If I had to choose 3 word to sum up Death Valley I would choose hot, hot and hot!
Both Death Valley and Mojave are best approached from Las Vegas. We visited these deserts on our way to and from Vegas to visit family during the Labor Day weekend.
We stayed the night very close to the west side of Death Valley. Some advice – Fill your car with gas. There are a few gas stations in the park. But expensive. Pack some food for emergencies. There are a few restaurants and a store in the park. Take lots of water. Not just for yourself, but your car as well. We had the car air conditioner on the whole time and car would be humming for a while after we parked it. Dress in layers. It can get cold and windy in certain places towards the end of the day.
Death Valley is an area surrounded by mountain ranges to all sides. Due to this, only dry moisture-less winds reach the valley, bringing it almost no rain. In addition, the sun’s rays heat up the valley floor causing hot air to rise. However this air is trapped by mountain ranges, keeping the valley heated continuously like a convection oven. Death Valley was initially inhabited by the Timbisha tribe of Indians. The valley received its name in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. It was called Death Valley by prospectors (who wanted to intrigue and attract investors) and others who sought to cross the valley on their way to the gold fields, although only one death in the area was recorded during the Rush. During the 1850s,gold and silver were extracted in the valley. In the 1880s, borax was discovered and extracted by mule-drawn wagons.
Entering Death Valley from the west side, we first drove to the Charcoal Kilns. Logs of wood were burned in these kilns to produce charcoal which was uses to keep the mining activities in Death Valley going. The final stretch of the road to the kilns is unpaved and difficult for sedans. 4WD vehicles are also recommended for accessing certain attractions like the Racetrack (large boulders that move gradually, leaving a trail behind them).