Home > california, Death Valley NP, Landscape Photography, National Parks > Death Valley National Park: Part 3

Death Valley National Park: Part 3

death valley artists palette

The area of the park known as Furnace Creek (mentioned in the last post) makes an excellent home base for visiting many of the park’s more popular destinations. It also includes several lodging facilities, four restaurants and houses the park’s Visitor Center. Two nearby locations that make for great photography, and each less than a ten minute drive from Furnace Creek, include Artist Palette and Twenty Mule Team Canyon.

Artist’s Palette/Artist Drive
Artist Drive is a nine-mile (14.5 km) long, one way road into a canyon filled with vibrantly colored volcanic and sedimentary rock. Because of the height and position of the surrounding cliffs, afternoon photography works best here. Along the early part of the drive there are striking cliffs, bluffs and hills.

Artist’s Palette
Click to enlargedeath valley photography tipsRock Formations in 20 Mule Team Canyon

artists palette death valley

At about the half-way point on the road is a parking lot that leads to one of the most popular sights in the park called Artist’s Palette. And, it is appropriately named because of its vibrantly colored rocks, many in green, gold and pink created from mineral deposits in volcanos that erupted millions of years ago.

There are many locations on or near the parking lot where it’s easy to photograph Artists Palette. After several visits here I found a trail that leads from the parking area into the nearby canyon which offered even easier access to the rocks and better perspectives for photographing. At the end of Artist’s Drive where it joins the main road is a small hill topped with large volcanic rocks which can make interesting foreground subjects to include in photos of the valley and distant mountain ranges.

[PHOTO TIP: Using a polarizing filter on your camera, if you have one, can reduce glare and help bring out more of the saturated colors in the rocks.]
death valley

Lava Rock Topped Hill

Lava Rock Topped Hill

Twenty Mule Team Canyon
Another short drive from Furnace Creek is an area called Twenty Mule Team Canyon. In the late 1880’s and long before death valley was a national park, this area was (and still is today) the site of numerous borax mines. Borax is a white mineral used as an antiseptic and in the making of glass and ceramics. When ground into fine crystals, borax dissolves easily in water is widely used in soaps and laundry detergents.

Rock Formations in 20 Mule Team Canyon

Early Morning Colors in 20 Mule Team Canyon

Twenty Mule Team Canyon is an unpaved, one-way road roughly 2.5 miles (4 km) long that leads through a canyon of gracefully shaped multicolored badlands. While the road can be driven with a standard automobile it includes some twists and turns that need to be navigated slowly and with caution.

Gracefully Shaped Eroded Badlands

Gracefully Shaped Eroded Badlands

death valley artists palette
The drive takes you over gentle hills and through gullies and sandy washes. Along the way are several parking areas where you can leave your car and hike to view the effects of wind/rain erosion on rocks and encounter the sites of old borax mines.


ND Grad filter - graduated neutral density filter

  1. at | #1

    So beautiful! Thanks for sharing the beauty of Nature. We are one!

    • Rick
      at | #2

      And thank you for such a sweet and perfect comment { } ~Rick

  2. at | #3

    Wonderful images, Rick. I don’t think we need to look anywhere else than the land beneath our feet to see the beauty of its spirit.

    • Rick
      at | #4

      So very true Sue. The secret for us all in this busy world, I suspect, is remembering to take time to open and embrace it. Sending smiles your way. ~Rick

  3. at | #5

    I can see why its called Death Valley.. not a lot grows there does it.. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Lovely photo’s so breath-takingingly different ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. at | #6

    The skies, the textures, the colorsโ€ฆstunning! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Rick
      at | #7

      That’s part of the visual magic seen often in those western skies in the Fall/Winter that you know so well from living out there isn’t it LuAnn. ~Rick

  5. Lynn
    at | #8

    Thank you for sharing, Rick. These are wonderful…

    • Rick
      at | #9

      It is my pleasure Lynn. Thanks for taking the time to share that lovely comment. ~Rick

  6. at | #10

    Utterly gorgeous!

  7. at | #12

    Hi Rick…I’ve enjoyed all three parts of this series! I especially like the Mule Team Canyon photo. Hope you’re doing well!


    • Rick
      at | #13

      That canyon Sherry is a place I think you and your camera would have a fabulous time discovering for hours on end. I was there hiking for hours on several days in a row and never grew tired of it. And if you like solitude, on each of those occasions, I never encountered another person in the canyon during my entire time there. ~Rick

  8. at | #14

    Now I can’t wait to go back… it’s been 3 years. Your take on the area is stunning ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Rick
      at | #15

      Hearing that the images/text have you thinking about going back, and knowing how much you enjoyed Death Valley before put a huge smile on my face Ingrid. Thanks for that and also your kind words on the posts { } ~Rick

  9. at | #16

    Stunning… just beautiful Rick!

    • Rick
      at | #17

      Thanks so much Lori ๐Ÿ™‚ ~Rick

  10. at | #18

    You hooked me with these photos, Rick. I thought the Red Rocks of Sadona were breathtaking, but these are mesmerizing.

    • Rick
      at | #19

      Great to hear from you Jim. Oh goodness just like you, I do love those amazing colors in Sedona. But in the right light and right time of day, the colors seen in places like Artist Palette are stunning, especially because of their wide range of colors. As an avid runner and as an added incentive for you to go and visit there, there are several marathons right in the middle of the desert each year. There’s a full, half and 10K marathon usually around the end of January and also an elaborate Ultra marathon 135-mile (217 km) in the middle of July! ~Rick

  11. at | #20

    wonderful images and colors…

  12. at | #22

    Fantastic continuing series, Rick!

    The light, textures, colors, scenes – it seems so surreal. I can sense that all of these elements may change with the time of day and season of the year to give one an entirely different perspective.

    Again, thank you so much for sharing your vision with us!

    • Rick
      at | #23

      Thanks so much Wally.

      Your thoughts on how elements change during time of day or seasons in Death Valley are right on target. For example, while the light just before, during or soon after sunrise produces vibrant saturated colors and amazing shadows, they all tend to disappear quickly within 30-60 minutes. Of course, even though the “ideal” light for photography may not be present during mid-day it is a great time and place to explore, savor the sites with your eyes/heart and scout out new locations to photograph late in the day or on another morning. ~Rick

  13. at | #24

    Awesome photos of a mesmerizing place! Nature really is a master painter! Thank you for sharing, Rick.

    • Rick
      at | #25

      I couldn’t agree more Tiny. Nature is a master painter! ~Rick

  14. at | #26

    Love these photos so much, thank you for sharing – Death Valley would be on my bucket list to visit ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Rick
      at | #27

      Oh it can be a fabulous place to visit but remember to time your visit. Summers can be VERY HOT and holidays can be very very busy with lots of visitors. ~Rick

  15. at | #28

    Ohh Rick, these look like paintings, they are so ethereal…thank you. <3

    • Rick
      at | #29

      The soft light of dawn and the smoothness/gracefulness of the sand created by an evening wind storm made for one very magical moment to experience in person Jane and a lovely scene for us all to enjoy.

  16. at | #30

    Your beautiful photography as well as your clear descriptions and valuable tips make me feel a bit like I have been there, Rick. Thank you for that!

    Much love to you and Barbara,

    • rickbraveheart
      at | #31

      Thank you Steffi. I’m glad they are helpful and hopefully you and Kim can come to the States and visit Death Valley so you can use those tips. ~Rick

    • rickbraveheart
      at | #32

      Thank you Steffi. And hopefully you and Kim can make your way to the States some time in the future and visit Death Valley so you can take advantage of those tips! Rick

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