We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

One-day route suggestions

Goldfield, Nevada
Level Contributor
10,752 posts
33 reviews
Save Topic
One-day route suggestions

The trip is this coming Saturday, April 26. We'll be starting in the morning from Tecopa, CA. And we have to be in Pahrump, NV by dark.

So, what can we see of Death Valley given that time frame? I've never been to DV before, so the famous sites are of interest to me: Badwater, Artist's Drive, Zabriskie Point, Dante's View.

Would a loop that included those be possible in one day? And are there other sites that would be along the same route that you recommend?

We won't be doing much hiking, just easy strolls from the car. But we are not against a short hike if it is worth it. And we will bring food for a "picnic at the gates of hell, though I t's forecast to be cooler than normal for this date.

Thanks for any suggestions and tips!

Mentioned in this post
Pahrump
Pahrump
Nevada
Badwater
Badwater
2,374 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Artist's Drive
Artist's Drive
1,412 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point
2,287 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Dante's View
Dante's View
1,881 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
Level Contributor
16,059 posts
51 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: One-day route suggestions

I'll be back later today to reply, since your trip is so soon. Other people might get here before then as well and give you suggestions.

Goldfield, Nevada
Level Contributor
10,752 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: One-day route suggestions

OK thank you.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
Level Contributor
16,059 posts
51 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: One-day route suggestions

As you may know if you read many of my posts, I typically don't suggest entering the park on Badwater Road for people with limited time, because it is longer and slower than the Death Valley Junction route. But in this case, I will suggest it because of your overall itinerary, starting in Tecopa and ending in Pahrump. The Badwater entrance to the park is practically a stone's throw from Tecopa. You'l make a loop trip where you can see some of the park' main features with minimal backtracking. My suggested trip will take you to the sites along Badwater Road, then the Furnace Creek area, and finally Hwy 190 east on the way out.

Go to Shoshone and if necessary, buy anything you want; there is one C-store gas station with prices that will make your hair stand on end, but the next services are over 70 miles away at Furnace Creek. Stay on Hwy 127 until it splits off for Badwater Road, which you’ll take (some maps call this CA 178 but that is not correct and it will not be signed thus). The 50-mile southern part of Badwater Road is lightly traveled, and the main sights are views and landscapes, not specific natural wonders. You'l see a small historic feature called Ashford Mill along the road, the shell of an ore smelter from the early 20th century. There are no mine sites nearby; those were high up in the Funeral Range to the east. The mine owners ordered cement to build the smelter and received far more than they needed, but it cost too much to return it so they simply built this thing like a fortress.

Enjoy the long-range views of the mountains as you continue north. The major natural wonders are in the northern 17 miles of the road, although you will see alluvial fans, turtlebacks, and promontories. As Badwater Road approaches the junction with Harry Wade Road (4wd; can be impassable if the Amargosa River is up), as it veers northward, you'll see Shoreline Butte to the west, on the east face of the Panamint Range. This terrace-looking feature marks the level of the prehistoric inland sea that once filled Death Valley. The promontory called Mormon Point is named for early pioneers, some veterans of the Mormon Battalion of the Mexican-American War, who explored Death Valley in the 1850s; one of them, Jefferson Hunt, was later among the founding fathers of San Bernardino. This promontory is an extension of Smith Mountain, which was not named for the Mormon prophet Joseph but for the Death Valley borax baron Francis Marion "Borax or Borax King" Smith.

The first major natural marvel you’ll come to is Badwater, the lowest point in North America at -282 feet. You can walk around anywhere. Enjoy the smooth white salt surfaces; taste the sodium chloride (mixed with other minerals like magnesium sulfate, sodium borate, and more, because after all, this is the low point in the continent and everything ends up here with nowhere else to go). There is life at Badwater, and the exhibits near the parking area will tell you what can live here. High on the rock face across the road is a sign showing sea level.

Natural Bridge is just north, a beautiful hike but one that will take some time. It's about a half mile walk from the parking lot to the bridge formation, and beyond it are more rock formations like grottos and dry falls. If you have to scratch something, this is one place I would consider optional. Devil's Golf Course is next (rough gravel road, OK for cars); it's a vast expanse of mud and salt pinnacles and crystals formed over eons of flooding and evaporation on the salt flats. It is a huge contrast to Badwater, where the surface is perfectly smooth and white. Artist's Drive (one way northbound) is next; the entire drive is colorful and scenic, and the highlight is Artist's Palette, where one small hillside has been dyed vivid green, pink, black, and purple by oxides of copper, iron, manganese, and other minerals.

Golden Canyon is a popular hike. You park at the canyon mouth and walk a few steps right into the canyon, where you’ll begin seeing the warm colors and eroded clay formations right away. You can go for a short walk or climb up to Zabriskie Point if you wish. Many people just go as far as Red Cathedral, an imposing rock wall that looks like its name; I'd guess it’s about a half mile in.

After Golden Canyon is the junction with Hwy 190. Stay on it for Furnace Creek Ranch and the park Visitor Center. Be sure to go to the VC to see the exhibits and movie, check out the store for maps, books, postcards, planispheres, stuffed toy roadrunners, and other goodies, and ask the nice people at the desk any questions. The Ranch has a couple of restaurants, a store, Borax Museum, and other amenities (but the Post Office retail counter is closed on weekends, so bring stamps if you will want to send postcards with a Death Valley postmark).

After Furnace Creek, you can continue north on 190 or return south and then east for Pahrump. North on 190 are Harmony Borax Works (historic borax refinery from the 1880s; 20 Mule Team wagon exhibit) and Salt Creek (habitat of the pupfish and an amazingly verdant oasis with birds, reptiles, and an occasional coyote even when the creek is too low and too briny for the fish). This late in the season, there may or may not be pupfish, but it's lush and green all year. The road is rough gravel, about 2 miles long, OK for cars. A few miles farther on 190 on are Devil’s Cornfield and the Mesquite Sand Dunes. The Cornfield is an area where arrowweed plants grow in formations resembling an Iowa cornfield, and the plant itself looks a bit like corn. The stalks are straight and sturdy, and it is said that the Native residents of Death Valley used them to make arrow shafts. You'll see the Sand Dunes far off as you approach. You can park anywhere if you are entirely out of the traffic lane, but there is a paved parking lot a couple miles beyond the Cornfield.

Stovepipe Wells Village resort and Mosaic Canyon (on of my very favorites, with smooth white marble-like canyon walls and broken rock surfaces resembling mosaics) are just west of the Dunes. You may or may not have time for all of these things, but fortunately you live in California so you can come to DV again. At any point after Furnace Creek, you could turn around on 190 and head for DV Junction and Pahrump. On 190 east are Zabriskie Point, 20 Mule Team Canyon, and Dante's View (13 miles of paved side road off the main highway and a must-see; 5475' above sea level and almost directly above Badwater, with a view of the salt flats, the surrounding ranges, the oasis of Furnace Creek, and several roads).

The bare-bones itinerary I gave you, Tecopa to Shoshone, Badwater Road all the way up to Furnace Creek, 190 east back to DVJ, and the county roads to Pahrump, will be about 150 miles, not counting anything north of Furnace Creek, scenic detours, or the short roads to Devil's Golf Course, Artist’s Drive, etc. If you go as far as the Sand Dunes or Stovepipe Wells, add another 50-55 miles round trip. The Dante's View round trip will add about 27 miles. If you do this itinerary with add-ons, the total distance (YMMV, since everyone's interests and styles vary) will be somewhere around 230-250 miles. If you need to be in Pahrump by dark, as opposed to a specific time on the clock, sunset will be around 6:30 p.m. with another half hour of civil twilight.

Mentioned in this post
Badwater
Badwater
2,374 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Pahrump
Pahrump
Nevada
Furnace Creek Campground
Furnace Creek Campground
71 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Devil's Golf Course
Devil's Golf Course
715 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Golden Canyon
Golden Canyon
508 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point
2,287 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Borax Museum
Borax Museum
106 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Harmony Borax Works
Harmony Borax Works
330 Reviews
Furnace Creek, CA
Stovepipe Wells Village
Stovepipe Wells Village
286 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Mosaic Canyon
Mosaic Canyon
456 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
California
California
United States
Dante's View
Dante's View
1,881 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Goldfield, Nevada
Level Contributor
10,752 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: One-day route suggestions

That is terrific! I will use this as a guide.

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply and for all the extra details.

San Diego...
Destination Expert
for San Diego
Level Contributor
22,216 posts
4 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: One-day route suggestions

Frisco_Roadrunner

Wow, you really know a lot about the history. 2 weeks ago tomorrow I was staying next door to the Country Store in Shoshone. My family went for a dedication ceremony at Resting Springs Ranch for The Old Spanish Road. There were 5 of us there that were direct descendants of the original pioneers. It was very interesting. And, all new to me I didn't know any of this until recently. And they also went on to pioneer Colton and San Bernardino. Agua Mansa (sp) I'm just learning about it but I have heard about Agua Mansa since I was a child.

Mentioned in this post
Goldfield, Nevada
Level Contributor
10,752 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: One-day route suggestions

My map book calls the road from Shoshone to Badwater "Jubilee Pass Road." Is that the road I will be taking?

Mentioned in this post
Badwater
Badwater
2,374 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Goldfield, Nevada
Level Contributor
10,752 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: One-day route suggestions

We will definitely do the loop as you suggest, at least as far north as Furnace Creek. I'm not sure if we will have time for anything further north than Furnace Creek on this trip. The Mesquite dunes, Salt creek, Devil's cornfield, Mosaic canyon and Stovepipe Wells interest me, but I think if we try to see too many sites on this trip it may end up being a rushed, photo-stop type of tour. I'd rather see fewer sites and enjoy them more and not feel rushed. And we are kind of bound by a schedule since we have an event to be at in Pahrump. So for this trip I think we will just stick with the basic loop, and another time go up and see the sites further north. Thank you for your great help!

Mentioned in this post
Furnace Creek Campground
Furnace Creek Campground
71 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Mosaic Canyon
Mosaic Canyon
456 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Pahrump
Pahrump
Nevada
Goldfield, Nevada
Level Contributor
10,752 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: One-day route suggestions

The drive on Artist's Drive takes about how long, on average? Including the stop at Artist's Pallette.

Mentioned in this post
Artist's Drive
Artist's Drive
1,412 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Goldfield, Nevada
Level Contributor
10,752 posts
33 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: One-day route suggestions

Also, on the road we will be entering DVNP, is there a staffed entrance gate where we pay the fee, or is it self-registration at a kiosk?

Thanks!

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
Level Contributor
16,059 posts
51 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: One-day route suggestions

Thank you, elizzie! I love Death Valley and the DV area, so learning about it comes naturally. :) I didn't know about Agua Mansa, but just looked up a little basic info, and it sounds like a fascinating story. Once a large settlement, now almost nothing left. The Old Spanish Trail in the Tecopa area is scenic and tranquil. If you ever go back, you can check out the China Ranch Date Farm (originally an alfalfa farm started by a 19th century Chinese miner who had worked for the borax company and never got around to leaving the area. The present owner is a descendant of a pioneer Shoshone family, the Browns.

sunrise, the road from Shoshone to Badwater is AKA Jubilee Pass. In any case, there should be a sign at the junction.

It's good that you realize the limitations of your trip and are choosing how to spend your time. We California residents have the luxury of being able to do this, since it's feasible for us to make another trip. People coming from another continent can't do that, and they don't always realize how enormous California is, or specific places in California (e.g. DVNP, which is the size of Luxembourg and Lebanon combined). On a future trip, you could enter the park from the west, coming up Hwy 14 and 395, and maybe including Red Rock Canyon State Park, Randsburg and the other nearby mining settlements, Lone Pine, Mt. Whitney, Manzanar, and other eastern Sierra places of interest.

The Artist's Drive trip will take about 20 minutes, plus whatever time you spend enjoying Artist's Palette.

There is no staffed entrance at any road into Death Valley. You will see automated fee machines at many locations, including Badwater, Zabriskie Point, and others. These take only credit cards; they are serviced by an outside contractor that doesn't want to mess with cash. You MAY use a machine, or you may wait and pay at the Visitor Center. Paying at the VC has advantages: you can take the opportunity to see the park movie and exhibits, gat an official park map (not dispensed at fee machines), have your questions answered by a ranger or someone like me, a VIP (Volunteer in Parks), purchase an annual America the Beautiful park pass (not available at the machines), fill your water bottle for free at a filtered water station, and best of all, every cent of your fee stays with the Park Service (the contractor who handles the fee machines gets a cut). It is OK to sightsee or drive on any park road before you pay your entrance fee, if your intent is to pay at the VC.

Mentioned in this post
Badwater
Badwater
2,374 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
California
California
United States
Red Rock Canyon State Park
Red Rock Canyon State...
85 Reviews
Cantil, CA
Lone Pine
Lone Pine
California Desert, CA
Sierra Lodge
Sierra Lodge
469 Reviews
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Artist's Drive
Artist's Drive
1,412 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA
Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point
2,287 Reviews
Death Valley National Park, CA