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DVJ to Mamouth Lakes

London, United...
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DVJ to Mamouth Lakes

Hi

As part of part lifetime road trip in September this year, we plan to stop overnight at the Longstreet inn at DVJ, spend the next day exploring Death Valley before an overnight at Furnance Creek Ranch, the following day driving to Mamouth Lake, arriving around 16:00.

We are both in our early 60s, realise the weather will be hot, but wish to see the top sights without to much hiking. I reccon no more than 1 mile hike in that heat.

My Questions, read so much Im confused. Whats the best itinary through Death Valley, best places to stop and view and what to see?

Thanks

San Francisco
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1. Re: DVJ to Mamouth Lakes

Are your accommodations at Longstreet and Furnace Creek engraved in stone?

If you chose Longstreet with the idea that it was in Death Valley Junction, be aware that it is actually about 10 miles north of DVJ in a place called Amargosa Valley. This is not a quaint historic settlement like Death Valley Junction itself, a ghost town with a handful of occupants that started life as a borax mining town in the 1920s. Amargosa Valley is merely the center of a farming region with nothing else for visitors except the hotel/casino, and the area is relatively uninteresting and undramatic compared to DVJ or much of the area around the park.

Furnace Creek is on the east side of Death Valley. It is OK as a one-night base for exploring the park, and you’ll be able to see all the main places of interest in the eastern and southern parts of DV: Dante's View, 20 Mule Team Canyon, Zabriskie Point; the natural wonders along Badwater Road (Devil's Golf Course, Badwater, Artist's Drive, and maybe Golden Canyon); and the Furnace Creek area (the park visitor center, Furnace Creek Ranch resort, Harmony Borax Work).

Since your preceding night is so close to the park, it’s possible that you'd have time to explore past Furnace Creek. If you were to go much farther beyond, e.g. to the Mesquite Sand Dunes about 25 miles farther, you would then be backtracking to your lodgings for the night. Just FYI, there is another park resort near the Sand Dunes, Stovepipe Wells Village. If you stayed there, you could go to the Sand Dunes for either sunset or the next day's sunrise, and you would be a bit closer to Mammoth Lakes. The actual distance is negligible, since Mammoth is only about 4 hours from Furnace Creek. but JSYK. And backtracking in Death Valley simply means you get to enjoy the same scenery from a different angle in different light conditions, which is always beautiful.

One big "plus" of staying at FC is that you could go to Zabriskie Point for sunset, or even back to Dante's View if you’re inclined to (about a 50 mile round trip from FC). From SPW, there isn't a higher elevation view spot for sunset within a reasonable drive.

On your first morning from Longstreet, you would go south on NV Hwy 373 (it will become CA Hwy 127) to DVJ, then Hwy 190 into the park. Dante’s View is the first major sight on your way. You will see a wayside kiosk on the road just before the turnoff, with an automated pay station for your park entrance fee (credit cards only, no cash or park passes accepted). You need not use any of the automated stations if your intent is to pay the fee at the Visitor Center, and you are welcome to sightsee on the way.

After Dante's, 20 Mule Team Canyon and Zabriskie are on your way. Shortly after Zabriskie, you reach Badwater Road junction and Furnace Creek Inn, an ornate Spanish style hotel built in in 1920s. You could go down Badwater Road at this point, but my suggestion is to stay on 190 and go to the Visitor Center first. This gives you a break from the car and a chance to see the park exhibits and movies, talk to real park staff, and maybe buy a book, some postcards, or other keepsakes. (There is a post office at the resort, with retail hours only on weekdays, so if your stay is over a weekend, bring correct stamps for your postcards). Then return south to Badwater Road and see the natural wonders I mentioned earlier, which are all in the first 17 miles of the road south of the Furnace Creek area.

More later, on the western part of DV and the ride to Mammoth, and some warm-weather hiking ideas, from me or other TAs who join us.

London, United...
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2. Re: DVJ to Mamouth Lakes

WOW Frisco_Roadrunner, you certainly know the area. Thank you soo much for all the good tips and suggestions. Staying at Longstreet Inn rather than the Opera house cos the Opera house gets really bad reports.

Going to stick to your route for the east part on 1st day. Any suggestions for death valley west on day 2. Also is it worth looking at Bishop or anywhere else on way up to Mammoth lakes?

Thanks

San Francisco
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3. Re: DVJ to Mamouth Lakes

OK, just so you're aware you are not actually staying in the historic hamlet of Death Valley Junction. Some people look for that historic ambience. The hotel is from the 1920s when the Pacific Coast Borax Co. had a railroad depot where borax was shipped out, and the hotel was the employee housing. The Opera House was originally the social hall. The whole complex has been in the process of restoration for 50 years, and it is very basic. Not a flophouse, but not the Ritz.

After you leave Furnace Creek to head north, the main places of interest in the park are Harmony Borax Works (or close enough to go on your first day), Salt Creek, Devil's Cornfield, the Mesquite Sand Dunes, Mosaic Canyon, and Father Crowley Vista Point.

Salt Creek is an intermittent stream, dry in the fall. When it's running, it's the home of a species of pupfish that descended from a prehistoric fish that inhabited much of the Mojave Desert when much of it was covered by an inland sea. As the Earth's climate warmed up, the water evaporated and colonies of pupfish were trapped in isolated pockets of water that remained. They gradually evolved to adapt to their new homes, which now vary so much in elevation, climate, water salinity and mineral content, vegetation, etc. that none of the species could live outside its present habitat. The Salt Creek pupfish are active from spring to early summer, whenever the water goes down and the salt content is too high. But the area itself is always green and lush, which can be a surprise in the middle of the hottest place on Earth and the driest place in North America. You can drive there in any car, on a graded gravel road about 2 miles long.

Devil's Cornfield is an expanse in the sand dunes where arrowweed plants grow in formations that resemble a cornfield. The plants themselves look a bit like bushy cornstalks. The original inhabitants of the area were said to have used the firm, straight stem of the arrowweed to make arrow shafts. Just beyond this area is the parking lot for the Sand Dunes (marked by a sign on the road). If you go to the dunes in the morning, you can find tracks from nocturnal wildlife, which is almost everybody in the summer. You'll see prints from coyotes, kit foxes (clearly canine but less distinct than a dog or coyote, because kit foxes have fur on their soles for insulation and traction), birds, even beetles, which leave tracks that look like a zipper. The sidewinder rattlesnake makes tracks resembling a series of loose S shapes, because it doesn’t glide along the ground like most snakes. It moves in a springing motion, so only small patches of its body touch the hot ground at any time.

Between the Sand Dunes and Mosaic Canyon is Stovepipe Wells Village resort, smaller and more rustic than Furnace Creek. It has food, gas, and gift and grocery shops. If you need gas right away, the lowest prices in DV are here. Mosaic Canyon is a beautiful hike, and you need walk only 15-20 minutes to enjoy some of the fantastic colors, shapes, and textures. The road is graded gravel and generally OK for any car driven carefully. (Ditto for Devil's Golf Course, 20 Mule Team Canyon, Mustard Canyon, and Salt Creek). This canyon has white polished walls resembling marble, and broken rock surfaces that look a bit like mosaics. It and Golden Canyon are my favorites to recommend for newcomers because of the ease of access, beautiful colors and formations close to the trailhead, and options to go farther and higher if you wish.

The third park resort is Panamint Springs, half an hour west of SPW. The food is very good, the view from the patio is gorgeous, and the gas is expensive (but if you run low between Stovepipe and Lone Pine, it will save your tush). West of there is Father Crowley Vista Point, which looks overlooks a part of Panamint Valley called Rainbow Canyon (Panamint Valley is the next valley west of Death Valley, and the Panamint range is their common wall). To fully enjoy the view, take the short foot path beyond the parking lot. Father Crowley was a beloved priest of about the 1920s to the 1940s whose parish consisted of much of the Eastern Sierra Nevada, and on a Sunday he would often drive 200 miles or more to tend to his flock. Crowley Lake is also named for him. He was a peacemaker and a moderating influence during the "water wars" when Los Angeles was siphoning off the area's waters to fill its Aqueduct, when there was ill will, sabotage of aqueduct infrastructure, and actual violence between Los Angeles personnel and Inyo County residents. Fr. Crowley died in a one-car wreck on Hwy 395 outside Death Valley one Sunday night after a long, obviously exhausting day of ministering.

From Furnace Creek to Mammoth is about 4 hours. Every town along 395 has something for visitors. My personal favorite is Lone Pine, location of a fine visitor center (on Hwy 136 just east of 395), Mt. Whitney, the Alabama Hills movie filming area, a fun movie museum, a quaint downtown area, Manzanar historic site, and more (see the Lone Pine forum for details). Bishop is a good-sized town with all visitor services, including an Indian casino, but the word "quaint" doesn't come to my mind the way it does for Lone Pine or Independence. If, as I suspect, you're headed for Yosemite, my personal choice if you have spare time would be to look around Lone Pine, go up to the Alabama Hills and Whitney Portal, maybe even go to the movie museum (you could enjoy it in about 60-75 minutes), and then decide on entering each town if you want to explore (Hwy 395 goes through each town physically except for Mammoth). If I were to suggest one sightseeing stop in Bishop, it would be the Laws Railroad Museum. There is a collection of trains, but it's more than that. Old houses from the Owens Valley were collected and assembled into a “village” around the former railroad depot, with exhibits in the buildings. This is not right in town, but in a rural area on Hwy 6 just east of town where the Carson & Colorado RR used to run.

San Diego...
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4. Re: DVJ to Mamouth Lakes

Here's a photo travelogue: travelswithbillandnancy.com/eastern_sierras.…

Saratoga Springs...
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5. Re: DVJ to Mamouth Lakes

Do you have any plans to stop at Manzanar National Historic Site? My children have been collecting the parks' Civil War to Civil Rights trading cards. There are many parks that have their own cards and Manzanar is the only park they don't have. If you're stopping there it would mean the world to them if you could get them. Let me know and enjoy your trip.

San Francisco...
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6. Re: DVJ to Mamouth Lakes

Here's a compilation of some of the advice from regulars (including a new link to travels with Bill and Nancy): tripadvisor.com/Travel-g28926-c182361/Califo…

7. Re: DVJ to Mamouth Lakes

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