Night Exploration

Panorama of ten beehive shaped masonry charcoal kiln structures at night with yellow light shining through the doorways, the milkyway to the right and the Neowise comet to the left.
The Neowise Comet and Milky Way put on a show over the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns.

© Patrick Taylor

 

Did you know that Death Valley National Park has no closing time and that it is just as spectacular at night as it is during the day? Consider these ideas for ways to experience the park at night:

Star Gazing

Far from cities and carefully managed to protect darkness, Death Valley National Park is an excellent place to view the night sky. Nights in Death Valley are so dark that the park is classified at the highest (Gold Tier) level by the International Dark-Sky Association; many celestial objects which can be viewed from Death Valley are not visible elsewhere in the world! While most places in the park away from lodging/campgrounds and major roads will provide good night-sky viewing opportunities, the top ranger suggestions for star gazing locations are: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Harmony Borax Works, Badwater Basin and Ubehebe Crater.

 
Dark silhouette from behind of a standing man and woman holding hand with a dark sky full of stars and the Milky Way infront of them.
Plan for a humbling experience when observing the night skies over Death Valley National Park.

© Patrick Taylor

Hints for seeing the most stars:

  • Visit during the new moon — this is when the moon is not visible which means the sky will be darkest and you can see the most stars.
  • Know what to look for — check out a night sky almanac to get an idea of what might be visible and where.
  • Avoid light pollution — pick a place to view the night sky away from developed areas.
  • Stay out long enough — it takes about 30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the night sky to see the most stars.
  • Use a red light —or put a piece of red cellophane on your flashlight. This will minimize the effect of the light on your adjusting eyes.
  • Look at the horizon — Death Valley has large, towering mountains. If you pick a low place to view the night sky, like Badwater Basin, some of the stars will be blocked by mountain ranges. Pick a large open area with some elevation to see the most stars.
  • Bring binoculars — a simple pair of binoculars is a great way to get a closer look!
 

View the International Space Station

Stars are incredible, but there are also some impressive human-made objects visible in the night sky. Use this tool created by NASA to discover when the International Space Station will be visible from Death Valley National Park!

 
The silhouettes of seven people from behind, pointing green lasers at a converging place in a starry night sky. Some hills and mountains are visible in the distance.
Not sure you're comfortable going out at night alone? Ranger programs are a great way to learn about the night sky in a group setting.

© Patrick Taylor

Ranger Programs

Interested in learning more about the night sky? Join a Ranger for an introduction to the cosmos at a famous Death Valley location. Programs are offered during the winter; check at a visitor center or on our park calendar for the schedule.

Night Photography

Dark nights mean ample opportunity to photograph the stars. While there is no one “best” location, astrophotographers often choose places such as Zabriskie Point, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes or Harmony Borax Works to capture their night images. Please note that while you may park along major roadways while photographing, camping along paved roads is prohibited.

 
Silhouette of a man and woman standing on rocks surrounded by small shrubs, pointing at a large full moon.
Visitors marvel at the craters in a bright full moon over Death Valley.

© Patrick Taylor

Full Moon Night Hiking

While we don’t recommend a hike at night in an area with obstacles such as rocks, a casual stroll at a place like Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes or Badwater Basin can be quite rewarding. Visit during a full moon (see NASA's Moon Phases webpage) for the best natural lighting. Make sure to pause to view the stars and to listen for wildlife. Always bring a flashlight and water and remember that nighttime temperatures can still be over 100 F (38 C) during the summer.

Dark Sky Festival

Death Valley National Park holds an annual event each spring, where visitors are invited to come and learn about space. The event lasts multiple days and includes special ranger programs, guest speakers from organizations such as NASA, and hands-on activities. Check the park calendar or ask a ranger at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center for upcoming event dates.

 
A circular graphic in shades of blue and yellow shows the milky way stretching over a bristlecone pine and salt flat which are separated by a winding road. Circle edge reads: Park to Park in the Dark, Great Basin National Park, Death Valley National Park

Logo: Tyler Nordgren

Park to Park in the Dark

Interested in extending your trip to discover more dark places? Check out Nevada’s first Astro-tourism route, Park to Park in the Dark, which connects two International Dark Sky Parks: Death Valley National Park and Great Basin National Park. Motorists along this route will be able to ponder life’s biggest questions as they travel through some of the darkest areas in the country and gaze up into star-studded skies.

The route winds its way through rural Nevada and California and offers countless opportunities for star gazing, telescope viewing and astrophotography, along with plenty of daytime activities. Services are limited to the towns of Beatty, Goldfield, Tonopah, Ely and Baker, which are separated by long stretches without cell service, restrooms, or gas stations.

Establishing the route was a collaborative effort between local communities, non-profit organizations, and various land management agencies including the National Park Service. This route promotes outdoor nighttime recreation while also highlighting the importance of preserving the dark.

 

Last updated: July 12, 2022

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 579
Death Valley , CA 92328

Phone:

760 786-3200

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