Looking for the best places to see sunrise and sunset in Death Valley? You’ve come to the right place. These are the best spots.
Just imagine witnessing one of the most hostile places on Earth bathed in the fiery glow of a rising or setting sun — it’s imagery to rival Mad Max montages and Martian landscapes.
Sounds dramatic, I know. But, trust me, Death Valley sunrises and sunsets can take things up a notch.
So, while there are many incredible sights to see and things to do in Death Valley National Park, catching the sun’s heavenly displays is something you shouldn’t overlook.
There can be some controversy over which places are the best for sunrise and sunset in Death Valley, though. Some argue it’s the dunes, while others will staunchly stick to Zabriskie Point as the ultimate sunrise location.
My opinion? Well, you’ll have to read on to discover that.
Best Places to See the Sunrise in Death Valley National Park
I rate this as the best sunrise in Death Valley. Dante’s View sits 5,575 feet above Badwater Basin along the ridge of the Black Mountains, with the white salt flats beneath you and the Panamint Range in the west.
It’s an ethereal place to watch colour seep back into the world from the tips of the mountains to the swirling white basin.
It’s a 45-minute drive from the visitor centre, and you’ll have a short hike to the lookout point, yet it remains one of the popular Death Valley sunrise spots for its unparalleled views.
Despite its popularity, you also won’t have trouble finding a spot to cosy down and enjoy an unobstructed view of the vista before you. A Dante’s View Death Valley sunrise is something you won’t forget in a hurry.
Top Tip: If you’re here to photograph the sunrise, it’s easy to find a people-free shot, especially if you hike north a little along the ridge.
If this is your second or third time, why not consider Zabriskie point for a Death Valley sunrise? The sun rises from behind you, lighting the tips of the Zabriskie rock formations on fire and slowly igniting the strata from the top down with an amber hue.
It’s fully worth the hype as one of the best Death Valley sunrise locations. You’ll likely see a bunch of photographers there to catch the magical landscape come to fiery life. One of the reasons it’s so popular is because it’s only a 15-minute drive from the Furnace Creek Visitor Centre.
The other reason is the play of light and shadow across the badlands and salt flats in the background and Zabriskie’s iconic shark fin in the foreground, catching those first golden rays.
Top Tip: This is a popular sunrise destination in the park, so even if you arrive early, you might get your view spoiled by people hopping over the lookout fence in front of you. For the best crowd-free view of Zabriskie’s Point at sunrise, walk about 0.05 miles into the Golden Canyon Trail.
An underappreciated but beautiful spot for sunrise is the Mesquite Dunes.
You only need to walk about 100 yards from the parking lot to find a decent viewpoint, but you can also arrive earlier and climb to the top of the primary dune.
Watch the mountains in the background change from purple to pink, then the dull desert ocean of sand with cresting dune waves come to life with warm light and shadow. There’s also plenty of space to spread out even if there are other sunrise-seekers there, so you’re practically guaranteed a good show.
While climbing the dune seems like the best vantage point for the sunrise, I actually think that the view from the bottom is better.
Best Places to See Sunset at Death Valley National Park
Badwater Basin is the lowest point in America — 282 feet below sea level. But the beautiful salt flats that make up its floor will enhance your sunset adventures.
The reflection of the vibrant, fiery sky in the honeycombed salt flats is magical to witness up close. It’s even better if there are scattered clouds.This is a “grab your camera” type of deal and possibly the best sunset spot in Death Valley.
It’s best to hike about a mile from the parking lot towards the salt flats for the most spectacular views. Make sure you arrive about one to two hours ahead of the sunset, so you have plenty of time for the hot walk to the salt flats and to pick your spot.
Top Tip: Bring a light jacket for the walk back, as the temperatures will cool as soon as the sun goes down.
At Artist’s Palette, a Death Valley sunset is the best way to enjoy its unique colouring.
The sunrise simply washes out the beautiful blue, pink, and purple hues, while the golden hour of sunset enhances them. Not to mention with scattered clouds in the sky, you’ll have the most intriguing melting of colours in both sky and earth.
The westward orientation of the sunset also provides a dynamic show of light and shadow on Artist’s Palette, showing it off at its best. You’ll also be able to enjoy a background of the Black Mountains and white salt flats glowing in the last rays of light.
Top Tip: There are no maintained trails, but you can walk about the area away from the main parking lot and choose your ideal spot.
Yes, Dante’s View again. But it makes for one of the best sunset spots in Death Valley too, so I couldn’t leave it out. This time, the sun will be in front of you, slipping behind the mountains and setting the salt flats on fire.
Stick around to watch the stars begin to twinkle — it is an International Dark Sky Park, and this is a popular star-gazing spot.
Practical Tips for Catching Sunrise & Sunset in Death Valley
- Arrive 1-2 hours before sunrise or sunset in Death Valley to ensure you have a parking spot and a good vantage point to watch the display. Some of these spots get crowded quickly, and you don’t want to miss the sunrise because you’re waiting on a parking spot.
- Wear plenty of layers. It’ll surprise you how cold the desert gets in the dark hours before and after sunrise, but the temperature can be high when the sun is up.
- Wear good hiking shoes to manage the terrain well in the dark.
Approximate Sunrise and Sunset Times For Each Season in Death Valley
- February to April: sunrise 5:55 am – 6:48 am & sunset 5:13 pm – 7:34 pm
- May to July: sunrise 5:54 am – 7:35 pm & sunset 5:53 am – 7:54 pm
- August to October: sunrise 5:53 am – 7:53 pm & sunset 7:09 am – 5:52 pm
- November to January: & sunset 7:10 am – 5:51 pm & sunset 6:49 am – 5:12 pm