If you visit Death Valley National Park, Artist Palette and Drive should be high up in the list of places you intend to check out.
Artist Palette Drive is a scenic loop drive on Badwater Road, which is one of the unique landmarks in Death Valley National Park that you don’t want to miss. This is a nine-mile one-way route traveling from South to North, a windy stretch that will take you to a beautiful multi-hued volcanic and sedimentary hill.
There are two vista points where you can pull over and hit the trails.
The first major turnoff leads to a short uphill walk to an impressive overlook with wide views of the basin below.
The Artist Palette
This is the second and the main attraction in the drive. When you drive about 5 miles in Artist Drive Road from Badwater Road, you will reach the entrance to a small parking area. The palette can be viewed right from this parking space. Steps from the lot lead down to a narrow wash. You will see ancient volcanic ash that is over millions of years old that have weathered over time and transformed the hills into the plethora of colors from aqua blue, to green, and magenta red, that you see today. The rainbow bands that color the soil definitely resemble a grand painter’s palette.
Adventure seekers can venture into one of the many short trails for a closer look. However, you don’t want to get lost after sunset. This place could get really dark after sunset/twilight and the drive out through the winding roads could get a bit dangerous. This is especially so if you are not used to sharp corners and curvy roads. So, you got to plan your trip accordingly.
Best Time to Visit / Photograph
An hour before sunset would be the ideal time but late noon will work too. It is great when the sun is still high up in the sky just above the horizon. This is when the palette explodes into all the colors that you couldn’t possibly imagine. You can capture the scene right from the parking lot or you can hike into one of the trails for a closer look. Either way, you will get some amazing pictures.
Recommended Camera Gear
- Digital Camera with Normal to Mid-Range Zoom Lens
- Cable shutter release or Remote Shutter Release
- Steady Tripod
- High powered flashlight for light painting and regular night time use
How to get there
You can reach Badwater Road from HWY 190 or from HWY 127 to HWY 178 which becomes Badwater Road near Ashford Junction. Artist’s Drive is located off Badwater Road, North of Devil’s Golf Course and South of Furnace Creek depending on the direction you are driving. Look for the “Artist Drive” signboard. The start of the drive is clearly marked, and it will take you about 45 minutes to an hour. Remember that this is a one-way route, so the speed you drive in and the speed that the people in front of you are driving at, would affect how long your drive takes. The main attraction Artist Palette is about 5 miles from the starting point.
Note: Vehicle over 12 feet are prohibited in this route due to the numerous ups and downs, and sharp corner that you have to drive through.
Place to Stay
The nearest campsites can be found at Furnace Creek or at Badwater Basin.
Pictorial Highlights from this place…