Best time to go to Death Valley

Gem-O-Rama at Searles Lake 2019

Mid-October is the only time to experience a crystal hunt at this unique lake

Gem-O-Rama at Searles Lake in Death Valley - Best Time
Photo by

Alisha Vargas

Searles Lake is located in the Searles Valley of the Mojave Desert, near Death Valley National Park, in northwestern San Bernardino County. The basin is approximately 19 km (12 mi) long and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide, yielding annually 1.7 million tons of industrial minerals. On the western shore of Searles Lake, there is a mining community of Trona. The Argus and Slate mountains surround Searles Lake.

Gem-O-Rama at Searles Lake in Death Valley - Best Season

The dry expanses of Searles Lake resemble a lunar landscape. Its white flat is speckled with blood red, ultramarine, and black pools of mineral-saturated brine. Temperatures reach 115 Fahrenheit (46 Celsius) during the summer.

Several billion tons of mineral deposits lay beneath the flat—a periodic table of minerals and salts. Searles Lake contains samples of half the natural elements known to humanity. The lake was discovered in 1862 by Dennis and John Searles, who happened to be searching for gold in the area. Later they met “The Borax King” Francis Marion Smith and launched mineral extractive operations of lake's deposits.

Best time for Gem-O-Rama at Searles Lake in Death Valley

The best occasion to visit Searles Lake is during the annual Gem-O-Rama geological event that occurs every second weekend of October. Everyone is welcome to join in this free crystal hunt. The field trips take place in mid-October because it's the only appropriate time to collect crystals. At other times of the year, the area is either flooded or scorchingly hot.

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