Planning a road trip to see all of Death Valley in one day is impossible. It’s one of the biggest parks in the country as 140miles long and is full of dirt roads, so even driving the length of it will take up a good chunk of your day. But if you only have one day and want to check out some of the highlights, then we’ve got an itinerary for you!

To make the most of your 1-day trip and to maximize your time you’re going to want to stay in the southern end of the park where there are paved roads and the majority of the famous attractions are. Unfortunately, this means more crowds and tourists as this is the most popular area, so if you’re trying to avoid the crowds, I recommend taking more than one day and going to the places that you need a 4wheel drive vehicle to get to.

This trip is very ambitious and doesn’t give you a lot of time at each location, but will give you a great overview of much that the park has to offer. Depending on how much time you want at each place, you might need to skip 1-2 or these to make your day, but I’ve packed in as much as possible so that you have options to choose from:

Included in this trip:

  • Devil’s Golf Course
  • Badwater Basin
  • Dante’s View
  • Zabriskie Point
  • Twenty Mule Team Canyon
  • Artist’s Drive & Palette
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
  • Mosaic Canyon
  • Ashford Mills
  • Harmony Borax Works
  • Leadfield Ghost town

Know Before You Go

  • Start EARLY – like be in the park at 7am in order to fit everything in
  • Death Valley gets extremely hot over the summer – by May temperatures get into the 100s during the day, and with no shade, you’re at the mercy of the sun. It holds the record for the hottest air temperature ever at 134F, so try to come in early spring or late winter.
  • There is little to no cell service in the park, and even if you’re staying at a hotel, Wifi isn’t reliable. Make sure to have planned out your trip before entering the park.
  • There’s no public transportation in the park – you will either need your own car or will need to rent a jeep or a bicycle from Furnace Creek.
  • Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells are the only “civilized” areas of the park – meaning there’s food, water, gas, etc. When out in the rest of the park, you’re on your own.
  • Bring snacks! There aren’t a lot of food options in the park and what is there tends to be crowded with long wait times.
  • There is no entrance gate for Death Valley. Park entry fees ($25 per car) can be paid at the ranger stations or at any of the self-pay facilities around the park.
  • DO NOT get gas in Shoshone or Panamint Springs – the prices are at least $1/gallon more than even what’s available in the park.

One Day Road Trip Itinerary

For this itinerary, we recommend starting at the southern entrance to the park and coming in on Rte 178 from Shoshone, but if you’re coming from another direction, it can completely be reversed too!

#1 – Ashford Mills Ruins

Drive Time: 35 mins (from Shoshone)
Time on site: 10-15mins

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The ruins of an old mine from the early 1900s. Since it’s on the way to the first famous attraction, I’ve included Ashford Mills since you’ll literally drive right past it, so you might as well stop and check it out. There are lots of old mines and ruins in Death Valley from the days when this area was once prosperous, so it’s a good way to get a well-rounded experience of everything Death Valley has to offer – not just the touristy stuff. If you’re not entering/exiting at Shoshone, you’ll probably want to skip this as it’s not worth the drive to get down there just for this.

#2 – Badwater Basin

Drive Time: 45 mins
Time on site: 20-45mins

Must-See – The lowest elevation in North America! Badwater basin is a vast salt flat below sea level. It’s really uniquely beautiful as the flat seems to shine in a variety of different colors. It’s right in the center of the valley and you can see for a long ways in every direction. There’s a boardwalk that goes out into the salt flats allowing for you to walk out into the middle of the valley for up to a mile. Time here depends on how far/long you want to walk on the boardwalk.

#3 – Devil’s Golf Course

Drive Time: 15 mins
Time on site: 20-45mins

Must-See – this place is awesome and was way cooler than I thought it would be! It’s one of the more interesting and unusual landscapes in the park and something I’ve never seen anywhere else on the planet! It’s a massive crystalized salt flat. There are crazy looking and incredible strong salt crystals in all directions. They’re super strong and hard to damage, so you can go out and walk all over them.

#4 – Artists Drive & Palette

Drive Time: 5-7 mins
Time on site: 30-60mins

This was less impressive than I thought it would be, but still included on the list as again you’re literally gonna drive right past it, but also it’s one of the more famous attractions in the park. All of the pictures show mountains with crazy colors, and while there are some cool colors on these hills, it’s not as bright as you see in most pictures. It’s still pretty, but if you’re short on time, this is one you could skip. Plus once you’re in “the drive”, there’s no going back as its a one lane road that goes in one directions with a few spots to pull over and look at the Palette and other notable landmarks. Getting stuck behind someone slow here is a real drag!

#5 – Zabriskie Point

Drive Time: 20 mins
Time on site: 20-45mins

Must-See – The “most impressive” view in the park and it’s breathtaking. It’s the most famous view, but not the most expansive (which is Dante’s Peak). There’s all sorts of crazy colors and rock formations that you can see from this view point. There are also a number of hiking trails available here where you can explore the canyon below depending on how much time you have.

#6 – Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Drive Time: 10 mins
Time on site: 30-45mins

Photo courtesy of outdoorproject.com

I only recommend this if you’re doing to Dante’s View from Zabriskie Point (or vice versa) since it’s on the way, otherwise don’t go out of your way. This is a dirt road that’s left over from teams of mules pulling massive wagons hauling borax from the Harmony Borax Works 165miles to the railroad. It’s a 2.8 mile road riddled with tunnels and an interesting historical drive if you’re going this way.

#6 – Dante’s View

Drive Time: 30 mins
Time on site: 15-30mins

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The most expansive view of the park. At 5,475ft above the park, you can see everything from here- the Panamint Mountains and Badwater Basin lay stretched out in front of you. It’s the best 360 view you’re going to get. Personally, I think Zabriskie is “cooler” and more unique because of the rock formations, but Dante’s view is also very impressive and one of the most well known attractions in the park.

#7 – Harmony Borax Works

Drive Time: 45 mins
Time on site: 10-15mins

Photo courtesy of NPS.gov

You’re going to drive right past it, so if you have the time, stop in and check out some history. Ruins of a borax mine that was founded in 1881 and remained operational for only 5 years.

#8 – Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Drive Time: 25 mins
Time on site: 30-45mins

The only sand dunes in this area of the park and also the most famous. If you are at all in the center of the park, you literally can’t miss them as they are right next to Stovepipe Wells. There’s a large parking lot where you can get out and go for a walk along the sand dunes, but they are often crowded and crawling with tourists. There are other sand dunes in the park that are much less crowded, but they are only accessible by 4wheel drive.

#9 – Mosaic Canyon

Drive Time: 15 mins
Time on site: 30-60mins

Must-See – Some really interesting slot canyons and the kind of hike that you think of when canyon hiking in Death Valley. You won’t have time to do the entire 4 mile trail (Mosaic Canyon hiking details here
), but one of the coolest parts of this trail with the winding slot canyon is right at the beginning.

#10 -Leadfield Ghost Town

Drive Time: 1hr 45mins
Time on site: 30-60mins

Photo courtesy of socher.org

A “bonus” if you have the time to visit it as it maybe on your way in/out of the park, so might as well! If you’re not heading in/out this way, it’s not worth the extra trip and you can exit the park through Panamint Spring after visiting Mosaic Canyon instead. Leadfield is only accessible via dirt road so it will take a little while to drive down the road to it. it is one of the shortest lived ghost towns lasting from 1925 to 1926. Fifteen miles of road were built up the canyon to connect with the road to Beatty in order to mine the ore. The population peaked at around 300. More details here.

If You Have Extra Time or Another Day


There’s so much that the park has to offer! If you have extra time or are looking for other attractions, the next one I’d recommend that’s not on this list is Ubehebe Crater. It’s more awesome than some of the things I’ve included, BUT it’s only accessible via dirt roads and will take you 45-60mins just to get there from the other attractions on this list. If you want to include it and skip some of the others, I definitely recommend it if you have the time. For more trip planning options, check out our:

Full Death Valley Trip Planning Guide + Map Here

Where to Stay and Eat

If you’re planning on staying in or nearby the park in order to start on this 1-Day road trip early the next day, we’ve put together a huge list of all of the places available to stay from hotels to campsite etc. available here.

As far as places to eat – it would be best to bring your own food with you. There are a few places to eat in Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek, but the limited number of restaurants tend to be understaffed and full of tourists, so you can expect a loooong wait. There’s a general store at each location too, but the goods here are again limited and over-priced. Also with this itinerary, you won’t have time to stop and get food if you’re trying to visit each location, so eating on the go is your best option.

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