Ever wanted to walk on an ancient lake? Visit Badwater Basin Salt Flats in Death Valley National Park.
Located in southeastern California, Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous United States and the fifth-largest national park in the United States. The park gets more than 1 million visitors annually.
Death Valley National Park is the driest, hottest, and also the lowest place in North America. This park is so diverse that you’ll find salt flats, mountains, sand dunes, canyons, badlands, waterfalls, and more.
Badwater Basin Salt Flats is one of the most popular attractions in Death Valley National Park. This guide lists out things you need to know about the hike including driving information, hiking directions, the best time to visit, and things to do nearby.
How To Get There: Badwater Basin Salt Flats
Badwater Basin Salt Flats is located on Badwater Road. It’s 18 miles (23 minutes) away from Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Once you’re at the visitor centre, head right to CA-190 for a little more than a mile then take another right to Badwater Road for 16.5 miles. The parking lot is large enough to accommodate crowds and even if it’s full, there are cars driving out periodically.
If you’re flying in then surprisingly, the closest airport is located in Nevada! It’s 118 miles and takes around 2 hours from the Harry Reid International Airport to get to the park.
If you’re driving from nearby cities:
- 5-hour drive from Las Vegas (157 miles)
- 5-hour drive from Los Angeles (284 miles)
- 9-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area (528 miles but varies if you’re driving from San Jose or Oakland)
What Is Special About Badwater Basin Salt Flats?
So what’s so unique about this place? Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the North American continent. It’s 282 feet below sea level! Look above the parking lot to find a “Sea Level” sign on the Black Mountains. This is also the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. At Badwater Basin, you’ll see salt flats spanning over 200 miles. If you look closely at the white salt formations, you’ll see that they are shaped like polygons and look porous. How did it form? Natural forces including volcanic activity and tectonic plates combined with gradual salt deposits from the lake led to the Badwater Basin.
Hiking Directions to Badwater Basin Salt Flats
Once you’ve parked, hike down through the boardwalk to the salt flats. Take a photo with the wooden sign that says “Badwater Basin 282 Feet/855 Meters Below Sea Level”. The salt flats start out on levelled terrain but as you walk further, you’ll start to see the salt crystals becoming more formed and 3-dimensional. Watch where you’re walking; I tripped on one of the salt formations.
Best Time to Visit Badwater Basin Salt Flats
The best time to visit these salt flats is during the winter months when the temperatures are milder than in the other seasons. Spring and fall are good times to visit but keep an eye on the temperature on the day that you visit. It’s not recommended to visit Death Valley National Park in the summer. There is intense heat and dryness and temperatures can reach as high as 134 Fahrenheit. If you’re visiting in the summer, do not hike on the salt flats. It’s best to stay in your car and if you do happen to step out of the car, only do so for up to 15 minutes to avoid heat exhaustion.
Things To Do Near Badwater Basin Salt Flats
There are other attractions located on the same road as Badwater Basin. After exploring the salt flats, check these out:
- Natural Bridge Trail: Hike through a canyon to a natural arch, hanging canyons, and a dry waterfall.
- Devil’s Golf Course: Another salt formation but rougher and difficult to hike on but fun to explore.
- Artists Drive: Drive through a 9-mile one-way road that takes you through hills coloured due to oxidation. Stop at Artists Palette to see bright colours of pink, blue, and green painted on the hills.
Badwater Basin Salt Flats is a unique attraction in Death Valley National Park and it’s a must-see for anyone visiting the park. Add it to your Death Valley itinerary!
Need to Know
Time: 1 hour
Park: Death Valley National Park
Park Entrance Fee: $30 for a 7-day period; free if you have the National Parks Pass.
Further Info: When you’re hiking in one of the hottest and driest places on Earth, you need to be prepared. Make sure you’ve packed all the essentials when hiking under the sun including water, sunscreen, sunglasses, a sunhat, and a first aid kit.
Have you visited Badwater Basin Salt Flats? Got it on your bucket list? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.