it is named for the briny spring at the east end of a large (usually) dry lake with salt flats. I walked out about a mile into the salt flats and was surprised how humid it was, which along with the heat and salt being blown off the salt flats made the experience, unpleasant. The shot was taken to the west showing the Panamint range over the salt flats.
Father Crowley Overlook is above Rainbow Canyon which is often used by fighter jets for training, they call it Star Wars Canyon.
I’ve always wanted to do to Death Valley.
Opera houses sprang up in the weirdest places. Eg all over the ninteenth century Midwest. They could not possibly have had enough good singers.
Otherworldly landscape. Thank you for taking us there.
@Baud: I thought it was amazing. I grew up in the NE, not far from the Poconos, and DV was so different from anything I’d ever seen. Didn’t see it at night but would go back just for that.
The realtor who named Death Valley was out of the business quickly…
Did you get out to the “racetrack?” What a trip, not getting there, but seeing the rocks and the trails they left behind them in what was mud, but will more likely be a dry playa when someone visits. It looks like the rocks race around when no one is looking. For years, it was a mystery.
Anyone who is unfamiliar with this and is interested should search for “Death Valley racetrack rocks” and click on images.
@TriassicSands: I googled and found more images, fascinating!
Thanks for the info about the jet fighters. We went to the Singing Sand Dunes last year in January and heard the jets, but couldn’t see them. They must have been flying really low.
Great pictures. The artist pallet is prob my favorite. Nature is amazing.
J R in WV
Great photos of an astounding place… thanks Bill~!!~
I think the flying rocks are among the least of the amazing stuff out there, judging from Bill’s photos. I think I’ve seen photos of fighters flying in that canyon before… that’s pretty amazing also too!
@Baud: Do it! I really would suggest Spring or Fall as a time to go, it is really just too hot in the Summer and can get really cold in the Winter, especially at night.
@sab: I think some of these Opera Houses showed films.
@eclare: I’m going to try to get back there this year, hopefully with better sky conditions, though right now, it is raining there(and here).
@sab: Remember the show the Duke and the Dauphin (hope I’m remembering the names right) put on in Huckleberry Finn? Probably in an opera house.
@Narya: It would be well worth a visit there at night, especially this time of year for the zodiacal light.
p.a.: Thanks, he should have named it Green Valley.
@TriassicSands: No, the road to Racetrack was closed. Racetrack is difficult to get to under the best of conditions, you really need a 4-wheel drive vehicle for the trip.
@eclare: As I noted, Racetrack is hard to get to, you really have to take a tour or rent a vehicle for it.
@vigilhorn: They do fly at a really low altitude.
@Kevin: I went back in the morning and walked down into the canyon there, but I wasn’t happy with any of my shots(the Sun was in the wrong position). Another place I’d return to.
@J R in WV: Thanks, I’m going to head back when there are a few moore folk there than myself and the German heat tourists. BTW, I had to get gas at Furnace Creek in the park, $7.47/gallon.
Amazing photos. Thank you.
More wonderful photos, and timely for me! We’re leaving after the rain and traffic dies down today for a week-long desert wildflower ramble through Anza-Borrego, Lake Havasu and Death Valley! My pictures will suck in comparison, of course.
Neat pix! I will likely never return to Death Valley (visited once as a kid) mainly because by the time I get to the turn off to leave the 395 to get there, I will always have the option of visiting the E. Sierra which are RIGHT THERE, if I just stay the course, lol. Plus the temps (so hot or so cold, most of the year) makes it challenging.
@Lynn Dee: You are welcome, glad you liked them.
@Almost Retired: Thanks, I’ve been looking at the webcam for the Poppy Preserve near Lancaster, not a whole lot of poppies blooming yet(just a smallish patch). I may head up there if I have a weekday off(I’m on vacay today, I had hopes for clear weather around the new moon, nope), but maybe next week. Weekends up there is cray-cray.
@UncleEbeneezer: I agree that I’ll spend more time in the eastern Sierra than DV, it is much closer. But the eastern Sierra probably won’t be all that accessible until mid to late Summer considering how much snow they’ve gotten this year. The kid wanted to hike to Big Pine Lakes this year and was talking about going in May, might be August(I was suggesting Little Lakes Valley as a better first hike). So I’ll probably return to DV once the skies clear.
Your photos are just amazing; they do what I’d thought was impossible – make me miss the desert a bit! I’ve camped & hiked at Death Valley several times over our years living in Vegas (always between Dec – March), it is a strange, beautiful, always different place.
My spouse & son experienced a tarantula migration one night while camping there – they crawled up & over the tent on a full moon night, so you got to experience the visuals as well as the sound. I haven’t been back since that particular story!
@cckids: Thanks, I’m going to try and get back there this Spring, once the rain stops and we get some clear skies. Since I have a new camera, there is quite a lot that I want to shoot. I’ll skip the tarantula migration though.
@🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Hey Bill. A Navy Pilot crashed right around Father Crowley Overlook in 2019. The Navy had the whole area blocked off and guarded while the military removed ALL of the debris. The article is about a crash last year but mentions the crash in Star Wars Canyon from 2019.
The Amargosa Opera House was taken over by a Dancer Marta Becket in the 60’s https://www.npr.org/2022/06/04/1103068712/pilot-killed-navy-jet-fighter-crash-california-desert
@🐾BillinGlendaleCA: Amargosa Opera House: http://www.amargosaoperahouse.org/operahouse/
Early April tends to be a good time to visit Death Valley, although even when the temperature is sane (which can happen around this time) it can be ridiculously windy.
I was there one April and got rained out (!) – there was snow all over the Panamint range in the morning!
I love Death Valley. I have been there over 20 times. I have hiked, camped and driven all over. Anyone who wants info, I am glad to share it. Anyone who wants to drag me along as a guide, I am all in. I have taken many friends there over the years.
Yeah, the Eastern Sierra is great, and I love it. But March is a great season to go to Death Valley.
Good suggestion about Little Lakes Valley as a destination this year, though it starts at 10,000 feet. I have a permit there with family for Aug 17. Been there several times too over the years.
@Bishop Bag: I had heard about the 2019 crash when I was reading about the Father Crowley overlook, it is an amazing place.
The Opera House looks like in interesting place to see a performance, I was a bit early.
@Chris T.: I’d probably get rained out, it seems that everyday I’m not working, it had rained(including today).
@Dmbeaster: I’ll go back to DV and Joshua Tree when we get some clear skies, we’ve been pretty much clouded over for the past month. One of the reasons that I suggested LLV over Big Pine for the first hike in the Sierra is there is pretty much an immediate pay off, you don’t have to hike far to get a good view and you can get used to hiking at elevation(pretty much the same as the Big Pine Lakes basin). I want to hike both again, well once most of the snow melts off.