Central California / Death Valley / USA / USA National Parks

Otherworldly Views at Artist’s Palette

The desert silence is disrupted only by crunching rocks beneath boots or the mechanical click of a camera shutter. Morning in Death Valley brings a slight breeze, the temperatures already starting to soar. Pastel colors are spread hastily across the rocky landscape like it was scribbled on with sidewalk chalk. These unnatural colors and shapes are what create the otherworldly views at Artist’s Palette, a stop along Artist’s Drive for brave souls traveling through Furnace Creek. This spot is perfect for desert photography, bizarre sightseeing, and feeling like you’re on another planet.

Otherworldly pastel colors and views at Artist's Palette
Like the Surface of Another Planet

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How to Get to Artist’s Palette via Artist’s Drive

Artist’s Palette is a colorful stop along the route called Artist’s Drive. Signs for the start of Artist’s Drive can be found on Badwater Road. The location is south of Zabriskie Point, but north of the Badwater Basin Salt Flats. Visitors can find Artist’s Palette about midway through the 9 mile scenic drive, marked with a sign and next to a parking lot.

How Long Does it Take to Complete Artist’s Drive?

The Artist’s Drive scenic loop splits off of Badwater Road and explores the colorful, eroding hills and rocky boulders of Death Valley. The total drive spans 9 miles long, and can be driven straight through in about 30 minutes. However, there are many stops along the way with scenic vistas and otherworldly views, like the unnatural-looking pinks and teals at Artist’s Palette. Because there is so much to stop and see, and partially because you may get stuck behind other slow drivers, I would recommend planning at least an hour to complete this drive, or more if you are planning on stopping for some desert photography.

Pinks, purples, and teals in Death Valley National Park, California

Desert Photography and Otherworldly Views at Artist’s Palette

The pastel colored rocks and sand are the major attractions to see at Artist’s Palette. For those looking to do some desert photography and capture the otherworldly views, it is recommended to visit in the morning or late afternoon. The direct, overhead sun tends to wash out the vivid colors you’re trying to capture. Avoiding midday may also help you beat the crowds and harsh heat.

Are the Pastel Colors Natural?

This canyon of pastel colors is completely natural, caused by oxidation of different metals in the earth. Surrounded by shades of brown, the pops of teal and pinks stand out among the rocks, and there is an area full of entirely purple sand. It’s no wonder Death Valley has been used as a sci fi filming location in movies and shows like Star Wars, The Mandalorian, and The Twilight Zone.

Purple sand, otherworldly views, and desert photography at Artist's Palette along Artist's Drive
Purple Sand at Artist’s Palette

Best Time of Year to Visit Artist’s Palette

The best time of year to visit Artist’s Palette and do some desert photography is in the cooler months of October through May. Avoid visits in the summer months, as the high temperatures and extreme climate can be very dangerous. In the summer, Death Valley can reach scorching temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 Celsius). On winter and spring days, you can expect to enjoy blissful sunny weather averaging at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius).

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Otherworldly Views and desert photography at Artist's Palette, Death Valley
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Planning a Trip to Death Valley?

Planning a trip to this beautiful national park in the California desert? Be sure to check out my other Death Valley articles: