Death Valley National Park

Just across the Nevada border in California is Death Valley National Park. Death Valley is hot, dry, and low altitude.
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Sand Dunes in Death Valley. Photo by Britt Lindsay

If you’re after extremes, look no further than Death Valley National Park. Here, you can bag all 11,049 feet of the highest peak in the Panamint Mountains, or plummet back down to a lowly 3000 feet and visit the singing Eureka Dunes. The dry desert sprawls more than three million acres, over which the landscape varies wildy, as do the temperatures: in one day, the air temperature can start at record-holding sizzling heat, and nose dive to near-zero as the sun goes down.

Whether you choose high-elevation hikes or exploring once-prosperous mining towns like the Keane Wonder Mine, you’re sure to encounter more than a few birds on your way. Death Valley has one of the most diverse bird populations of the National Parks. Catch western kingbirds, Phoebes, and meadowlarks--among other hundreds of species--on their way through for spring migration.

Spring is not only for prime bird-watching in Death Valley, though. Along with having the mildest temperatures, late-March brings the blossoming of over 800 kinds of well-adapted plants that live here. If there’s been enough rainfall, wildflower-covered slopes bloom into seas of Sand Verbena and Desert Gold that make for great photo-ops. Or, put your car into four-wheel drive and take in the sights over the 350 miles of unpaved roads that weave through the rest of the park.

--Kenzi Wilbur

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