The Quick and Dirty:
Location: Death Valley National Park
Itinerary: Badwater Basin, Natural Bridge Canyon, Artist Drive, Red Cathedral and Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes
Hiking Distance: 10 miles
Driving Distance: 120 miles roundtrip back to Texas Springs campground
Good to know: We thought the food at the 49ers restaurant was low quality and overpriced. It’s a much better idea to prepare your own meal at the campsite. On our first full day at Death Valley National Park, we decided to visit Badwater Basin, Natural Bridge Canyon, Artist Drive, Red Cathedral and Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes. After a quick stop by the ranger station, we headed out to Badwater Basin. The drive to Badwater Basin from the Furnace Creek ranger station is about 17 miles and is the lowest spot in North America, with an elevation of 282 ft below sea level. You can hike as far as 5 miles out in the salt flats but the view is more or less the same.
Next we stopped by the Natural Bridge Canyon for a short 2 mile hike. It was early in the morning when we started this hike, but because of the Thanksgiving holiday, the trail was already busy. Walking the trail reminded me of certain scenes of Tatooine (Anakin Skywalk’s home planet) in Star Wars. After doing a little internet research when we got home, it turns out parts of the Death Valley was actually used to film Tatooine
After the natural bridge hike, we took a scenic drive down Artist’s Drive, stopping at Artist’s Palette view point. The different colors from the hills are results of oxidation of metals in the soil. The expansive view on this drive really gave the national park an impressive look.
We took a break from sitting in the car and walked to the Red Cathedral from the Golden Canyon trail. We were hoping to find a connection point from the Golden Canyon trail to Zabriskie point but were not able to locate it. Scrambling up to the top of the Red Cathedral was a lot of fun and the view on top was definition worth it!
Because we approached the Red Cathedral from below, the geological formation looked huge. Scrambling up the cathedral gave us a brilliant view of the valley.