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Death Valley holds the distinction as the hottest place in North America. Its sculpted rock layers form deeply shadowed, eroded crevices at the foot of sharply silhouetted hills. The valley was named by a group of settlers in 1849, who survived despite running out of food and water.
On any given day, this valley floor shimmers in the heat. Throughout the summer, temperatures average 112 F, and the ground can reach near boiling point. It is better to come here during the spring, when the wildflowers are in bloom, or from October to May, when it's generally mild and dry.
Two of the most famous outposts of this park are
Stovepipe Wells and
Furnace Creek. Most of the unusual sights of the park are located in Furnace Creek. A good first stop is the
Artist's Palette, an eroded hillside covered in a mosaic of red, gold, black and green. Ten miles south,
Badwater is a nonpoisonous pool of water containing chloride and sulfates; this pool is the only home of the Death Valley snail. A four mile hike leads you to the lowest point in the western hemisphere, 282 ft below sea level.
Hordes of tourists come to visit
Scotty's Castle, forty miles south of Stovepipe Wells. The Castle is named after "Death Valley" Scotty, who managed the construction and claimed the house as his own in 1920. Scotty himself lived here, and is buried just behind the house. The highlight of a visit to Scotty's Castle is the 50 minute long guided living history tour of the interior of the main house.