Death Valley lies about 50 miles east of the Sierras. It is about 100 miles long and varies in width from 5 miles to over 15 miles. The floor of the valley receives less than two inches of rain per year, and clear blue skies without a cloud are normal all seasons of the year. Since the valley is secluded between high arid mountain ridges, it is well sheltered from any cool breezes, so the sun heats the valley floor and rocky walls to very high temperatures. During the summer months, temperatures of 130 (50 C) are not uncommon. It seldom drops below 100 degrees even in the night.
Mike's Death Valley Tip: The best time to visit Death Valley is in the winter when the temperature can be a bearable 70 to 80 degrees. If you drive to Death Valley, remember to fill your tank with fuel and carry plenty of drinking water. Stores, gas stations or any signs of civilization are usually hard to find in this desert country.
This extremely hot and forbidding land can also be strangely beautiful. A small area of open sand dunes gives the northern end of the valley a classical desert look. The eroded walls and side canyons take on multi-colored hues from exposed mineral deposits. At the southern extremity, which at 282 feet below sea level is the lowest point in the US, a broad shallow lake of mineral laden water from the surrounding mountains forms during the winter and evaporates in the summer to expose gleaming white salt flats.