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Sea level on the road north of Salt Creek

Don Bain's 360° Panoramas of

Death Valley

Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park is the largest US park outside of Alaska - 3,373,063 acres (13,650 square kilometers) and 95% of it is roadless wilderness. It is a land of superlatives - driest and lowest in the U.S., hottest in the world. Also of contrasts and paradoxes - Telescope Peak rises to 11,049 feet (3368 meters) directly from Badwater at minus-282 (-85 m), the highest mountains are forested and covered with snow in the winter, some years have vast displays of wildflowers, and there is even a year-around waterfall in Darwin Canyon.

It takes some serious driving to see Death Valley, and challenging hiking to see many parts of it. Most tourists stick to three main roads. One comes in from the west to Stovepipe Wells and the famous sand dunes. Another leaves the valley from Furnace Creek going east towards Las Vegas. The third runs north-south, from Scotty's Castle to Badwater (and beyond). Many of the most famous sights are to be found along these three routes and can be viewed in two or three days.

For me Death Valley is a winter and spring destination, though with air-conditioned cars and hotel rooms it can be enjoyed year around. My particular delight is to explore the back roads and jeep trails - three remote valleys in particular. Saline Valley contains a cluster of hot springs with their own quirky history and culture, Eureka Valley has a sand dune 800 feet (245 meters) high, and the Racetrack is a dry lake across which chunks of stone mysteriously slide.

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