Death Valley Scenic Byway

State: California
Length: 81.5 miles / 130.4 km
Time to Allow: Allow at least 3 hours.

The Death Valley Scenic Byway takes up 81.5 miles through Death Valley National Park on interstate 190. Although 190 starts near the town of Olancha, the whole, it doesn’t all count as the byway but taking it will get you where you need to go, near the town of Darwin deep in the desert with high temperatures and low elevations. Expect to see extreme and extraordinary scenic sights ready to leave you in awe.

As the byway sits in southeastern California, the byway borders Nevada making it a great road trip for those in either state and also Arizona. It’s only a two-hour drive for those who live in Las Vegas. Those in southwestern Utah can get to the byway with ease as well. The drive takes you through Owens Lake bed before heading up the Argus Range and into the national park.

Nature highlights this byway with incredible landscapes worthy of artwork. Before starting your journey, stock up on water and snacks in Darwin. If you plan to explore the park for several days, stay at one of several hotels or a resort in town too. Both Olancha and Darwin offer a variety of eateries, or you can head up to Lone Pine a little off the byway for a meal or to visit the Museum of Western Film History.

Once in the park, head to the Badwater Basin, as it’s the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level. The salt flat looks out of this world, and it’s close to the polygon salt formation and close to a parking area. Next, check out the tour Artists Drive through a geological rainbow through colorful desert hills. Vistas on either side make for a great place to get out of the car and take some photos.

Do not leave without seeing the Devil’s Golf Course, an immense area of rock salt turned into jagged spires. The real treat is getting out and listening to the ground as salt crystals burst and grow in the heat. Wear sandals, though, as the area takes jagged edges to a new level. Further down, hike the Golden Canyon with options for advanced or beginner hikers as you explore the golden hills through a labyrinth.

The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes take the beauty of the desert right to California near the Stovepipe Wells. Pull up in front of the dunes and get out to explore. Visit Rainbow Canyon, too, near Panamint Springs, where you can watch fighter jets practice. The views are incredible and unlike any other area, with hints of greenery overshadowed by tall vistas.

End your trip at the Zabriskie Point, where multi-colored formations fill the land with rolling hills. Choose this spot for gorgeous photos of the sunrise or sunset. At night, all of the areas light up with a sea of stars as nothing blocks the lights from filling the sky. Before going, remember the area does not offer bathrooms or other amenities. Inspect your tires and battery before heading out. Also, keep the unusually high temperatures in mind too and plan accordingly if you visit in the summer.

More California Byways

You can check out additional Byways in California by clicking on the list of byways below, or by going to the California Byways home section. To find even more of scenic byways in the United States, visit our scenic byways map.