Right now, the southwestern US is seeing record breaking temperatures. Death Valley just broke a daily heat record with 127 degrees. What is Death Valley like in the summer and why would anyone go there? Find out what it was like for me in Death Valley in the summer as I visited – and also ran – for over 30 hours!
Death Valley National Park is a beautiful place that is known for its heat. It is cooler in the winter months but still quite warm. But, if you visit Death Valley in the summer, prepare to be hit with extreme heat! Here is what it is like to visit Death Valley in the summer months!
What Is It Like in Death Valley in the Summer?
A few years ago, I didn’t just visit Death Valley – I spent about 35 hours straight in the Death Valley both running and supporting a friend in the famed Badwater 135 (I was a crew/pacer so I didn’t run the whole 135 miles but only about 50 – 60 miles). It was my first time in Death Valley and it was everything I had heard about – but more extreme!
— NWS Las Vegas (@NWSVegas) July 25, 2018
Of course, you would figure that! But, temperatures easily get up to 120+ and it can literally feel like you are stepping into a furnace! I remember when I was driving out to Furnace Creek (where our hotel was for the first night), I got out of the car for a moment along the way and the wave of heat is enough to take all your energy away!
The tough thing is that there is really no escape! The sun beats down on you and the road radiates the heat towards you. In fact, I had been sitting on the ground at one point so our racer could put his legs up on my shoulders to get them elevated. In a matter of moments, the road had burned right through clothes that were touching the road! Yes, it is that hot!
Using the Heat!
There are some
cool interesting things you can do there that probably do not work in that many other places – things like turning a cup of water into something warm enough for your instant soup without having to microwave it, making a grilled cheese sandwich on top of the car, and other heat-related activities with food (these I did!).
I remember my first (and only) night of sleeping in Death Valley. There were three of us guys in one room and I was on a spare bed near the air conditioning unit. I actually had my feet on the unit all night – and it did not make me feel cold at all! Even with the unit up all the way, it still didn’t chill me!
Cars Get Hot, Too
We were driving along much slower than most vehicles since we were crewing a runner, but we had to mostly be careful with the air conditioning so that we didn’t cause the car to overheat. The same went for
Drink, drink, drink
Water is the most important item you can have out there. You need to drink more than you think you need to because your body will use it up so fast! During the race, the runners are weighed at checkpoints and are pulled if their bodies have lost a certain percentage of weight due to the danger of dehydration. I did weigh myself at one point somewhat early in the race (around mile 31) when I had run about 10 miles and I was already down 8 pounds myself!
Be careful how you keep your drinks! It is best to carry a cooler along, no matter how long you plan on staying in Death Valley (even just driving through). That water can heat up fast.
Ice Is Important!
If you plan on being out in the desert for any amount of time, the best way to keep your body cool is to use some kind of fabric (we used bandanas) filled with ice cubes (back to the cooler!) around the neck. The ice will melt pretty fast but that cool water will keep your body cool enough as you go.
Covering Up Is Good
This may sound strange but due to the intensity of the sun, it is a good idea to keep as covered up as possible. It may look funny, but many of the racers actually wore white suits that made them look like spacemen. The material was light enough to keep them cool but also protected their skin from the harshness of the sun.
If you are planning on being out in Death Valley in the summer, things like hats are important as well. Unless you are running this race, there is no way you will be in Death Valley in the sun for as long as we were but it is still important to stay covered.
Things Are Expensive
Remember, everything has to be brought into the few places that are in Death Valley – like gas stations and general stores. So, they will be more expensive than normal. I don’t know what gas prices are now but when I was there, they were almost double what they were outside of the desert! The same went for items in the general stores. It is better to bring things like your drinks in with you if you want to keep costs down.
Visiting Death Valley
It Is Beautiful!
I know there are people that think deserts are ugly, barren lands but that is only because they have not gotten down into the deserts and explored! The desert can actually be a very beautiful place that has some great color to it (when viewed up close). Also, the views are just incredible. Whether you are staring across the flatness of Death Valley (where you can see for miles and miles) or if you are up one of the hills/mountains and looking at the broad expanse of sand below you, the desert is really a beautiful place.
If you are fortunate enough to be out at night, it becomes quite a different place! The stars are brighter here than anywhere you will see around you, thanks to the complete lack of light pollution. The sky is very black but the moon and stars are just brilliant.
Also, there are many creatures that come out at night since the desert sun is too hot for even them. That means you will hear things all around you – and maybe even see a few things (nothing like having a snake cross the road in front of you and completely freaking you out!).
It Is Long
It is over 100 miles long so it will take you a bit to drive through! But, it is definitely worth checking out and experiencing what this fantastic desert is like. Whether you are the type that wants to hit tackle it in summer, though, is something you will have to figure out!
It Is Low
If you want to visit the lowest point in the United States, you can do that here as well! It is Badwater Basin and is situated 282 feet below sea level.
If you want to read some very important things you should know before your visit to Death Valley, especially in summer, check out this page by the National Park Service. Make sure you pay attention to how to prepare for a Death Valley visit!
Death Valley is really a unique place. It not only is home to one of the hottest places on earth but also home to one of the lowest points below sea level. If you want to experience an unreal silence, Death Valley is for you! If you want to see what it is like to experience the desert in its own beautiful area, check it out. Finally, if you want to feel heat like you have probably never experienced it before, a visit to Death Valley in the summer will definitely let you know what that is like!
Have you ever visited Death Valley before?
Featured image courtesy Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons