Death Valley National Park
This sun-blasted realm of stone, sand and wide-open spaces stretching along California's eastern border with Nevada has the lowest elevations and highest temperatures in the Western Hemisphere. Far from population centers and major highways, Death Valley confronts the visitor with the silent, stark grandeur of earth-forming processes unobscured by vegetation or scars of human encroachment.Death Valley is not precisely a valley, but rather a deep basin. It measures 130mi long and ranges from 5mi to 25mi in width; elevations within the park range from 11,049ft above sea level to 282ft below. Furnace Creek oasis, site of the park headquarters and a center for food, lodging and other amenities, receives an average of 1.82in of rain per year. The basin's highest recorded temperature of 134° has been exceeded only in the Libyan Sahara Desert. Consequently, a good time to visit is from October to May when the weather is generally mild and dry. Spring months offer the best chance of seeing wildflowers in bloom. Among the more spectactular sights in the park are Zabriskie Point, a high promontory overlooking Golden Canyon badlands from the east; Dante's View, offering a stunning and renowned view of the enormous basin and the geologic processes that have shaped it; and Scotty's Castle, an eclectic Spanish-Moorish complex commissioned by a Chicago insurance magnate as a quiet and healthful retreat. The Death Valley Museum, in the same building as the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, provides an excellent introduction to the site.