A park guide published by the Automobile Club of Southern California lists 49 points of interest, and there are easily that many. Here are a dozen that a visitor shouldn't miss.
1. Dante's View.
The overlook here -- 5,475 feet above sea level -- illustrates the sweep and depth of the valley. At your feet, the lowest point in the United States -- desert and salt flats 282 feet below sea level. Off in the distance, the impressive mountain ranges that surround them.
A sign 282 feet up the side of a cliff marks sea level. And all around are those salt flats and the stands of saline solution that gave this area its name.
3. Devil's Golf Course.
Salt crystals twinkle and jagged formations, mostly salt, cover this part of the valley floor. Layers of sediment and salt below the surface reach a depth of 1,000 feet. Talk about your bad lies!
4. Artist's Palette.
A one-way loop shows motorists and bikers the colors rendered by various minerals and chemical reactions on mountainsides that appear to be painted pink, green, orange, brown and yellow.
5. Golden Canyon.
Yellow sediments cover the rocks, and an easy trail of 1 1/2 miles (round trip) curves through dramatic passageways under a ceiling of deep-blue sky.
6. Twenty Mule Team Canyon.
This was an industrial site in the early days of borax mining. A drive through these yellow badlands evokes the days of heavily loaded wagons and hard-working teams as the mineral went to market.
7. Zabriskie Point.
Uplifts and vari-colored sediments have shaped and colored the scene here. The area was named for a dedicated borax mining executive; the point is a bold finger of volcanic rock that has been slower to erode than its soft, sedimentary neighbors.
8. Furnace Creek.
Even a thirst-deranged desert nomad would probably fail to hallucinate an oasis like this. The visitor center is here, as well as a gas station, stores, cafes, lodging and all sorts of recreation -- under forests of date palms.
9. Harmony Borax Works.
One of several defunct borax operations scattered around the park (still others continue to function), Harmony was built in 1883 and lasted only five years. Crumbling buildings and some of those amazing, giant mule-team wagons are on hand to tell the story.
10. Salt Creek and sand dunes.
A huge lake once filled the creek area, which is now a place to observe plants and the unique desert pupfish that adapted to the arid and salty conditions. Up the road, sand drifts into big mounds, giving visitors a Sahara-like landscape.
11. Scotty's Castle.
In the early 20s, con man Walter Scott, "Death Valley Scotty," persuaded Chicago financier Albert Johnson to build this elaborate Spanish-style mansion. It's a small-scale San Simeon, and the guides who lead tours of the estate are full of juicy stories.
12. Ubehebe Crater.
Just the other day, geologically speaking (i.e. a few thousand years ago), a violent eruption of lava and steaming ground water blasted out this hole, half a mile wide. A 32-mile dirt road leads from the crater to Racetrack Valley, where rocks move mysteriously along the floor, leaving trails, but only when no one is looking.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times