If you’re trying to figure out the best time to visit Death Valley, you need to consider both the weather and your own tolerance for crowds.
We’ve visited the Death Valley in various seasons and regardless of when you go, it’s so worth it. In a recent Facebook thread, I saw some folks question the value of going to Death Valley at all. But I’m someone who loves a spare desert landscape. The park’s extremes will surprise you and the crazy geology and epic views are very rewarding.
Certain seasons in the region do have their advantages. So this guide for when to visit Death Valley National Park will give you weather information, tips on how to avoid crowds, the best and worst times to go, and a whole slew of travel tips.
Weather in Death Valley National Park
This park is the hottest and driest in the United States. It’s a land of extremes and Mother Nature is firmly in charge.
We have a number of articles like this one on the site (advising when to visit Redwood National Park, Big Sur, Pismo Beach, Joshua Tree, and California generally). And most have a temperature and precip tables like the one above. However, whereas for most of CA, precip is measured in inches, for Death Valley, it’s measured in tenths of inches.
These averages are useful…usually. But there is an unpredictable element to Death Valley’s weather, particularly when it comes to rain. A tropical storm in August of 2023 dropped over 2″ of rain in one day. It was a year’s worth of rain, which filled Badwater Basin with water for the first time in…well, forever.
And the park also has extremes in elevation. Dantes peak is 5,500 feet and the Badwater Basin below it is -282. This creates a rather wide variety in temps.
So, our advice is to look at these averages, but come prepared for anything.
When is the Best Time to Visit Death Valley?
For the most moderate temperatures visit from mid-October to mid-December, or February/March.
When is the Worst Time to Visit Death Valley?
Summer is the absolute worst time to visit Death Valley. It is hotter than actual hell and the volcanic 100′ fahrenheit highs will prevent you from spending any significant time outside of you air-conditioned car.
When is the Busiest Time to Visit Death Valley National Park?
The busiest month to visit Death Valley is March, followed by February, December and April. And of course, weekends and holidays will also be busy.
Death Valley is huge and it can accommodate a lot of people. You main limiter will be parking at a few of the popular spots (Badwater Basin and Golden Canyon have small lots) and getting a hotel room inside of the park.
The Best Time to Visit the Death Valley: Season by Season
January, February, March, April
Of the cooler weather months, January gets the least visitation so it’s a good time to visit Death Valley if you want some elbow room. March is more popular for the warmer weather. And there’s a dark sky festival every year, usually the first week of March. The schedule includes ranger talks, an astro fair and astrophotography outings.
The park’s wildflower season (if the rains have been on point) usually occurs between mid-February through mid-April. Keep an on on their wildflower page for updates.
May, June, July, August
Despite the heat, Death Valley gets rather a lot of visitation during the summer months, especially in June/July. But with 110′ highs, don’t plan on doing much in the heat of midday. If you want to do any hiking, go out at dawn and keep it short.
During the hot midday, you can easily do the scenic drive to Dante’s View, 20 Mule Team Canyon or Artists Palette Way, as long as your aircon is working.
Visitation drops in August-October when the kids go back to school. It’s still hot, but it will be less busy.
September, October, November, December
Mid-October through December has very pleasant weather in Death Valley. Visitation starts ticking up, but it’s less busy than the February/March high season.
If you have a flexible schedule, considering visiting between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Many folks a super busy at that time and you’ll find yourself with more solitude in the park.
Plan Your Trip to Death Valley
In addition to the above advice on when to visit Death Valley, I’ve also got a TON of resources to help you plan your trip.
Start with this Death Valley travel guide. It includes practical planning and insider tips and top things to do. Here’s a 1-day itinerary (with drive times from Las Vegas), and also a 2-day DV itinerary.
But wait, I’m not done yet! I’ve also got hiking guides for the Golden Canyon and Sidewinder Canyon, along with advice on how and why to visit Rhyolite ghost town, and a complete list of the ghost towns in Death Valley. We also have some fun trivia about the park.
And if you’re flying in from elsewhere, here’s the closest airport to Furnace Creek.
Other Itineraries Featuring Death Valley
If visiting Death Valley is part of a larger California vacation, check out some of these related itineraries.
- San Francisco to Death Valley – with three different routing options and key stops.
- Joshua Tree to Death Valley – off the beaten path with key stops.
- Nearby scenic highway 395 – through the Eastern Sierra.
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