If you only have one day to spend in Death Valley, this driving tour of the park will help you experience some of the most iconic sights, stretch your legs, and even enjoy a back-road adventure. Fill your gas tank before entering the park, and be sure to have plenty of food and water on hand, as services are limited.

  • Start the day at Furnace Creek, a tourism outpost since 1933. Orient yourself at the Furnace Creek Visitors Center, where you can pick up a park map and pay the entrance fee. Furnace Creek is also home to a few restaurants and a general store; this is a good place to fill up on breakfast or lunch before hitting the road.
  • Drive south along Badwater Basin Road to Badwater Basin, a Death Valley classic. The lowest point in North America, these vast salt flats lie 282 feet below sea level and encapsulate the mesmerizing yet unforgiving landscape of Death Valley. Walk out onto the salt flats to look for delicate salt crystal formations.
  • The vast salt flats of Badwater Basin are the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

    The vast salt flats of Badwater Basin are the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Photo © iofoto/123rf.

  • Head north, back to Highway 190, and continue past Furnace Creek to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells. These sculpted, windswept dunes sit perched on a slope of the valley floor and are the most popular dunes in the park.
  • Venture east along Daylight Pass Road to the ghost town of Rhyolite. Wander the ruins of this once-flourishing town whose crumbling banks burst with gold.
  • Two miles east of Rhyolite, Titus Canyon Road begins. The 27-mile one-way dirt road is one of the most popular backcountry routes in the park. It sweeps past rugged rock formations and a ghost town before the grand finale, the canyon narrows. The narrows tower overhead, barely allowing a car to squeeze through before they open wide to reveal the salty and barren Death Valley floor.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Death Valley National Park.