Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is extremely hot. Well sure, everyone knows that. But it's extreme in many ways, especially steep, rocky, dry, cold, and windy. Just be careful and don't get too far from the water hole.
Desicated Frog

It is the largest national park in the lower 48. We spent a week there and only scratched the surface while doing everything that was easy to get at. There is a tremendous amount remaining, especially backcountry driving and hiking.

The outstanding recreation feature is canyon hiking. The best hike is Golden Canyon offering several options depending on your ambition. If you only have one day then I heartily recommend the Titus Canyon Drive. The best surprise was the really clear night skies with a zillion stars.

If high winds are forecast, believe it. Our first night we huddled in the car for 10 hours while debris and rocks pummeled the car in a shrieking wind, cracking the windshield and side window in several places. While piling boulders on the coolers (not enough room in the car) I had to hunch over in the worst gusts and later feel my face to see if it was bleeding. It blew 60 at the Furnace Creek visitors station knocking out the power. A week later a smaller storm came through, blew only in the 40's, reduced visibility to 20 feet, and reached 143 at nearby White Mountain. Glad we vacated to a motel. Once was enough.

I've heard many times that wind is a significant erosion factor and I thought, sure given enough million years it would be. Having experienced falling rocks and stinging sand, I'm thinking now it may be a bit faster.

TITUS CANYON
Takes most of the day but it's a great drive over a mountain pass offering expansive views before diving into a narrow twisting one way road in a deep slot. Sort of like a colonoscopy by car. While in the area, don't miss the funky outdoor art gallery in the ghost town of Rhyolite near Beatty, Nevada before starting the canyon drive.

FALL CANYON
Unlike neighboring Titus Canyon, the lower end is wide, flat, and rather mundane. I hear things get interesting about 3 miles up. The slot just to the south is formed from sharpest rocks I have ever seen. Even though very dark, I presume they are a type of marble into which the wind has eroded razor sharp pits.

GOLDEN CANYON
A set of constantly evolving canyons and vistas in golden rocks and sediment with numerous side canyons and ridges to explore. It has a nice loop trail which returns in the next canyon over (Gower Gulch), or links to Zabriske Point overlook at the top.

MOSAIC CANYON
Enters the mountains through a slot carved in white, highly fractured (breccia) marble. First half mile is the best. Saw a group of desert bighorns on the ridge, so there must be water in the area.

DARWIN FALLS
An easy walk to the first falls. Lots of birds, numerous scattered wildflowers in the dry wash. A rather popular place.

SCOTTY'S CASTLE
Sorry but it's too fake for me. Recent but uncompleted expansion looks cheesy by trying to look old. Maybe the history is interesting (after all, much of the Death Valley history is VERY interesting), but the current exhibit is subpar. Seems popular with the non-hiking RV set. Maybe it's the draw of the ice cream and a paved parking lot.

NATURAL BRIDGE
A nice scenic hike in a narrow canyon of mostly conglomerate rock with a few short scrambles eventually terminating in a large dryfall that would be tough to get beyond. The arch is about halfway and within range of most people.

MESQUITE FLATS SAND DUNES
A nice extensive set of dunes with a few large ones in the middle. There are a few animal burrows in the low spots, lizard tracks, and disappointingly, no snakes

UBEHEBE CRATER
Living in volcano country myself I was not expecting much. However it is a nice crater providing an expansive view and plenty of hiking in or around the crater. For most it is just a drive up, look over the edge, and head on to the next attraction.

DANTE'S VIEW
This is a nice drive, a great view, and nice way to escape the heat of the valley. Take a picnic.

ZABRISKE POINT OVERLOOK
Situated in the middle of colorful badlands, most people get out of their car and snap a few photos. However there's plenty of room to roam and explore with little to get in your way. From there one can take the trail downhill through Golden Canyon or alternatively Gower Gulch.

TWENTY MULE TEAM CANYON
This is a dirt road going through the same deposits of nearby Zabriske Point. It's pretty and doesn't take long.

WILDCAT CANYON
There are so many good places to explore I would pass this one up. It's basically just a gray gravel deposit without outstanding characteristics, at least in the first couple miles. I hear that nearby larger Willow Creek is about the same in it's lower section.