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Day Trip From LV

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Day Trip From LV

Hi All,

Apologies in advance as I am sure this will have a lot in common with other itinerary questions but would like your views on it.

We are planning a visit on the 17th June and expect to leave LV at around 09:30 and arrive from the south via the Old Spanish Trail as I note from the various route maps that this is meant to be the most scenic route. We plan to stop at Devils Golf Course, Artists Palette, Furnace Creek for something to eat, Zabriskie Point, and Dantes View. We would return to LV via Pahrump.

The questions I have are.

I would also like to be there at Sunset and to wait until dark to see the stars - if I set off from Dantes view right after sunset where's the best place to stop and stargaze before hitting Pahrump but allowing us to get part of the way out of the park in twilight?

Does the above itinerary give us a good representation of the park?

Are there any other must sees that can be done in a day without going too far off route?

Where can we get gas just outside the park (Tocepa/shoshone I guess) as I understand it's extortionate at Furnace Creek?

Worried about car breaking down in heat - should I be?

All comments and suggestions welcomed.



San Francisco
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1. Re: Day Trip From LV

Did you check the thread in the Top Questions corner about day trips from Las Vegas? Some of your questions are probably answered there.

Yes, Old Spanish Trail via Shoshone is very scenic. It is also one of the longer and slower routes. Since it’s summer, daylight lasts longer and you may not be doing lengthy hikes, so the time factor might be less critical than in fall or winter.

From Las Vegas to Badwater on this route is about 150 miles. Badwater is the lowest point in North America and a must-see. Artist’s Palette and Devil’s Golf Course are also along this road, as well as Golden Canyon for a short, colorful walk. The parking area is close to where you begin seeing the colors and eroded rock formations.

Furnace Creek is where the park visitor center is, just north of Furnace Creek Ranch resort; be sure to stop in and see the park movie and exhibits and ask any questions. You’ll get a better idea of what you’ve been seeing and will see later. In addition to the restaurants, Furnace Creek Ranch has a pool, and the hotel desk sells guest passes for $5.00 each if you feel like taking a quick dip. There is also a post office where you can get a Death Valley postmark to send home.

With the long daylight hours, you should have time to go a little beyond Furnace Creek, at least to the Sand Dunes, about 25 miles farther north. On the way there are Harmony Borax Works (historic site of the first profitable borax operation in DV) and Salt Creek (habitat of the pupfish, which are dormant in summer; however, there is always green plant life along the creekbed and it’s an amazing sight in the middle of the desert). Devil’s Cornfield is also on the way; a species of plant called arrowweed grows in formations resembling a cornfield. They space themselves naturally to take advantage of the limited available water.If you wish, you could see Harmony and/or Salt Creek either on the way up or back down toward Las Vegas later.

On the way back to Las Vegas, you’ll be going to Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View, but in between is another scenic drive with stark beige and tan coloring, 20 Mule Team Canyon. It’s one-way eastbound, starts and ends on hwy 190, and will add only a couple of miles. Sunset at Dante’s View is gorgeous, and this will be a wonderful grand finale to your trip. You’ll look down from 5475’ elevation to Badwater, 282’ below sea level, and you’ll see most of the Valley proper, several roads, the oasis of Furnace Creek, and the surrounding mountain ranges.

Dante’s View is great for stargazing, but if you want to start back sooner, stop for a few minutes at Death Valley Junction. It’s a 1920s borax company settlement, now a ghost town. The Amargosa Hotel and Opera House is in the former company living quarters and social hall, and it has a café. There is no other developed business in DVJ and very little lighting, so you’d be able to stargaze. The hotel complex is on a north-south road, Hwy 127, which will be signed for Shoshone. Directly across from the hotel and perpendicular to 127 is Stateline Road, which goes to Pahrump. Until you reach Pahrump (about 30 miles), this road is entirely rural with no services; don’t expect urban or suburban type signs or lighting. Along Stateline would also be good for stargazing.

If you have a hire car, don’t worry about it breaking down. Modern cars can take a lot of extreme weather; in fact, most major car companies test their prototypes in Death Valley in summer, and they put a lot more stress on their cars than 99.9% of consumers do. One precaution you’ll see on some road signs is to turn off a/c if your engine begins to overheat; you’ll see this on long, steep upgrades. Even that is mainly unnecessary these days, with closed-circuit cooling systems that lose very little from evaporation. All the roads mentioned are OK for any vehicle. Devil's Golf Course, Salt Creek, and 20 Mule Team Canyon are graded gravel or hard dirt or clay but are maintained often; your main precaution is to take it easy to avoid flat tires. Read the thread in the Top Questions about summer safety and health, which includes vehicle safety.

Gas will be expensive in Shoshone, similar to or maybe higher than Furnace Creek. Shoshone has one store with a gas station, and the prices are typically very high. My suggestion is to fill up in Las Vegas just before you leave town. If you go to all the places mentioned, your day trip will be 325-350 miles. Pahrump on the return trip will be about 260-280 miles from the start. Of course, YMMV, since everyone's travel routine is different. Pahrump has tons of cheap gas stations. If you feel this is too close for comfort, go to Stovepipe Wells after visiting the Sand Dunes and buy a few gallons. Their prices are generally the lowest in the park, but still higher than outside. There isn’t any getting around this; gas is expensive in Death Valley.

Tucson, Arizona
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2. Re: Day Trip From LV

Skip the Spanish Trail route. Enter via Death Valley Junction. Get to the park sooner rather than later. Fissy gives very good advice above. The only thing I would add is try not to stay in Pahrump. Stay in DVNP and drive as quickly as you can through Pahrump.


San Francisco
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3. Re: Day Trip From LV

It's OK to go through Pahrump. As Zabby says, THROUGH. It actually is the most direct route between LV and DV. It has gas stations, restaurants, and supermarkets, so stock up on whatever you want. No other reason to spend time there. When you get to Pahrump, you'll see a major intersection with a traffic signal and a cluster of businesses, It is signed for Hwy 372 and Death Valley. Don't take it. Continue about 4 miles farther north to Bell Vista Road and turn left. It heads west out of town and becomes Stateline Road for DV Junction.

One plus of taking the Old Spanish Trail is seeing different scenery coming and going. It is a pretty area, and you could even visit a date farm on the way. However, this would take time away from Death Valley; I'd suggest it more strongly if you had a night to stay over in the park.

If you decide to go both ways via Pahrump as Zabby suggests, you could vary the trip by making a quick detour on the way in from Stateline Road into Ash Meadows National WIldlife Refuge. This is a desert marsh area with scads of greenery, ponds, and wildlife, smaller mammals but mainly reptiles and birds. An endangered pupfish species lives there, a cousin to the one at Salt Creek but far more rare (no public access to see these pupfish). Ash Meadows has exhibits and foot paths. You could spend an hour or so there, then continue to DV Junction and 190, but pass Dante's View and maybe Zabriskie Point and save them for later.

Go ahead and see 20 Mule Team Canyon, which is better with some daylight because it's a twisty canyon where some areas are deeply shadowed late in the day so you don't see the colors as well. See the other places that we talked about above. On your way out, which will be the same way you entered, see Zabriskie Point and Dante's View, where the views are enhanced as the sun drops lower.

4. Re: Day Trip From LV

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