Early spring is just about the last time of the year to enjoy comfortable daytime temperatures in Death Valley. In this desolate region of the Southwest, the thermometer moves well into the triple digit range long before summer. By the time the first week of June rolls around, Death Valley can be relegated as being hell on earth!
I can personally attest to how extremely hot this destination can be, because I was contracted to work at a resort in Death Valley a few years ago from June through August. The official weather station temperatures at my job site ranged between 118ºF and 132ºF from early June till mid July. The month of August is only a couple of degrees cooler, so that is not even enough relief to mention.
The extremely hot air temperatures in Death Valley actually are mild when compared to the ground temperature index. During the summer season, the official ground temperature index usually ranges from 165ºF to 185ºF. These ground temperatures are hot enough to melt the rubber soles on a pair of sneakers or fry an egg on the blacktop! Visitors hoping to take a cold shower back in the motel room were out of luck too, because the cold water was actually near the boiling point till sometime after midnight. The extremely high ground temperatures heated the underground waterlines, so turning off the water heaters for the summer actually was an option.
Needless to say, Death Valley visitors need to take precautions, especially when setting out on foot. Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 states, so it is easy to stray into areas that are basically no man’s land. If one becomes lost or stranded, any chance of rescue will require a long wait. Therefore, packing a couple days of emergency food and water is a necessity, even when just doing a scenic drive. Fuel management is also critical, because the gas stations in this region are few and far between.
Sometimes the winter can be mighty chilly in the Desert Southwest and plenty of snow can land on the higher elevations within this park. Some of the low elevation areas get a little bit of rainfall when winter storms pass through and such was the case back in 2016. When it rains in the desert, the desert literally comes to life with colorful wildflower blooms, which are a spectacular sight to see! The winter of 2016 brought enough rain to Death Valley to cause one of the biggest wildflower blooms in history. During that spring, many areas of Death Valley were literally blanketed with wildflowers as far as the eyes could see.
Death Valley National Park is a very diverse environment. Both the highest mountain and lowest elevation in the lower 48 states are located in this region. There are places where wildlife thrives in alkaline water by the vast salt flats. There are many hidden pockets in Death Valley that have their own unique micro environment and the local animal species are well adapted to the harshest of conditions. Colorful mineral deposits can be seen on the bare mountainsides and the old mining operations that were abandoned long ago still stand.
Winter is definitely the choice time of year to visit Death Valley National Park, especially if you plan to take on the hiking trails. With the cooler temperatures, the chances of perishing from heat stroke are much less likely and water supplies will last longer. It can take weeks to experience all that this National Park has to offer, so camping is a nice option for extended stays during the winter season. During summer just forget about camping, because the night time temperatures rarely fall below 100ºF even after midnight.
Death Valley is a destination that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. There is no other place on earth like Death Valley and few climates around the globe come close to being as harsh. This National Park is the land of extremes and there are many surprises in store. Death Valley is an extreme adventure like no other and that is a good enough reason to get up and go!
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