stunning sunrise colors from zabriskie point in california

Zabriskie Point: Death Valley National Park’s Best Sunrise View

There are good sunrise spots, and then there’s the top tier. In Death Valley National Park, Zabriskie Point is in the top tier.

Positioned seemingly by the Gods, first light hits the Manly Beacon and lights it up, lighting the beacons of Gondor. Then, the light slowly floods into the valley, changing the color of the sand below. 

At the same time, the massive peaks in the background begin turning a deep dark red, and slowly, the light creeps higher and higher on those peaks. 

It’s a truly mesmerizing experience and one I was in awe of. It’s a memory I’ll never forget, one all nature lovers should witness. 

Exploring Zabriskie Point in Death Valley

Let’s dive into visiting Zabriskie Point, one of the most popular (rightly so) destinations in Death Valley National Park. 

sunrise from zabriskie point on manly beacon
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What is Zabriskie Point known for?

Zabriskie Point is known for being one of the most magical places in Death Valley National Park to watch the sunrise. Photographers and nature lovers flock here each morning to soak in the gorgeous light and views of the rock and sand formations and towering mountains in the background. 

If there’s one iconic spot in Death Valley, it is Zabriskie Point. You will be elated by the views here if you have good conditions. I honestly believe everyone should get to experience a sunrise at this overlook.

Zabriskie Point is also known for being the title of a 1970s movie starring Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin. 

Parking lot will be packed for sunrise

It will be crowded because it’s exceptionally popular and a short walk from the parking lot. We snagged one of the final parking spots here on a Sunday morning and ended up being in a crowd of over 100 people – primarily photographers. While I had heard of Zabriskie Point before, I had no idea it was that easy of a walk and that popular. 

So when I say it’s chaotic, I mean it!

I recommend arriving at least 40 minutes before sunrise to guarantee you’ll get a parking spot. If you come on a weekday, you can probably do 20 minutes. However, from a photography standpoint, some of the best light might happen 30 minutes before sunrise. 

two tiny hikers on the trail below zabriskie point
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Where do I find Zabriskie Point?

Zabriskie Point is found in the heart of Death Valley National Park. Just seven minutes from the Furnace Creek area, this popular destination is right off SR 190. If you’re driving from Furnace Creek, it’ll be on your right-hand side of the road. 

I promise you. There’s zero way you can miss it when driving up. 

When is the best time to visit Zabriskie Point? 

If you haven’t gotten the hint, sunrise is the best time to visit Zabriskie Point. It’s utterly perfect, and while you’ll have to battle some crowds – especially if you’re a photographer wanting a good spot. But even with the crowds, it’s not bad.

I’d rather have a lot of people outside, enjoying nature than not. 

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

As for what month is the best to visit, anytime between October and March is prime time for visiting Death Valley. While it can still warm in the winter, the 70s/80s are much preferred to the 120s/130s you’ll find during summer. 

Hiking around Zabriskie Point

In addition to walking out to the overlook, you can do a few badlands hikes in the area. Please note that there is almost no shade for any of these hikes, and wearing sunscreen and other sun protection is vital while hiking in Death Valley. 

Hike out to Zabriskie Point Overlook

You can take a short walk from the parking lot to Zabriskie Point. There is a very slight incline to get to the overlook area. However, it is paved, so it should be accessible to all visitors. The distance is about a quarter mile there and a quarter mile back. 

Once you’re up there, you can move around a bit to find a photography spot that suits your needs. 

the multi colored rocks near zabriskie point at sunrise
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

How long does it take to hike Zabriskie Point?

Your walk should take about 8-12 minutes, depending on how quickly you walk and if you’re in a hurry. 

Badlands Loop

The Badlands Loop is a 2.7-mile loop, starting at Zabriskie Point. You hike in front of the overlook and end up doing a full circle before coming back. There will be some elevation gain and loose terrain on the dirt, but it shouldn’t be too challenging. 

Manly Beacon Approach

If you want to hike to or on top of Manly Beacon, you can! It’s a little over three miles, and you’ll be on top of the most iconic point in Death Valley National Park. Just be safe out there.

the sun lights up manly beacon in death valley
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Golden Canyon Trail

Hikers who want a longer hike to or from Zabriskie Point can actually hike into Golden Canyon. Starting at the overlook, hop on the Badlands Loop and take it down about a mile. Then go right on Gower Gulch Trail until it intersects with Golden Canyon Trail. 

You’ll go right from here, hiking into the canyon for some epic views. 

Here’s a loop that you can do. It shows it to be around 6.5 miles. However, the way I described it would be less, and you actually enter into Golden Canyon. 

(Honestly, I wouldn’t hike into Golden Canyon from here. It’ll be a unique hike for sure, but I’d suggest starting at the main parking lot and making it a more straightforward hike.)

Gower Gulch Trail

Like the above, the Gower Gulch Loop can be started from Zabriskie Pont Overlook or the Golden Canyon Trailhead. If you start from the latter, it’ll be four miles long. But if you start from the former, it’s a 6.5-mile hike. 

a trail leads away from zabriskie point in the bandlands
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Twenty Mule Team Canyon

This can be a drive (not paved) or a hike, but you’d have to walk back, making it a 5-mile trail. I haven’t done it, but many people say it’s an excellent spot to check out for the views, and there are places you can hop out to take pictures. 

It looks very ‘Star Wars-y’ back here. 

Lodging In and Around Death Valley
The Ranch at Death Valley (Inside the park)
The Inn at Death Valley (Inside the park)
Panamint Springs Resort (1 hour West of DV)
Shoshone Inn (1 hour South of DV)
Best Western Pahrump Oasis (1 hour from DV)
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Pahrump (1 hour from DV)
Springhill Suites By Marriott Las Vegas (2 hours away in Vegas)
Holiday Inn Express Las Vegas (2 hours away in Vegas)

Staying Safe in Death Valley

Death Valley is one of the most dangerous National parks in the United States. Hot temperatures have killed tourists, and following safety guidelines is crucial when visiting.

Weather

In the summer months – scratch that, April through October – Death Valley can be a furnace. With temperatures almost guaranteed to be over 100 in the middle of the day and can even approach 130 during the hottest times, visitors to the area need to be prepared for rugged conditions. 

wide angle shot from zabriskie point over look. the mountains are a deep orange with manly beacon to the right
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Those who visit should arm themselves with plenty of sun protection, know when to hike, know the signs of heat stroke and exhaustion, and always carry water. 

Sun Protection Hiking Gear

Drinking Water

Ensure you have plenty of drinking water when hiking around Zabriskie Point and other Death Valley National Park locations. No matter the time of the year, you should constantly drink to stay hydrated. 

Those not from the area likely think this is a hyperbole. But it’s not. I grew up in the desert heat of Phoenix, and it’s paramount to always have a water bottle on you. 

Pre-hydrating is also incredibly important and will ensure a more enjoyable trip and feel stronger on the trails. 

Get indoors between 11am-3pm

Even in the winter, temperatures can get into the 80s, and they feel much warmer due to the dry climate and heat from the canyon walls. But during the summer months, it is advised to avoid hiking between 11am and 3pm (maybe even 5pm, depending on the temperature). 

This is the hottest part of the day, and people can die in this climate. Furthermore, it’s not just humans who can’t handle the heat. Cars have been known to stop working with ACs going out, which can lead to a deadly situation. 

Gorgeous Sunrise Photos at Zabriskie Point

Photos I think you’ll enjoy!

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
multi colored rocks looking like ice cream in the badlands near zabriskie point
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
sunrise colors on the badlands in death valley national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
gorgeous sunrise colors on the mountains behind zabriskie point in death valley national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch
the clouds are orange during sunrise above the bandlands near zabriskie point
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

What are some other good areas to explore in Death Valley?

Artists Pallete

a single hiker stands on the trail at artists pallet in death valley national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

It’s one of my favorite areas of the park, and in the right light, it looks like an ice cream flavor. The minerals in the rocks make the reds and blues pop!

Golden Canyon

a hiker at the end of the trail in golden canyon in death valley
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

As mentioned above, Golden Canyon is a really cool place to explore. It’s aptly named, and everything looks like gold!

Badwater Basin

the salt shapes at bad water basin
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

The lowest point in North America, Bad Water Basin is a classic spot to check out. If it hasn’t rained in a while, you’ll have salt build up in incredible octagon shapes!

Ubehebe Crater

a single hiker stands on the edge of the ubehebe crater in death valley
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

It’s the hidden gem on this list. The Ubehebe Crater is off the beaten path but is a must-see spot. It’s a legitimate crater; you can walk around it, experiencing just how big a hole was created. 

Mesquite Sand Dunes

The mesquite sand dunes in death valley national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

A great place to simply stroll around. You can hike to the highest point, which is a two-mile round-trip hike. But be warned, it’ll take a lot longer because walking in the sand is slow and exhausting.

FAQ: Death Valley’s Zabriskie Point

What pass do I need to visit Death Valley National Park? 

You need the America the Beautiful Pass to visit Death Valley National Park or pay the entrance fee (which is good for a week). 

Are there facilities at Zabriskie Point? 

There are vault toilets in the Zabriskie Point Parking Lot. However, there’s no running water, so bring enough for your trip. 

How expensive is gas in Death Valley?

Historically, gas prices in Death Valley are some of the highest in the nation. During the price surge in 2022, it was over $10 a gallon for a time. So, make sure to fill up outside of the park, but you’ll likely have to top off before leaving just to be safe.

How is the cell service?

Cell service is spotty at best in Death Valley National Park. Do not expect to have 5G anywhere, and even basic slow data might be a luxury.

Final Thoughts on Zabriskie Point Overlook

This is one of Death Valley’s best features and one everyone should get to experience. So, as you’re planning your trip, make sure to make room to watch the sunrise from Zabriskie Point. You will never regret it, and you’ll have many memories to reflect on. 

Enjoy your trip and take care!

Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Bio:

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside