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Vegas to Palm Desert in April

Port Orchard...
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Vegas to Palm Desert in April

We are flying into Las Vegas and travelling to Palm Desert with the sole purpose of seeing Death Valley and Manzanar. We were planning on staying 1 or 2 nights in or around the park. Any suggestions on "must sees" or routes to take within to the park to maximize our time. Also, will there be any relevant passes that will be an issue this time or year? Lastly, I would love to see "The Racetrack" of moving rocks, but I hear it is quite a trek. Any advice?

Port Orchard...
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1. Re: Vegas to Palm Desert in April

Ok, after exploring this thread a little more, I have decided to skip the Racetrack. Looks like one night in the park and one night in Lone Pine. Sound about right? We have our 11 year old with us and he would like to see a ghost town. Which one would you recommend? We are looking at Rhyolite.

Atlanta, Georgia
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2. Re: Vegas to Palm Desert in April

The Racetrack is awesome, but you are probably right to skip it since your time is so short. It takes the better part of a day to get there and back, but there is plenty to see outside of that for a first time visitor to Death Valley. You are smart to spend at least one night in the park to get the true desert experience, but will barely scratch the surface of what can be seen there. Do you know yet where in the park you are planning to stay?

Everyone has their favorite spots - you should check the "Top Questions" on the right for suggestions on a one day itinerary. Rhyolite is pretty interesting and easily accessible, but will be a little out of the way unless you are coming in from Beatty (which I don't recommend, given your timetable). Do you like hiking? If so, then that will open a lot more possibilities for exploration.

Note that even in April you could have high temperatures that approach 100F, so it will be hot. Make sure you are prepared for that with plenty of water, emergency food, full tank of gas, etc.


San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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3. Re: Vegas to Palm Desert in April

I'm not familiar with Palm Desert, which is near Palm Springs and a long way south of Death Valley. So I'll just talk about the DV part of your conversation.

Ordinarily, April is a good time for the Racetrack because the winter snow is gone (it does snow in the north end of the park at higher elevations) and the weather is relatively cool compared to summer. There can be wildflowers--April is late spring in DV and will be closer to summer on your climate standards. With this time frame, I also think you should focus on places to go on the main roads, and there are scads of beautiful and intriguing things to see.

If you had time in your short stay for a backcountry trip, I'd suggest Titus Canyon over the Racetrack because 1) there is much more to see; 2) it is about the same length one-way as the Racetrack but you don't have to return the same way; and 3) you can see 2 ghost towns: the major gold mining town of Rhyolite is not far from the entrance road to the canyon, and the ruins of Leadfield, a ghost town founded on a lead mine scam, are in Titus Canyon. If you stay at either Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells Village, Rhyolite is about 40 minutes away and you return the same way, not needing to drive a long way on the less dramatic and diverse Hwy 95.

Also, Death Valley Junction, which can be on your route from or back to Las Vegas, is a tiny ghost town. It was a borax mining settlement in the 1920s. The Amargosa Hotel and Opera House are the only active thing in town now, in the historic complex that contained the workers' living quarters and social hall.

When they think of ghost towns, most people think of the Mother Lode or other Western mining bonanzas. But a ghost town is simply a place that was once inhabited but is now entirely or mostly deserted. The usual reason is that the town had only one reason for its existence, and when it was gone, the people left. It might be that the ore played out, the wells or springs failed, the climate wiped out the town’s livelihood (like in the Dust Bowl), or the town was bypassed by the freeway or, in decades past, the railroad. Rhyolite and Death Valley Junction actually have a few residents, but they are ghost towns because the mining done there was replaced by more profitable sources elsewhere. But don’t forget that in its own way, Manzanar is also an example of a ghost town. It wasn’t founded on high hopes or ambitions, and no one moved there because they wanted to (with one notable exception, Ralph Lazo). You will see foundations of what the residents transformed from a bare piece of desert acreage surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers into a lively community with schools, baseball teams, churches, performances, and the largest hospital of its day between Reno and Los Angeles. But if Manzanar is one of your main reasons for flying to California, I have a feeling you already know a lot of its story.

Many car rental agencies in towns outside DV have provisions in their contracts that you will not take their vehicles off pavement, and if you do, you are responsible for any damage, towing or repair charges, etc. This includes 4wds, which are often equipped with regular street tires that are fine for gravel, wet or snowy pavement, or other light-duty use but not for true backcountry travel. If you to decide to do any backcountry trips in DV and want a vehicle that you know will be OK, Farabee’s rents Jeep Wranglers at FC Inn from fall to spring. They are fully outfitted for the boonies and Farabee’s furnishes maps, travel tips, and ice.

Also, since you will be going through Lone Pine, check out that forum or do a search on the DV forums, because it is a fine little town with some things that might interest you.

Destination Expert
for Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park
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4. Re: Vegas to Palm Desert in April

As a sidenote, if you don't have hotel reservations yet for April in Palm Desert, you will want to do that soon, especially if you will be there on any one of three weekends. There are 2 Coachella concerts and a Stagecoach concert that take alot of available rooms.

If you plan to return to Vegas from Palm Desert, try driving the back route thru the Mojave Preserve via Joshua Tree NP and a section of Route 66.




5. Re: Vegas to Palm Desert in April

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