Death Valley Scenic Byway, which traverses Death Valley National Park from its west entrance on Highway 190 to the east edge of the park, is one of the most unique and dynamic routes in the western United States. Death Valley National Park has more than 3.3 million acres of spectacular desert scenery, stark and jagged. Its scenic diversity includes deep rugged canyons, sand dunes, and, surprisingly, even fragile wetlands. Other highlights that can be seen are salt-encrusted dry lakebeds that accumulate borates and other minerals. Windswept sands form ever-changing patterns across the valley floor. Shiny black desert varnish, an iron and manganese oxide, covers desert cobbles, making for an interesting pavement mosaic.
If that isn't enough diversity, the desert is even surrounded by high rising mountain ranges, adding dramatic contrast to the scenic variety. The faulting in Death Valley causes one of the greatest vertical rises in the United States. The vertical rise from the lowest point in the valley to the top of Telescope Peak is 11,049 feet. In addition, the mountains also afford travelers with views of bare mountain slopes towering above the valley floor.
Toward the western end of the Death Valley Scenic Byway, the traveler will climb to the turn-off for Father Crowley Point, located at the top of the Argus Mountain Range. The short drive to this observation point provides spectacular views overlooking the Panamint Valley and the complex geology of the Panamint Mountain Range. This observation point is the perfect location to view the setting sun on Telescope Peak. Travelers will also be able to peer down into Rainbow Canyon, a steep and colorful canyon draining into the Panamint Valley.
- Public domain. Photo from National Park Service
- Copyright © January 2002 Death Valley National Park.