Death Valley – Artist's Palette Drive


What? : This is Probably the most popular scenic drive in the park, this 9 mile one-way drive on a paved road winds through multi-colored rock formations. The drive is very scenic, and you will want to stop often to enjoy the views and take photos of the colored rocks. The drive itself could be completed in 30 minutes or less but do plan for 40-60 minutes visit here, you want to stop, enjoy the view or even do a short hike.


Where? : The drive begins 8.5 miles south of the Hwy 190/Badwater Rd. junction and the entrance to this side paved road is clearly marked. When driving south you will pass the exit of this road, do not enter this one-way but keep driving to the south entrance.

Google Map Link


When? : The recommended time to visit here is late fall, winter and early spring, summer is just too hot.


Few blogs links that provides additional information.
This will help you plan your road trip to this area and your Death Valley visit:
Due note 1: Take enough water with you. Do not think this is just getting of the car. I don’t recommend any hiking in the lower elevations of Death Valley during the hot summer months. It can be 90f degree at early spring… just think of 120-130f…


Due note 2: This is poplar drive but most just enjoy the view with short stops at the few viewing points along the drive. Be patient as you drive, and if you are driving slow let other to pass you.


Due note 3: There is minimal to no cell reception in this area of the Death Valley.


Due note 4: There is no shade anywhere, use Sunscreen even in winter months.


Due note 5: A toilet is available in the small Artist's Palette parking lot.


Due note 6: When visiting or hiking at the Death Valley use several layers as clothing. You can start your day with cold temperatures during early morning sunrise to a very hot midday (even at fall, winter, and spring). At the afternoon it can warm but at sunset temperature plumage and it can be near freezing.


Due note 7: Pets are not allowed on any trail in Death Valley National Park, even if carried. Do not leave your animal in your vehicle. You may walk your pet on dirt roads.


Due note 8: This road is close to vehicle that are more than 25 ft. in length. If you are not planning long hikes into the colored hills and mainly driving to viewpoints allow at list 30 minutes to this drive.


My thoughts: This is a nice place to visit, drive through the landscape and have a short stop at Artist's Palette, enjoy the view of the color hills, take few pictures and drive to your next destination. Not sure this is a must stop but rather something you should do when you are driving north from your Badwater visit.


The visit:


The one-way Artist's Palette Drive is heading from south to north. I recommend visiting first Badwater salt flats.

On your drive back north from Badwater to Furnace Creek you can go and hike the Natural Bridge Trail and also visit the Devil's Golf Course (another off main road attraction), after additional short drive north you will see the turn right into Artist's Palette Drive.

Plan for 40-60 minutes to complete the visit from this point.


Probably the best time of day, where the rock colors are more pop-out and vibrant, is late at the afternoon near sunset, at mid sunny day the harsh sunlight “flatten” all the colors.

Sunrise and the early morning is not a good time to visit Artists Palette, the sun will be directly behind the mountains, leaving the scenery in shadow.


Artists Palette is the highlight along the Artists Drive Scenic Loop.

Here, visitors have a close-up view of an array of colored rocks (red, orange, yellow, and green), origin from volcanic activity. Here rocks are rich in different metals and mineral that oxidize and create the different color palette. This area has carved out of the Black Mountains by erosion creating the hills and canyons.


The Drive:

The drive itself up the paved road start with moderate uphill drive and at the middle section it loops and winds through hills and small river canyons.

There are few places to park your car on the side of the road and take short hikes to viewing points, drive to the “official” Artist's Palette parking that is exactly 4.5 miles from the main Badwater valley road.


While no officially maintained hiking trails exist along this drive, there are clearly marked trails near the pullouts parking, and you can explore this unique landscape on foot.

From the main parking lot and viewpoint just in front Artist's Palette there is a trail that go down and cross the river into the painted hills, you can hike in the canyons and climb the hills on the other side.


Tip: sometimes, the very small “official” Artist's Palette parking lot is getting filled with parking cars so you will need to find a place to park on the roadside. Another option is to park at the side-road just before the turn, from here a short walk on the hills will lead you to the Artist's Palette viewpoint.


From Artist's Palette the road wind in the canyons and after a short fun drive you will find yourself driving back down to the main valley road.