Death Valley: Zabriskie Point

On our Mojave Desert road trip, we drove from Red Rock Canyon and Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park in California. We visited Zabriskie Point our first evening and then again at sunrise since the sunset was too cloudy to bring out the colors of the rock.

Shown above, there are over two miles of badlands hills from Zabriskie Point to the bottom of Death Valley. Badlands are “characterized by steep slopes, minimal vegetation, lack of a substantial regolith, and high drainage density. Note the four bands of colored hills. Starting from the foreground, there are 1) a sand-colored hill I’m standing on, shown in the lower-left corner, 2) hills with red streaks, 3) sand-colored hills with brown and black, and 4) a second set of hills with red streaks. Beyond these hills is the flat valley floor with a mountain range on the other side. With the colored rock and no vegetation, this looks otherworldly.

Badlands are formed by softer rocks that have been eroded by wind and water. Death Valley averages only two inches of rain per year, but there’s wind. A storm with gusts to 40 miles per hour blew through while we were at Zabriskie Point. We felt the wind rocking our SUV, as we’ve experienced in Patagonia.

This photo shows the valley and mountains better. Note the dark hills on the left.

Looking across Death Valley from Zabriskie Point
Looking across Death Valley from Zabriskie Point

This eroded sandstone hill with deep-cut ridges doesn’t quite look like a hill.

badlands -- eroded sandstone
badlands — eroded sandstone

To the north of the badlands, Red Cathedral is illuminated by the rising sun.

Red Cathedral
Red Cathedral

Zabriskie Point has fantastically colored stone and is a great introduction to Death Valley.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

3 thoughts on “Death Valley: Zabriskie Point”

    1. Yes, we’re very happy we experienced Death Valley (our first visit), and we grew up, worked, and retired in California. Late February or a couple months later would be great weather, if you can manage it. We lucked out this February and saw fabulous wildflowers at Death Valley, triggered by heavy rains last October. Future posts will cover this year’s superbloom at Death Valley.

      Liked by 1 person

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