A Great Place
When should you visit very special and unique places in the world that touch you? Places with an atmosphere you can’t describe or where you even get overwhelmed with emotion.
The best time to visit this fantastic region is the dry season from December to late April. It’s Thailand’s wettest region with an annual rainfall of 3.500 mm. The reason is the limestone mountain range from north to south. It gets hit by the monsoons from the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand between late April and end of November. In the rainy season, it’s very rare to spot wildlife at the lake. Trails are slippery; it’s cold and wet on the one or two hours boat rides. The famous Nam Talu Cave is closed in the rainy season since it got flooded and people died.
The boat tours which are usually offered are for bigger groups, and it takes around an hour to get to one of the raft houses. These groups visit the easy accessible Coral Cave (Pakarang Cave) mostly as we did instead of the adventurous water flooded Nam Talu Cave. Ask before booking! Overall these trips are utterly worth to do to get an idea of the immense size of the lake. The price p.p. in a group for one day visit is roughly 1.500 Baht / 40 € / $ 45 plus 300 Baht / 8 € / 9 $ National Park fee.
The dry season lasts from December to late April. Anyway, showers can also occur in the dry season and especially in the rainforest. The hottest months are March and April with temps up to 34°C and even more and high humidity. The rainy season starts roughly late April until the end of November. Most precipitation from May to July and from October to November.
The lake pier is always crowded, but as soon as the longtail boat leaves the dock, the crowds disappear. There are plenty of boats with tourists, but they have good timing not too many people visit one of the caves at the same time. Lunch is served on one of the many floating raft houses. It was very well organized that people can enjoy the marvellous scenery.
To experience the amazing rainforest, wildlife, and birds it's recommended to book a private tour far to the north-west. To get there, it takes a minimum of two hours by boat. The only available accommodation is basic and running by the National Park. Early morning you may spot wildlife by boat along the lake. Of course, independent tours are expensive and need to be booked in advance. Another option book a combined tour where the Khao Sok and the Cheow Lan Lake are combined. You get a pick up from your hotel in Krabi, Phuket, or Khao Sok and experienced guides will show you the amazing rainforest and lake. You can relax and enjoy this fascinating landscape.
It is best in morning and evening with clouds in the sky. In the late spring the vegetation behind the hat turns green and this is ideal.
Not far from Page and best shot in the morning or even better in the evening with clouds in the sky. Some say that a thundery atmosphere in the late afternoon is just excellent for taking photos.
Tips for morning / afternoon shots: The rim blocks the best light until about an hour after sunrise. At sunset the rim also blocks the best light but not as much as after sunrise.
The very best shooting is morning, evening (golden hour) or at night. There is lots to see and it can be VERY hot so bring water in the summer. There are several trails to the various Toadstools so you can explorer several of them. Take a wide angle lens and get close...try HDR and yes take a tripod.
Only crowded in peak season (June, July, August), especially on weekends. The small parking lot can get full. Be there early in the morning if you'd like to avoid a crowded parking lot.
You can enjoy in every season.
This is our complete guide with unique tips you’ll love before visiting Death Valley National Park. The desert in Death Valley is one of the hottest places on our planet! We provide you with tips for each season, must-know tips, tips for amazing places like Badwater Basin or Zabriskie Point, and much more.
Important: Wondering, how to dodge the crowds in Death Valley? We got you covered. Jump to our helpful tips: Avoiding Tourist Crowds
When to Go
Death Valley sunset in autumn
The best time to visit Death Valley is either in spring with blooming wildflowers or in autumn with clear skies. Both seasons bring pleasant temperatures. Winter months are colder but still great in terms of weather and least crowded. In the summer, it gets very hot. It’s also the busiest time.
Regardless of the season, you can visit Death Valley year-round of course. Just follow our tips to avoid the crowds in summer and what to do when temperatures reach extreme highs and exceed 115 °F (46 °C). Read our complete season guide with tips for each month and everything else you should know before visiting. Use our quick navigation below:
- Spring | Season Guide
- Summer | Season Guide
- Autumn | Season Guide
- Winter | Season Guide
- Blooming Wildflowers
- Stargazing Tips
- The Best Tours & Hotel Tips (Recommended!)
- 9 Must-Know Tips (Summer - Late Spring - Early Fall)
- 3 Must-Visit Places & Top Tips
Spring (March - early May)
Zabriskie Point by Giuseppe Milo, CC BY
This is a very popular time for a visit with pleasant temperatures. On the other hand, spring also brings the most wind. The blowing sand, which may last for days, can make camping uncomfortable. A real attraction is the gorgeous spring wildflowers. However, it’s an exception to see whole the desert filled with all kinds of colorful wildflowers. In some years, there are only a few. Regarding crowds: Keep in mind that spring is also a busy season. It gets very busy during spring break holidays from the last week of March through the week after Easter. Make sure to book well in advance for a spring visit.
Summer (mid-May – September)
Death Valley (July) by Murray Foubister, CC BY-SA cropped
Summer arrives early in Death Valley. In May, the average daily high is already 100 °F (38 °C). June, July, August are even hotter (up to 120 °F), as well as September. At least it’s a dry heat with low humidity, which helps a little. The month of August and early September also bring thunderstorms, sometimes causing dangerous flash floods. Always check the weather forecast. Camping or hiking is not recommended during these months with boiling heat. Hikes during the day in lower elevations are dangerous and can become life threatening because of the extreme temperatures. If you do anything outside at lower elevations: Do it until 10 AM. However, there are two summer hikes at higher elevations which can be done: Wildrose Peak and Telescope Peak. Most visitors tour by car on the paved road along the main Points of Interest. Despite the heat, July, and August are the months with the highest visitation from Europe and other continents. However, almost all of them stay in their car for a short tour between 2 hours and half a day or a little more, while stopping at the main viewpoints. Also read the 9 Summer Tips in the section below.
Autumn (October – November)
Death Valley - Badwater Basin (October) by Paxson Woelber, CC BY cropped
Warm but more pleasant temperatures and usually clear skies. You may hike at lower elevations now. But still, start early to avoid the possible midday heat. Ranger programs and camping season begins in October. It’s relatively uncrowded, except for the Death Valley ‘49ers Week and Thanksgiving (both in November).
Winter (December - February)
Death Valley National Park (December) by Rob Rattray, CC BY cropped
Temperatures drop, but it never gets cold in the winter except at higher elevations. However, since it's cooler in the mornings, we suggest that you bring an extra jacket. There is less daylight in Death Valley now, but it usually lasts long enough: Sunset - Sunrise. Employees and park rangers say, the winter months of January and February are among the best months weather-wise. January and February bring the most rain, but it usually doesn’t rain heavily. Soaking rain, going for hours, can happen but it’s the exception. Winters also bring snow to the higher elevations and coat Telescope Peak (Panamint Mountains) in white. December, January and most of February are quieter months. Except for public holidays/holiday weekends (see below: Avoiding Tourist Crowds). Tip: If you visit in the winter months, don't forget to check our hotel deals & tour tips below. We updated them recently. Alternatively bookmark this link: Death Valley Winter Hotel Deals via booking.com > sort by star rating & price to see the best deals. Important: Book in advance but not too far in advance, or you'll run the risk of paying a lot more! Just save the link and check prices about 2-3 weeks before you go)
A very helpful weather and climate overview can be downloaded here: Death Valley | NPS | Weather & Climate. Rule of thumb for strenuous and longer outside activities: During summer, stay at higher elevations. During winter: Longer activities at lower elevations are possible. Bring layer of clothes for higher elevations.
Blooming Wildflowers (Highlight)
Death Valley is popular for its fascinating wildflower displays in the spring. However, only when the conditions are perfect you'll see blankets of gold, purple, pink or white flowers. Depending on the winter rain, it can be a great year for wildflowers or a moderate one with less blooming flowers. Check the official website: NPS Death Valley - Wildflowers. Another great website with updates and photos for each year: Death Valley NP Wildflower Reports
Peak Blooming Periods:
- Mid-February - Mid April: Lower elevations (Areas: Jubilee Pass, Highway 190 near the Furnace Creek Inn, base of Daylight Pass)
- Early April - Early May: 2000 to 4000 ft. Elevations (Area: Panamint Mountains)
- Early May - Mid July: Above 4000 ft. Elevations (Area: High Panamints)
Stargazing Tips | Milky Way Viewing
Death Valley National Park is a paradise for stargazing. Why? For the best stargazing experience a dark sky is require and Death Valley is certified as the largest Dark Sky National Park in the country by the International Dark Sky Association. The park offers one of the darkest skies in the US. When you get the chance for a visit after dark, do it. It's an incredible once in a lifetime experience. Visitors report, that you can see the Milky Way galaxy almost as clearly as on NASA photos. Watch this intriguing video on YouTube: Death Valley Night Skies.
You might be wondering: Which are the best spots for stargazing at night? In fact the whole valley is excellent as long as you're not very close to buildings or other light sources. However, these are some top spots:
Dante's View: This is our favorite place in the valley for stargazing. Its altitude makes it perfect for sky-watching in the night. Read more details the place itself below. Tip: If you have enough time get there earlier to enjoy the sunset as well as the stars later. Also bring warm clothes, and maybe a blanket as it gets a lot colder up there in the night.
Badwater Basin: Different from Dante's View as you are at the lowest level, but almost equally stunning. The mountains may block the Milky Way view. However, the unique night sky view from the salt flats can't be missed. Especially if you want to take photos which look from out of this world. Read more details about Badwater Basin in general below.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: We have a separate article here. For stargazing this is a perfect spot, since your view isn't obstructed by anything. There is as much dark sky to see as possible from here. The only small downside could be light pollution from cars driving on the close highway.
Harmony Borax Works: It's close to Furnace Creek Visitor Center (Harmony Borax Works Map Location). The big advantage here are the great foreground elements for taking photos, like the mule cart (see the photo above).
For the most stunning stargazing experience you should follow these rules and tips:
- The Best Season: The beautiful dark skies can be observed year-round. However, in winter and spring there are even special ranger tours and programs. Check them here: NPS Death Valley Program
- New Moon: Without a visible moon the sky is much darker, which will greatly enhance stargazing with more visible stars. Preferably visit during new moon: Moon Phases Death Valley Calendar
- No Light Pollution: Try to avoid places with nearby lights from buildings or cars. Since the whole valley is a natural area, it's often easy to walk away from light sources. Walking away 100m from smaller light sources is usually good enough.
- Time: Stay outside for at least an hour. It takes about 20-30 minutes for your eyes to get adjusted to the dark. Then enjoy the spectacular view. Even better with binoculars.
Avoiding Tourist Crowds
The busiest times are: Spring (March/April) - even busier from the last week of March till the week after Easter - and summer from July to August (mostly visitors from Europe and other countries), as well as September. According to a park ranger, the least crowded months are December and January. However, even during low season, it gets busy on certain days: From Christmas to New Year's, on Martin Luther King Day weekend in January, and Presidents' Day weekend in February.
To avoid the crowds at the main points of interest during peak months: We know it’s a challenge, but get up very early and try to reach most destinations around 8 AM, at least before 9 AM. It’s worth it, as you’ll dodge the crowds at beautiful places like Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, Devil’s Golf Course, etc. In the summer, you’ll not only beat the crowds but the boiling heat as well. On a single morning, you could cover the quick 2-hour tour: Badwater | Zabriskie | Devils Course - Google Maps