Sitting at 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America. It covers almost 200 square miles of salt flats.
The unique landscape makes it one of the most popular things to do in Death Valley National Park.
Tens of thousands of years ago, and inland lake covered the area. Over time, the lake evaporated leaving highly concentrated salt deposits.
Today, the salt crystals form unique, geometric polygons that spread endlessly across the basin. This creates a picturesque backdrop that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Getting To Badwater Basin
The parking lot is situated right off of Badwater Road about 30 minutes south of Furnace Creek.
It’s paved and has plenty of space for buses and large RVs. You’ll also find vault toilets there.
Located on the mountain above, you can observe a sea level sign. It really puts into perspective how low the valley sits.
The Badwater Basin parking area can be particularly crowded during tourist season, but it doesn’t take much walking before you can leave the masses behind and enjoy the endless basin on your own.
Hiking Badwater Basin
The Badwater Basin area is easily accessible for any type of tourist which makes it ideal for families, casual hikers, and even tourists with mobility issues.
Right off the parking lot you’ll find a wide, flat boardwalk that leads about 1-mile to the edge of the salt flat.
Once you reach the end of the boardwalk, hikers are free to explore the basin themselves walking among the salt crystals. The thick layer of salt covers the desert like a fresh snowfall and makes you feel like you’re in another world.
Sightseeing From Badwater Basin
While on the salt flats, you can get a picture perfect view of the Black Mountains to the east, or the Panamint Range to the west.
Telescope peak rises 2-miles above the valley in the Panamint Range. It’s the most vertical peak over such a short distance in America.
Occasionally, a rainstorm will roll through the area creating a small lake near the road known as Badwater Pool. It’s a highly reflective lake where you can see the mountains in its mirror-like surface.
One of the most interesting features about this lake is that despite the salty water, Pickleweed, several aquatic insects, and the Badwater Snail live there. The snail cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Badwater Basin was named after the undrinkable, and salty water that collects in the basin after a heavy rainfall.
A rare event that occurs about once every 10 years is the Death Valley super bloom. Conditions in the spring have to be perfect including a well-spaced rainfall and lack of winds.
During the superbloom, wildflowers quickly blanket the dessert and then die out within a few days.
The flowers are most prominent in southern Death Valley near Badwater Basin. The most recent blooms have occurred in 2016, 2005, and 1998.
The National Park Service keeps a prediction for each season on their website, and if you’re lucky you might be able to capture the super bloom in your own lens.
The Best Time To Visit Badwater Basin
As expected, Badwater Basin can get extremely hot in summer. In fact, the hottest temperature in the world was recorded just 30 minutes away in Furnace Creek; 134°F (57°C)!
The best time of year to visit Badwater Basin is in the spring, winter, and fall. If you happen to find yourself in the area during summer, then you should plan to complete your hike before 10am.
Unfortunately, pets are not allowed on the salt flats in Badwater Basin or on any of the trails in Death Valley National Park. You should also never leave your dog in the parking area because it gets extremely hot, even in the mild months.
That being said, there are plenty of dirt and gravel roads that are accessible to pets and make for the perfect hike.
Camping Near Badwater Basin
There are 9 campgrounds in Death Valley, and the area is particularly friendly to RV campers and those with large travel trailers. The closest campgrounds to Badwater Basin are Sunset Campground, Texas Springs Campground, and the Furnace Creek Campground.
These are the largest and most established camping areas in the park. You can find a visitor center, gas station, numerous hiking trails, and food services nearby.
Badwater Basin is not located within walking distance of any of these campgrounds, but the road from Furnace Creek to the Basin is considered a scenic drive; and also one of the most popular in the park!
That’s A Wrap!
The salt flats in Badwater Basin are a truly unique experience that you can’t miss. Most tourists spend 30-45 minutes in the area strolling across the landscape and observing the concentrated crystals.
If you find yourself in Death Valley, don’t forget to check these other great things to do in the area.