California – Artist’s Palette, Death Valley

Hanna posing on mountain colored by minerals and metals, Death Valley National Park, California

If you are visiting Death Valley, absolutely do not miss Artist’s Drive and Artist’s Palette. Artist’s Drive is a nine mile gorgeous drive that is one way, heading north. The drive is a meandering road with a variety of views – from the Badwater Basin to driving through narrow canyons. A big highlight of the drive is Artist’s Palette, an overlook  of the mountains covered in colorful metals and minerals.

Timing Recommendations

I recommend going to Badwater Basin (lowest point in Death Valley) at sunrise, then hit Artist’s Drive and Artist’s Palette after. I recommend this for a couple of reasons. First, Badwater Basin is super  popular, so you will want to see it first, when others are waking up. After enjoying Badwater Basin, you will hopefully be at Artist’s Drive when people heading in the opposite direction. Our favorite time is that sweet spot of quietness, when we are one step ahead of the crowds.

The second reason is logistical. Artist’s Drive is a nine mile one way road that heads north. You will see the entrance to the road about halfway between Highway 190 and Badwater Basin. After taking Artist’s Drive, you will end up closer to highway 190. Why take the road you’ve already been on, when you can explore a new area?

At a Glance:

  • Rating: 4 stars, would absolutely do it again
  • Intensity: Tennis shoes, clothes to sweat in
  • Location: Death Valley National Park
  • Restrooms: At the visitor’s centers, campgrounds, non-flushing toilets at most major sites


  • Insanely beautiful one-way drive through the canyons of Death Valley
  • Multiple places to stop and view different terrain

Artist’s Drive

Artist’s Drive has a variety of stunning views. Take your time and take advantage of the available turnoff areas to take in the scenes. You will have epic views of the the valley as well as completely new sights into this region of the park. Just when you think the drive couldn’t be any more amazing, the road will take you on dips and curves surrounded by the canyon walls. When we went, the road was smooth and the air was crisp. The turns in the road felt like a mini roller coaster and we couldn’t help squealing in delight.

Artist’s Palette

Even if it is busy, you must stop at Artist’s Palette. This is a viewpoint of the mountains, colored by various minerals and metals. True to its name, the site looks like an Artist’s Palette. Although I do not know if the park wants you to venture from the viewpoint, I needed a better look. We needed tennis shoes and a bit of fitness to make it up a steep/sandy area. The pictures from this vantage point are particularly stunning, so I am happy we made the effort.

We rented a campervan called Chrissy Boy for our trip to Death Valley. Chrissy Boy is a bit larger than Hanna’s prius or Rebecca’s smart car, so Artist’s Drive and Artist’s Palette were an excellent challenge. Chrissy Boy handled every curve like a champ and it was definitely helpful to have a change of clothes once the day heated up.

What mini-drives are your favorite surprises? Also, how do you make a typical viewpoint photo unique? Do you try to get there at a certain time or try to get another vantage point? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Travels,


What are your thoughts?