A visit to Death Valley National Park means a trip to the lowest, driest and warmest national park in the United States. A few hundred meters below sea level you will find salt factories, sand dunes and even a ghost town.

You can reach Death Valley National Park by flying to Las Vegas and then driving. But because you still have to go to the park, you can take a full ride from there. So you can make a quiet trip and stop along the way to visit the sights.

From San Francisco you can reach Death Valley National Park in about 8 hours. The trip can be done in one day but you can also choose a more scenic route and stop for a day or two in Yosemite National Park and Iño National Forest.

How far is San Francisco Death Valley National Park and how long does it take to get there?

The best route from San Francisco to Death Valley National Park is about 408 miles, and should take about 8 hours. Toilet and gas breaks and lunch breaks are not included. For these stays you will probably need to plan a few extra hours.

Route Distance Driving time
Fastest route
(via I-5 S)
458 miles 7 hours 30 minutes
Step channel
(via CA-120 E and US-395 S).
408 miles 8 hours

Death Valley National Park, located eight hours away, could be celebrated in one day. But why do you want to miss out on all the great sights you see along the way? To get the most out of your trip, it is best to divide it into 2 or 3 days of adventure.

The sun shines on the young and old pine trees.
Stay in Inyo National Park and explore the ancient pine forest of Bristlecone on your way to Death Valley National Park.

Don Paulson Gallery / Janes / DanitaDelimont.com/Shutterstock.com

You should also bear in mind that if you leave on Friday or Saturday, you may be held up at the weekend by other people leaving San Francisco. This may extend your journey by several hours, depending on the intensity of traffic and the time you land on your route.

Read on to find out how to get from San Francisco to Death Valley National Park, and to learn some of the amazing things you’ll see along the way.

Best Road Trip from San Francisco to Death Valley National Park

The fastest route from San Francisco to Death Valley National Park is via the I-5 S. However, this route is not so scenic and shortens the distance by only half an hour, unlike the route through Yosemite National Park and the Iño National Forest.

There are also many detours you can make on the way if you have the time and don’t mind travelling a bit longer.

Routefrom San Francisco to Death Valley National Park

To get from San Francisco to Death Valley National Park, first take the Bay Bridge towards Auckland. Drive past Auckland Zoo and Shabo Lake and take the I-580. If you cross the San Joaquin River, you will arrive at Route 120, which gives access to Yosemite National Park.

You take the same highway that runs through the park. At this point the motorway will be called Tioga Road. As this particular road is sometimes closed, make sure it is open during your journey. If you travel in winter, know that this road will be closed anyway and reopened in spring as soon as the snow has cleared.

Once you have passed Yosemite, cross the USA 395 via Inyo National Forest and the Mammoth Lakes. On the way you will also pass through King’s Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park. When you arrive at Lone Pine, keep left at State Route 190, which takes you to Death Valley National Park.

Best Stops between San Francisco and Death Valley National Park

If you drive instead of fly, you want to make the most of your trip to Death Valley National Park. Luckily there are many places to stop along the way.

Visit to Yosemite National Park

There are many places in the United States that are more beautiful or better known than Yosemite. Plan to spend at least a day in this incredible park and don’t forget to pack your camping and hiking equipment.

At Yosemite you will find beautiful waterfalls, hiking trails, fishing spots and even a museum where you can learn about the history of the park.

The picture shows the spring waterfall on the left and the stairs at sunrise on the right.
Spend a night in Yosemite National Park and enjoy a scenic view of Vernal Falls at sunrise.

Dancestrokes/Shutterstock.com

If you are interested in music, consider taking a trip in July. It is at this moment that the annual Yosemite music festival is being held. The mix of talented musicians and the beauty of this national park is a recipe for an extraordinary experience.

If you are looking for a place to stay at Yosemite and prefer a rough hobby, then camping is definitely an option. Alternatively, you can stay at Evergreen Lodge, located just 1 mile from Yosemite and surrounded by nature and incredible views. The house is not only close to places where you can ski, climb and hike, but also offers a seasonal outdoor pool.

Study of the National Park of the Valley of the Dead

If you come to Death Valley National Park, there are many things to do as you explore. From sand dunes to mountains and the historic Keane Wonder Gold Mine, there’s no shortage of shops.

Direct route to Death Valley National Park with views of the mountains in front and some grass on both sides.
Enjoy the views of the foothills as you travel through Death Valley National Park.

Boyd Hendrikse/Shutterstock.com

Although you can expect a fairly desolate area, there are many places to stay in the valley. If you move to the south of the valley, you will see more luxury resorts in the area.

If you’re looking for something more central in Death Valley National Park, consider staying at the luxurious Death Valley Hostel. Take advantage of their gymnasiums and the outdoor swimming pool. And don’t forget to visit his sauna to seriously relax.

Driving from San Francisco to Death Valley National Park

There are so many incredible sites to visit on this journey that you hardly know where to start. Here are a few examples that are worth a visit.

  1. Rainbow basin: Your first stop may be at this beautiful natural swimming pool and its waterfall where you can swim or make a small rock jump. Don’t forget it can be crowded here.
  2. National Forest Iño: Iño National Park, near Yosemite, will be a small detour, but it’s worth it. Explore the hiking trails and travel through the beautiful mountain ranges and lakes of the region.
  3. Visit to Tuollman Grove: In this forest, located in the Yosemite National Park, you can find several beautiful redwoods. You can use the least demanding walking route.
  4. Mariposabos: Another Yosemite redwood, Mariposa Grove, is the largest redwood in the park. There are also 2 of the 30 largest redwoods in the world.
  5. Captain: It’s a big rock from Yosemite. You will find many hiking trails and even climbing possibilities.
  6. King’s Canyon National Park: A bunch of redwoods disappeared in Yosemite? Don’t worry, King’s Canyon National Park is full of redwoods. Visit the General Grant Tree, the largest tree in General Grant Grove Park. The age of this tree is estimated at about 1650 years.
  7. Mesquite flat sand dunes: Don’t think your adventure ends when you arrive in Death Valley National Park. There are many more things to do and see, such as a visit to the flat meskietzand dunes. When the sun hits these dunes in the afternoon, a dramatic shadow awaits you, which will change the desert landscape.
  8. Hippodrome: Also in Death Valley National Park the path is a huge bed of dried up mud. Here you can see the stones that moved in the dry mud and left their marks – this is the name of the racetrack.
  9. Keene’s Mine of Wonders: This mine, first established in 1903, is an historic milestone. During the peak mining period, the miners transported 70 tonnes of gold ore per day. Visit this mine to see the ancient remains of Death Valley National Park.
  10. Ryolite: This old ghost town is a long neglected mining town in Death Valley. When you visit Rhyolite, don’t forget to stop at the strange and haunting art installation, the communion performance.

Amazing images of flat, medium flat sand dunes with orange sand and a clear blue sky.
The flat blade sand dunes will not disappoint you on a sunny day.

kavram/Shutterstock.com

Best time for a road trip from San Francisco to Death Valley National Park

If you plan to drive from San Francisco to Death Valley National Park, the first thing you should consider is the season. The Tiogapass, which crosses Yosemite, is closed in winter. So if you plan to travel during the winter months, you will not be able to drive over Yosemite.

On your way to Death Valley you’ll visit one of the hottest places on the planet. In the summer months the temperature can rise to 43.3°C. In 1913, Death Valley recorded the world’s highest temperature, 56.6°C (134°F). And in August 2020, the highest recorded temperature was 54.4°C (130°F).

Because it can be unbearably hot in Death Valley National Park in the summer months and the Tioga Pass is closed in the winter, taking this road in low season is probably the best option for you. And if you go there in the spring, you’ll discover the spring blossom of Death Valley.

No matter when you leave, make sure you bring enough water with you, especially if you decide to leave during the summer months. You also need to make sure your car’s air conditioning works properly – you’ll need it!

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