Artist’s Drive to Artist’s Palette in Death Valley National Park

Artist's Drive & Artist's Palette Death Valley

Artist’s Drive in Death Valley National Park was recommended to me by the clerk at REI as I purchased my camping food for the trip. I love getting advice for things to do in my destinations, so on my first day in Death Valley I headed over to the Artist’s Drive. The Artist’s Drive includes the colorful hills of the Artist’s Palette, another Death Valley highlight.

I loved this scenic loop so much I drove it twice. The first time, I simply drove through the windy, one lane road in awe at the pastel-colored hills mixed in with the black and amber mountains. The second time I drove through, I pulled over to the side of the road at any possible turn out to take pictures and spent at least an hour walking around the colorful hills of the Artist’s Palette.

Artist’s Palette and Artist’s Palette are two of the best places to visit in Death Valley and should definitely be on your Death Valley itinerary

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Overview of Artist’s Drive in Death Valley

  • 9 mile drive on a one way, one land road
  • Vehicles over 25ft long should not try this drive (very tight turns)
  • Highlight of the drive is Artist’s Palette, about 5 miles in
  • Vault toilets & dedicated parking area at Artist’s Palette Viewpoint

Artist’s Drive Death Valley National Park 

Windy one lane road of Artist's Drive Death Valley
Windy Road of Artist’s Drive

Artist’s Drive is conveniently located off of Badwater Road about 15 minutes from Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center and 25 minutes from Badwater Basin Salt Flats, the lowest point in North America!

Its central location makes it incredibly easy to add to your itinerary. 

This 9 mile scenic drive is on a one way, one lane road so it makes the most sense to do this drive if you’re coming from Badwater Basin towards Furnace Creek. If you start it coming from Furnace Creek you’ll just backtrack a bit.

One thing I loved about this drive is that the road is completely paved. This made for much easier driving compared to the gravel roads that lead to many of the other beautiful places in Death Valley like Devil’s Golf Course. I didn’t have to worry about popping a tire!

The road is fairly narrow with some hairpin turns and steep dips, which makes for a fun drive. But if your vehicle is longer than 25ft, it won’t make the turns, so take a smaller car!

There are also some rolling hills on the drive, making it feel like a roller coaster. Seriously, even the act of driving this road is fun, let alone being surrounded by such beautiful scenery. 

Even though it’s a narrow one-way road, there are multiple opportunities to safely pull over to the side to take a walk through the hills or snap a few photos.

The highlight of this drive, however, is the Artist’s Palette.

Artist’s Palette Death Valley National Park

Vibrant soil of Artist's palette Death Valley National Park
The colorful hills of Artist’s Palette Death Valey

Artist’s Palette is the blue, purple, and pink pastel-colored part of the black mountains in Death Valley National Park. The rainbow colors of Artist’s palette are from volcanic deposits and the oxidation of different metals such as iron. You’ll see Artist’s Palette about 5 miles into Artist’s drive

There is a small parking lot with vault toilets directly next to an access point for the colorful hills. 

However, I recommend pulling over on the stretch of road just before the lookout point. This isn’t marked, so as soon as you see the vibrant colors on the hills pull over. There will likely be other cars doing the same.

This is where you’ll get the best photos that encompass the entire range of this unique landscape. To get up close and personal to the hills from here, you’ll walk over a ravine as a shortcut. Or there is a trail to the Artist’s Palette Viewpoint.

If you just want to drive right up to it, then head to the parking lot! From the parking lot it’s a short walk to the main area of Artist’s Palette. Although it is a small parking area, so if there are a lot of people, it could be tricky to get a spot.

I highly recommend spending time walking around Artist’s Palette. There are so many nooks and crannies here that provide ample photo opportunities as well as areas with less people to get some quiet if it’s a busy day.

Walking through artist's palette Death Valley
Me in one of the nooks of Artist's Palette in Death Valley

Best Time to Visit Artist’s Palette and Artist’s Drive in Death Valley

In general, the best time of the year to visit Death Valley National Park is in the fall, winter, and early Spring months when the temperatures are milder.

The ideal times to drive the Artist’s Drive, is in the morning and just before sunset. Visiting at these times will avoid the midday desert heat. Also, when the sun is bright, it washes out the colors of the mountain.

Cloudy days are also a great time to visit as the overcast sky will not wash out the vibrant soil and you’ll still be able to get great photos.

What to Bring with You for Artist’s Drive

All of my Death Valley blog posts say, to bring plenty of water. This is no exception. Even though it’s only a 9-mile drive, you’ll want to get out and explore a bit and it’s better to be over-prepared in the desert. Also, bring along some snacks and your favorite road trip playlist!

What to Wear for the Artist’s Drive and Artist’s Palette

While there isn’t any traditional hiking occurring, you will be walking on loose, almost sandy, hills. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and maybe pack a cute outfit if you want to take some great photos here!

Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a wide-brimmed hat are also solid items to have on you when you get out to explore.

Me sitting on the pastel pink rocks of Artist's Palette Death Valley National Park
Me at a scenic turn out on Artist's Drive Death Valley National Park

How Much Time to Allocate for the Artist’s Drive and Artist’s Palette?

At least one hour, and that’s being really conservative. You’ll want to take the drive at a leisurely pace and allow at least an hour to walk amongst the colorful hills. I spent 3 hours, most of it taking photos at the Artist’s Palette and other stops along the way. 

This was a short and sweet post for an awesome drive in Death Valley National Park. I highly suggest adding Artist’s Drive and Artist’s Palette to your Death Valley itinerary, whether it’s your first or 50th visit!

Looking for more help planning your Death Valley trip? Check out these posts?

How to Spend One Day in Death Valley

Where to Stay in Death Valley

Tips for Hiking the Golden Canyon Trail in Death Valley

How to See Zabriskie Point Sunrise without the Crowds

Want to visit more California National Parks? How about one of these?

How to Spend One Day in Joshua Tree

The Best Hikes in Pinnacles National Park

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Artist's Drive & Artist's Palette Death Valley
Artist's Drive & Artist's Palette Death Valley
Artist's Drive & Artist's Palette Death Valley

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