Seasons & Climate
Although Death Valley is one of the world's driest deserts, altitudes range from 282 feet below sea level to over 11,000 feet above; therefore, "desert" doesn't always equal "hot." From June to September, temperatures in the valley can soar above 120°F (49°C), making the mountain sections of the park a relief, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s (20s Celsius). From November to February, when valley temperatures are comfortable -- in the 60s and 70s (upper teens to mid-20s Celsius) -- many higher areas are frigid and snowy.
The weeklong Death Valley '49ers Encampment (www.deathvalley49ers.org) is held in early November. It features a fiddlers' contest, square dancing, tours, a Western art show, and a golf tournament. Contact the visitor center for information.
Avoiding the Crowds
You may think that no one would plan a vacation in a 120°F-plus (49°C-plus) remote desert, but Death Valley is a year-round destination. Visitors tend to avoid the summer and crowd Death Valley on weekends and school holidays the rest of the year, especially in the spring. December and January are the quietest months (with the exception of Christmas week and Martin Luther King, Jr., Day weekend). The following advice will help ease the crush during your visit.
- Make accommodations reservations as far in advance as you can, at least 2 or 3 months ahead. Facilities are limited inside the park, and Death Valley's isolation makes it time-consuming to base yourself elsewhere. Those planning to set up in one of the first-come, first-served camping areas should try to claim a site between 9am and noon.
- Avoid visiting on weekends and during school vacation periods. Plan to enjoy the most popular activities early in the day, before crowds start building up (around 10am). An alternative, particularly on summer days, is to wait until crowds dissipate, around 4pm. Remember, the sun doesn't set until after 7pm between June and September, and it stays hot well past midnight.
- With the help of a high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle with upgraded tires, you'll find a whole world of hidden valleys, ghost towns, sand dunes, and remote canyons that are inaccessible to most of Death Valley's visitors. Check the Park Service's official map, where roads are clearly marked according to how passable they are, and ask at the visitor center about current road conditions.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.