Death Valley is famous for its dramatic and surprisingly colorful landscapes and as the lowest point in the western hemisphere – 282 feet below sea level. But Death Valley National Park covers more than 3 million acres and reaches as high as the sub-alpine conditions on the summit of Telescope Peak, 11,049 feet above sea level.
As the name might suggest, there is very little apparent vegetation within Death Valley. Alkaline water, salts in the soil and sparse rainfall discourage all but the scrubbiest of plants. First impressions, however, can be deceiving. Death Valley includes more than 1,000 species of plants that have adapted to the harsh conditions. Some have roots that reach down more than 50 feet in search of precious water. Others have shallow roots that spread wide just under the surface, ready to capture the slightest moisture from the meager rains or early morning dew.
Despite the scrubby vegetation, color is everywhere. Various minerals have given the barren rock a wide range of hues. Two of the most dramatic areas are Zabriskie Point, where sunrise first touches a steep rock spire, and Artist's Palette, where late afternoon light conjures pinks, greens and golds from the lifeless rock. A drive up to Dante's Point offers sweeping views from 5,500 feet above the valley floor.
For more information about U.S. National Parks in general, visit the web site of the National Park Service.