Monday, September 16, 2019

Have You Visited Death Valley?

What is Death Valley?

Despite the forbidding name, Death Valley is a beautiful area of unique desert wonders. Sand dunes, salt flats, mountains, craters, and the lowest lake in North America make for some of the most spectacular and dramatic scenery in the Southwest.

The valley, protected as a national park, covers 3,000 square miles and is known for being the hottest, driest, and lowest point in North America. Roadside lookouts offer stunning panoramas, and hiking trails allow easy access to the terrain.

The main service center in the park is the centrally located Furnace Creek, with the park visitor center, as well as campgrounds, restaurants, a store, gas station, and the Furnace Creek Resort. On the west side of the park, is Panamint Springs, with a restaurant, gas station, and some limited accommodation. This is a convenient stop if you are entering the park from the west side and a good lunch option if you are visiting Father Crowley Point and Darwin Falls, the two main attractions on this side of the valley.

Driving through Death Valley National Park

Most visitors are coming from either California, entering from the west off highway 395 onto highway 190, through Panamint Springs, or from Las Vegas, where there are a couple of routing options. You can easily visit Death Valley on a Day Trip from Las Vegas. The best way to do this is to head out on highway 160 (leaving from the south end of Las Vegas) to Death Valley Junction, where the road becomes highway 190, entering the park. This road runs past the turnoff for Dante's View, Twenty Mule Canyon, and Zabriskie Point, and on to Furnace Creek with a park visitor center and some amenities.

From Furnace Creek, you can head south to Badwater, passing the pullouts for Desolation Canyon, Artist's Drive (Artist's Palette), Devil's Golf Course, and Natural Bridge. When you have visited Badwater, backtrack via Furnace Creek and beyond to the Harmony Borax Interpretive Trail, Mustard Canyon, and the Sand Dunes near Stovepipe Wells.

If you started early in the day and still have plenty of time, you may want to continue on. It's a little over a half-hour to Panamint Springs and another 20 minutes to Father Crowley Point. After this, you can turn around and head back to Stovepipe Wells, and beyond to Scotty's Castle Road, and head out of the park on the Daylight Pass Road (374) that leads to Beatty. Before getting to Beatty, stop at the Rhyolite ghost town to see the ruins of this old mining town and some unique art installations. From Beatty take Highway 95 back to Las Vegas.

If you have time for a second day in Death Valley, you can spend the night in the park or in Beatty. With two days, you'll be able to add on a visit to the Race Track and a few more stops for hiking and sightseeing.

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