Death Valley National Park is right on the California-Nevada border, about two hours drive from Las Vegas. I visited the park in October 2018 and I would have to say, I think it was probably the high point of my trip. Probably because it was so much better than I was expecting it to be. I had made plans to go back in 2020 but then COVID...
While I was there the temperature was around 36-37 degrees but in summer it can push 50 degrees. I'd avoid summer. I certainly felt the heat lugging my 4x5 kit around but totally worth it.
There is accommodation available in the park but it is expensive; be prepared for $400USD+ per night. Being a tight-arse, I stayed at an Airbnb in a town called Pahrump for around $50USD per night, including breakfast and Netflix. Pahrump is a small city with plenty of services and only about 50 minutes drive to the park's pay station. As I didn't know what would be available inside the park I bought a cheap polystyrene cooler, ice, bottled water, and some food at the local Walmart. That turned out to be a good call. There are places to buy food in the park, such as Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells, but I was nowhere near any of them till late in the day.
Unfortunately I didn't get to explore as much as I would have liked. Next trip I will definitely stay an extra night or two. Here is an overview of the places I did get to see:
Dante's View If you have time it's worth the drive, from memory it was about an hour there and back. The view from the top overlooking Badwater Basin is spectacular - and there is no hiking involved, drive right to the top. The turn off is just past the pay station.
Zabriskie Point This is the first stopping point past the pay station. There is a viewing area but you can walk around no problem. It's a popular spot for tour buses and there were people everywhere which made it hard to get a photo without being accidentally photo bombed by some rando. Beautiful place though.
Badwater Basin This was my favourite spot. It's a salt plain 86m below sea level. You can walk out and over the salt plains straight past the sign warning you about the extreme heat danger. There are a few of those signs throughout the park.
The Artist's Drive It is a narrow, one-way road that winds through some amazing and surprisingly colourful scenery. The road has a 15mph speed limit so it takes a bit of time. Don't do what I did and exit right into the left lane towards on-coming traffic... I could have killed us all! The Artist's Palette is a must see spot a bit over half way through the drive. It's a short hike from the car park to a vantage point that gives you an up-close view of the oxidised rock canyon. Take a couple of sheets of Ektar 100 for this one.
Golden Canyon The Golden Canyon trail head is about half way between the Artist's Drive and Furnace Creek village. It's about 2.4km hike to Red Cathedral. You'll have to climb over some rocks and so forth towards the end of the hike, not particularly easy with a large format camera and tripod. The walk back is a lot easier as it's down hill most of the way.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes I didn't venture too far out on to the dunes but they are spectacular with the mountains in the background. I didn't leave myself enough time to do this part of the park justice. Next visit I will start here and spend a full day in the northern sections. I particularly want to do the Mosaic Canyon hike and that is probably a half day on its own.
Leaving Death Valley I drove to Bishop on Highway 395. If you are leaving in that direction I would make sure to have plenty of daylight left in the day. It's a beautiful drive winding though mountains but slow going, I imagine it would be treacherous at night.