If you are planning spend one day in Death Valley, Badwater Basin should definitely be on the list of things to see! Not only because it is one of the coolest places in the park, but because it is extremely close to other popular sights like Artist’s Palette, Devil’s Golf Course, and Golden Canyon!
The salt flats in Death Valley are easily the most popular thing to do within the park, and for good reason! The large area of salt formed into perfect hexagon shapes is truly nature’s work of art. Not only is it a picturesque area, it is the lowest and hottest point in North America! Which in my opinion, makes it a big bucket list destination!
When I traveled to Death Valley in February of 2020, I read TONS of guides on visiting the park! But even after reading practically every guide on the internet, there were still a lot of things that shocked me and wish I knew before going! So after you are done reading this guide, you will truly know everything there is to know about visiting the Salt Flats… here we go!
Disclaimer: Some of these photos were taken by my talented photographer friend @sadiemakphotos! If you are in need for a destination / adventure photographer, make sure you check her out! 🙂
What is Badwater Basin?
Badwater Basin is a large area of salt flats that are caused from water forming into the basin and drying up quickly due to the intense heat. These salt flats are a sight to see in comparison to other ones because of the unique hexagon shapes that are formed in the salt, which are from the constant freezing, thawing, and evaporation of the water.
The basin itself is MASSIVE, stretching almost 8 miles long and 5 miles wide. When you arrive at the basin parking (which there is a fairly large parking area), you will see a large deck with signs explaining the unique things about the basin. Immediately you will see the salt formations begin to form, but you will not see the crisp white, hexagon shapes until you walk about a mile into the salt flats.
Where is Badwater Basin?
Badwater Basin is located in Death Valley National Park, about 20 minutes from the center of town (Furnace Creek). If you are coming from Furnace Creek, where the restaurants and hotels are, you will turn onto Badwater Road where a good amount of the sites are located. Along this road, you can visit Golden Canyon, Devil’s Golf Course, Artist’s Palette and more!
Like I mentioned above, you will be able to park right in front of the basin in a large parking area that is free to park. From there, you can either just explore the deck and visitor signs, or you can venture into the salt flats to see the more picturesque side!
How much time should you budget for Badwater Basin?
This is something that I did not read online and was not prepared for! I planned on visiting Badwater Basin during sunset for the best lighting and cooler temperatures, but what no one tells you online is it takes a minimum of 30 minutes from the parking lot to see the picturesque, hexagon shapes in the salt flats. I assumed the salt flats I saw in photos was right off the parking area, but that is not true! It will be a long, hot walk into the salt flats before you would want to start taking any photos.
We ended up sprinting through the salt flats in order to get pictures before the sun went down LOL.
I would recommend budgeting at least 1 – 2 hours to enjoy the salt flats and give yourself plenty of time for photos before the sun sets.
Photo taken by @Sadiemakphotos!
How much does it cost to visit Badwater Basin?
Once you pay to enter Death Valley National Park, all of the sights are free within the park, including Badwater Basin. The fee to enter the park is $25.00 per vehicle, and is good for 7 days to explore the park. You will need to pay at the self pay station on the way into the park, which is honestly kind of hidden! I actually missed it on my way in and just paid at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center instead.
At the self pay station, you will need to bring cash if there is not a park ranger there, which is often!
Best Time to Travel to Badwater Basin
In the early spring or late fall is the prime time to visit Death Valley. The summer months are extremely hot in Death Valley, it is the hottest point in North America after all! Especially if you want Badwater Basin on your Death Valley Itinerary, you will definitely want to avoid summer. There is absolutely no shade on the walk from the parking lot to the salt flats, making it quite dangerous for heat strokes!
As for time of day, if you want to take beautiful photos on the basin, I would recommend going during golden hours (sunrise and sunset times). This will also provide you cooler temperatures and make visiting the salt flats more enjoyable.
Top Tips for visiting the Salt Flats in Death Valley
- Don’t worry about avoiding crowds when visiting Badwater Basin! The area is so huge that you will have no problem getting photos with no one in your backdrop.
- If you travel after it rains, the salt flats will look wet and you will be able to see a beautiful reflection on the salt. This is especially picturesque for sunset!
- Make sure you link the salt flats with things in the same area to make the most out of your trip to Death Valley! Here is my ultimate guide on spending one day in Death Valley that includes Badwater Basin and neighboring sights! 🙂
- If you want to maximize your time in the park, especially prime photography times like sunrise & sunset, I would recommend spending a night in the park like I did. There are many options for accommodations, click here to read my guide all about best places to stay in Death Valley!
- If you take your photos during sunset, wait for the sun to go down and spend some time star gazing! Death Valley is known for its star gazing due to almost no light in the surrounding area.
What else to see when visiting Badwater Basin
If you plan on spending one day in Death Valley, be sure to read my guide on what sights to see, where they are located, how long to spend at all of them, photography tips and more! You can read that here 🙂
- Artist’s Palette
- Devil’s Golf Course
- Dante’s View
- Zabriskie Point
- Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
- Golden Canyon
- Natural Bridge Trail
Okay, that’s a wrap! I hope you learned all about Badwater Basin and feel extra prepared to travel to this unique piece of the world! If you plan on doing a day trip from Las Vegas or making this a stop on a road trip, here are some guide I think you would love!
- One Day in Death Valley
- Where to stay in Death Valley
- Best Las Vegas Day Trips – Written by a local!
- 40 FREE things to do in Las Vegas – Written by a local!
- Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary
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