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Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

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Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

My husband and I are planning to visit Palm Springs, Death Valley, Joshua Tree NP and surrounding NP and deserts for 12 days in end Sept/Oct.

We are from Europe and we went to Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, Page, Zion NP and deserts near Las Vegas a few yrs ago and were very impressed with the sceneries so we booked a trip to see the deserts and national parks again.

Could you please suggest some deserts and NP nearby and an itinerary for us? We do not want to drive more than 2 hrs per day, if possible, from one NP to another.

Is it enough just to stay in Death Valley for 2 days?

Many thanks.

Celine

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1. Re: Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

Only wanting to drive two hours per day is going to throw a big wrench in the plans. The parks are pretty distant from each other, and Death Valley is huge,and takes a lot of driving to see.

Where do you plan to fly into? LA or Vegas?

LA to Palm Springs is about 2 hours with no traffic. Can be upwards of four with traffic.

PS to JTNP is about an hour, or a little more depending on which entrance you go in.

www.nps.gov/jotr

JTNP to Furnace Creek in Death Valley is about 5 hours via the Mojave Scenic Preserve.There is no place to stay in the preserve, so you are stuck with a longish drive.If you want to stay near the preserve, there is lodging in Baker, where I would never recommend anyone staying,Primm Nevada, or the historic Nipton Motel.

www.nps.gov/moja

PS to Vegas is about 4.5 to 5 hours via the preserve and JTNP to Vegas is about 3.5 hours.

You could easily spend several days in Death Valley alone. Furnace Creek is about 2.5 hours from Vegas.

The other entrance to DV near Beatty is about 2 hours from Vegas also.

I did a nice loop over new years, with two days visiting Death Valley. I started near Palm Desert and drove to Lone Pine.(I think that took me 4+ hours??) Saw the movie museum and drove thru DVNP to Beatty. Next day drove from Beatty up Hwy 95 to Scottys Junction, saw the castle, Furnace Creek, Badwater, Dantes View and ended in Vegas. It was pretty much driving all day,and getting out of the car for 30 minutes at a time.

Here are pics of that route.

https:/…

https:/…

If you look thru the galleries section of that site you can get ideas of other places you may want to visit.

It really depends on what airport you want to fly into. At that time of year, I would consider exploring north of Lone Pine on 395 as it skirts the east side of the Sierra Mountains.Its an awesome drive.That would be in the Bodie section of that website.

Uden, The...
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2. Re: Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

You've come to the right place. This forum is full of desert buffs. Dez already gave great advice but it would help if you tell us where you are flighing to and from. That doesn't have to be the same place per se because renting a car in Ca, NV or Az often no drop off charges when the car is rented from Europe.

Tet

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3. Re: Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

Many thanks for the detailed information that you guys provided. Much appreciated for your effort and time.

We have booked the return tickets to LAX. Now I understand that it is such a long journey from JTNP or Palm Springs to Death Valley, I just wonder whether it is better if we take a flight in one of the destinations to cut short of our driving time. What is the best way to cut short our driving time from one destination to another as my husband is the only person who drives?

Another question is that we were overwhelmed by the beauty of majestic mountains and strange rock formations like the places we have been in the last trip. Because Death Valley is so large, I just start realising I did not see any majestic mountains in most of the photographs. Am I right?

Your advice will be most helpful.

Many thanks

Celine

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4. Re: Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

You will see some spectacular mountain ranges in DV, including the awesome Panamint range....it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and I recommend at least 3 days there to fully explore it.

Encinitas...
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5. Re: Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

The only way to cut your driving time, is to fly.

You could see Palm Springs and JTNP, then fly from PS to Vegas. Those flights tend to be incredibly expensive, and you would miss the Mojave Preserve.

You could drive back to LA from PS then fly to Vegas.By the time you do all that, you could have driven from PS to Vegas. Really makes no sense to do that.

If you want to see all these places, there are times when you just have to commit to a 4-5 hour drive, or stay in some obscure place at some midway point.The problem is the parks are remote,with tiny airfields, that don't have any commercial airline service.

There are plenty of mountains in DV.Telescope Peak is 11,000 feet. You can see that in the picture, from the other mountain top at Dantes View.

That trip I did started in Lone Pine, at the base of the Sierra Nevada range. There are rock formations there in the nearby Alabama Hills, where all the movies were shot.

The drive north from Lone Pine is spectacular, if you like mountain ranges.At that time of year the colors should be turning in the mountains.

https:/…MammothTiogaPassBodie

You can also check the Death Valley National Park Forum for more ideas.Someone just posted pictures of a bike/ hike up Telescope Peak.

Edited: 01 March 2012, 18:57
Cuenca, Ecuador
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6. Re: Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

Hello Celine, and welcome to the Palm Desert forum.

You'll have to pardon me at the moment. . . quite occupied with a work project. I have some ideas, looking at your post and what you've mentioned about yourself and your previous likes. I too have spent quite some time in Monument Valley, Utah, Page, Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. All of that makes a wonderful enjoyable and very scenic vacation. The areas under your consideration this trip are not the same exactly, though they are deserts indeed. Worth your while? YES! But "apples" and "oranges". . . can't compare the two areas the same.

Many thanks to dez, Tet and gingerale for their responses so far. This is a forum after all, and I am not the only one that has a viewpoint to offer here.

So give me a couple of days and I think I can come up with an essay response that will be worth the wait. Others on these desert area forums may already have an inkling. . . but I may well have a twist or two for them as well! Thanks in advance for your kind patience. Will return here. . . there's no need to fear! (wink)

Uden, The...
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7. Re: Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

Anza Borrego Desert SP is another desert park not to be missed. Also the Salton Sea area has several places to discover. And also the Salton Sea area has some remarkable places plus the Imperial Sanddunes. Maybe read this post by Dez.

tripadvisor.com/…39115698

For Death Valley, you easily can spend 3 full days and not see it all. It has several remote areas. One of those days it may be a good idea to rent a Jeep at Farabees and go off road like to the Racetrack. October is a better month for DV because less hot than september. October is our prefered time of the year for the desert visits.

Tet

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8. Re: Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

Congratulations on this trip! 12 days out in the desert. Fantastic! Way to go!

My first piece of advice is to get a good road map of Southern California. You want something you can spread out over the dining table and see half the state at once. This is where the deserts are. You'll be able to see where the towns are and develop an itinerary.

Drive only 2 hours? How about drive 2 hours, go hiking for 2 hours, then drive another 2 hours?

If you keep your post updated we'll all be able to contribute some important places. For starters I'd recommend the Calico Ghost town and Coachella Valley Preserve.

Thanks in advance, Underdog, for posting an essay. You'll blow the rest of us away. Your little twists are always excellent to read.

The deserts will be about 100 degrees (or more) temperature in September. Just so you know.

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9. Re: Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

I am very grateful for all your detailed information. Although I have been doing some research yet nothing is more helpful than getting information from the local communities and expertise.

We would like to see a varieties of landscapes (like our last trip). Now I realised not all deserts are the same and we would really like to see some majestic and strange rock formations, canyons and deserts.

Can we walk for 1/2 hr in Death Valley in the first week in October? We read different temperatures in different books re DV, does it mean some parts are hotter than others?

Please give me more information so I can plan a better and more realistic journey.

I am patient and waiting.

Thanks a million!

Celine

Cuenca, Ecuador
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10. Re: Itinerary for 12 days visiting Death Valley & surroundings

OK Celine, I'm back from my paying (and nonpaying) diversions. Let's see if I can come up with a way for you two to enjoy your vacation with us.

As dez and Danny mentioned, the deserts of California are vast and take time to travel through. You previously took a National Park adventure tour including Las Vegas, Grand Canyon National Park, Page, Arizona, Monument Valley, Utah, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, and Zion National Park, Utah. The travel time and distances for this trip as I just described (the way you took that tour may vary from mine) are from a ground transportation perspective these: Las Vegas to Grand Canyon South Rim 275 miles, 4 hours 12 minutes. Grand Canyon to Page (exiting the park at Desert View) 137 miles, 2 hours 16 minutes. Page to Monument Valley 122 miles, 1 hour 54 minutes. Monument Valley back to Page (unavoidable backtrack) 122 miles, 1 hour 54 minutes. Page to Bryce Canyon 151 miles, 2 hours 30 minutes. Bryce Canyon to Zion National Park (some backtracking along US 89 to Mt. Carmel Junction) 73 miles, 1 hour 19 minutes. Zion National Park to Las Vegas 172 miles, 2 hours 53 minutes. (All data courtesy Bing Maps) Total miles and time: 1,053 miles and 16 hours 56 minutes. If taken as a seven day or seven segment tour (which I would not by any stretch of the imagination. . . the Grand Canyon deserves at least one overnight and two full days minimum imho) you'd have average mileage of 150 miles a day and average time of 2 hours, 25 minutes. Average speed would be 62 miles an hour without any stops.

Compare/contrast the above with the following: Los Angeles to Palm Springs 124 miles, 1 hour 53 minutes.59 miles, 1 hour 11 minutes. Joshua Tree National Park via Mojave National Preserve to Death Valley National Park 227 miles, 3 hours 58 minutes. Death Valley National Park to Ridgecrest 135 miles, 2 hours 23 minutes. Ridgecrest to Lone Pine 79 miles, 1 hour 18 minutes. Lone Pine to Mojave via Red Rock Canyon State Park 114 miles, 1 hour 47 minutes. Mojave to Agua Dulce 53 miles, 48 minutes. Agua Dulce to Los Angeles 51 miles, 50 minutes. Total miles and time: 842 miles, 14 hours, 8 minutes. If taken as an eight day or leg trip, this would average out to be 105 miles a day and one hour 45 minutes a day driving time. Average speed would be just shy of 60 miles an hour with no stops.

Data ( and proposed itinerary clues) out of the way, you can see these two trips are not the exact same thing. The biggest difference is you have that Joshua Tree National Park to Death Valley National Park leg of the trip which cannot be shrunk. Of course, you could fly from Palm Springs to Las Vegas - like Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra did - and rent a car (hire a car) there and enter Death Valley that way. . . but as dez pointed out already, you are missing some excellent sights and adventures in a very different kind of desert compared to what you saw last time. By missing the Mojave National Preserve, you are missing the main symbol of the Mojave Desert. . . the Joshua tree. One of the largest concentrations of Joshuas in the Mojave Desert is found near Cima Dome. I'm used to the tree myself - we have plenty of the tree out here - but for a Londoner you would be fascinated. I oughta know. I've taken international travelers from all over the world here in my days as a charter tourcoach driver.

Did you know that Kelso, where the Mojave National Preserve park headquarters is located, was a train depot? Kids grew up with their parents there as their fathers were working for the railroad. Back in "olden times" in my lifetime. . . not so long ago really. . . you could not view television there at all! The geographic isolation meant that the Los Angeles or Las Vegas television antennas did not reach them. This led to a local culture among the Kelsonians (there's a newly coined term!) of reading books and listening to the radio. Very much like how kids grew up before World War II. Not at all current with the rest of California. Sure, video VHS tapes and such made it to Kelso in due time, but not live or programmed from a television station shows. Growing up in Kelso was different, and the children who grew up there still remember that. . . and remember the silence, the reflection. . . the awareness of something or someone bigger than themselves. This is what they experienced. Very different from where you live in London, UK, true? If so, as a traveler, I'd give such a place as Kelso a chance to give you some of that same perspective. Also, you may camp in the Preserve if desired and as space is available. In the time frame you are visiting - late September and early October - this is an ideal time to sleep out under the stars. . . just as lil' ol' me did when I was a pup! (grin)

More itinerary ideas in my next post.

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