Visiting Death Valley Salt Flats: A Complete Guide

death valley salt flats

This comprehensive guide includes information on camping locations, what to pack, and more for the Salt Flats in California’s Death Valley National Park.

Badwater Basin ought to be high on your list of things to see in Death Valley if you only have one day to spend there. Not only is it one of the coolest locations in the park, but it is also very close to other well-known attractions like Golden Canyon, Devil’s Golf Course, and Artist’s Palette!

Without a doubt, the most well-liked activity in Death Valley is visiting the salt flats, and for good reason too! The large area of salt that has been shaped into perfect hexagonal shapes is a true work of nature’s art. In addition to being beautiful, it is also North America’s lowest and hottest point!

About the Salt Flats in Death Valley

With the cliffs of the Black Mountains in the background, the Badwater Basin Salt Flats feature stunning salt crystals with hexagonal patterns. Did that convince you to arrange a trip? It’s fascinating to observe how salt crystals grow and develop into ridges and flat areas as they form. Badwater Basin is also a point of interest due to it being the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.

Getting to the Salt Flats in Death Valley

  • Distance from Las Vegas: 2 hours
  • Distance from Los Angeles: 4.5 hours
  • From San Francisco: 8.5 hours

After Furnace Creek, continue south on Badwater Road for 30 minutes. On the southern edge of California’s Death Valley National Park, Artist’s Palette is just a short drive from the Salt Flats.

Salt Flats in Death Valley Hike: Everything You Need to Know

One of Death Valley’s most visited locations is the Badwater Basin Salt Flats, if not THE most visited location. As a result, the parking lot frequently fills to capacity. The parking lot is bigger than Artist’s Palette, but you should still plan to arrive early in case you need to wait for a spot.

  • 2 vault toilets for use in the parking lot
  • ADA ramp is available to get down to the boardwalk
  • No pets allowed
  • Given the Heat Advisory in the summer (Death Valley had the highest recorded temperature, after all), hiking is not recommended after 10 am.)
death valley salt flats

You must walk an easy, flat distance of one mile there and one mile back (a total of two miles round trip) to get the BEST views of the Salt Flats.) The Badwater Basin Salt Flats are almost 200 square miles in size, so if you can find a parking spot, you can be sure you’ll have the place to yourself.

  • budget time to walk out a mile to see the best of the salt flat
  • Sunrise or sunset are excellent photo opportunities.

When to Visit Death Valley?

The Fall and Winter seasons are typically the most ideal times to visit Death Valley is the most traveled area, though. The daytime highs are in the 60 to 70-degree range, and the overnight lows are in the 30-degree range.

I would discourage you from visiting Death Valley in the Summer time. You might become stranded if your car overheats. Secondly, the highest recorded temperature on Earth was taken here at 130 degrees Fahrenheit in August 2020.

How Much Time Should You Budget for Badwater Basin?

I wasn’t ready for this because I hadn’t read about it online. I had intended to go to Badwater Basin at dusk for the best lighting and cooler temperatures, but no one ever mentions on the internet that it takes at least 30 minutes from the parking lot to see the picturesque hexagon shapes in the salt flats.

I was wrong when I believed the salt flats I had seen in pictures were just outside the parking lot. Before you start taking pictures, you’ll need to make a long, hot walk into the salt flats.

I would recommend budgeting at least 1 – 2 hours to enjoy the salt flats and give yourself plenty of time for photos before the sun sets.

How Much Does It Cost to Visit Badwater Basin?

Badwater Basin and all other attractions within Death Valley National Park are free once you have paid to enter the park. The park entrance fee is $25 per vehicle, good for 7 days of park exploration.

death valley salt flats

Honestly, it’s kind of hidden, but you must pay at the self-pay station on the way into the park. In fact, I overlooked it on the way in and settled up at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

At the self-pay station, you will need to bring cash if there is not a park ranger there, which is often!

Top Tips for Visiting the Salt Flats in Death Valley

  • Avoiding crowds is not a concern when visiting Badwater Basin. You won’t have any trouble taking pictures with no one in the background because the area is so large.
  • If you travel after it rains, the salt flats will look wet and you will be able to see a beautiful reflection on the salt. In particular, the sunsets here are beautiful!
  • Make sure you link the salt flats with things in the same area to make the most out of your trip to Death Valley! Here is my ultimate guide on spending one day in Death Valley which includes Badwater Basin and nearby attractions
  • If you want to maximize your time in the park, especially prime photography times like sunrise & sunset, I would recommend spending a night in the park like I did. There are many options for accommodations, click here to read my guide all about the best places to stay in Death Valley!
  • If you take your photos during sunset, wait for the sun to go down and spend some time star gazing! Due to the lack of light in the area, Death Valley is renowned for its stargazing.

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