Death Valley Tourism Tips
Independent Travel Tips for the professional at Leisure
If you hunger for the magnificent desolation of the desert,
head for the vast emptiness of the Death Valley National Park. A photographers
Mecca, Death Valley is a short 2.5 hour drive from Las Vegas. Along the route
you can visit charming towns like Parump and gawk at the casinos and legal whore
houses that dot the highway.
||If you want to stay a few days in Death Valley you have
only one real option, an Art Deco oasis with the inviting name of Furnace Creek
Furnace Creek Inn is nestled in the foothills of the scenic
Funeral Mountains in Death Valley, hand built from local stones in 1927. The
Inn is a true oasis, and includes a babbling brook of hot water (geothermal, not
heat induced) and a grove of 70 year-old palm trees. The hotel architecture is
fascinating, a massive well-built resort that you cost over $100 millions
dollars to build today. In the fall and winter months, you can warm yourself
on the naturally heated pool and enjoy the warmth of massive a pinion wood
fireplace near the pool!
The rooms are moderately priced ($300 per night), and the
Inn is charming but itís not a ďresortĒ in the traditional sense, with small
beds, sporadic plumbing and a mediocre restaurant. For food, we recommend a
trip down the hill to the Furnace Creek. The nearly Furnace Creek ranch has a
steakhouse and diner. The diner has wonderful breakfasts with outstanding hash
browns, and local sausage and bone-in ham cutlets.
If you go
I used to teach classes at nearby China Lake, and Death
Valley was a nice weekend trip, so Iíve visited the area during different
seasons and these are my recommendations for a good time in Death Valley. The
Death Valley high season is during the summer months when hoards of foreign
tourists invade the area, driving up prices and forcing the local eateries to go
to automatic tipping.
Seeking Quiet and Solitude? Ė The best time of year
to visit Death Valley is between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The crowds are
gone, the temperature is pleasant, and the golf cannot be beat (see more about
Furnace Creek Golf course here).
Feeling Hot Hot Hot? - If you want the experience of
frying an egg on the hood of your car or feeling your sneakers melting into the
rocks beneath you, visit Death Valley in July and August. Kids love it, and
itís safe so long as you pump some salt pills into them and insist that they
drink at least a pint of water per hour. Iím not kidding when I say that your
shoes will melt! Summer temps are regularly over 120 degrees and the ground is
about 80 degrees hotter that the air temperature. This is the peak of the
tourist season, so make your reservations several months in advance, and be
prepared to share your solitude with hoards of pushy foreign tourists.
Feeling Artsy? - If you like to paint and
photograph, and winter months are the best. Your oil paints will turn the
consistency of turpentine on the heat of the day, and forget about a watercolor
wash. In the winter you can catch the sunrise and sunset light at reasonable
hours (7:00 AM and 4:30 PM respectively), the temperature is moderate, and the
great unwashed are long gone.
Sports Anyone? Ė In you want to play the worldís
lowest golf course, play tennis at Furnace Creek Resort or take-in the hiking,
the non-summer months are ideal.
||Pets are welcome in Death Valley, but you must be careful not to let
them roam. Even on a leash, scorpions and knife-sharp rocks can be
dangerous, not to mention the Coyotes that prowl the area.
Death Valley Travel Tips:
Arrive at McCairn airport in Las Vegas and overnight at one
of the nice resorts before beginning your sojourn into the vast emptiness of the
desert. If you want to see the Raceway, make sure to rent a Jeep. (You donít
need the 4WD, but you must have a high-clearance vehicle)
There is no cell service and the only Internet hot-spot
within 50 miles is at the Death Valley Museum, where the hardcore web surfers
set-up on folding tables and chairs.
Death Valley National Park is the largest park in the
continental USA, over 3 million acres of spectacular desolation. Donít miss Old
Dinah, an ancient steam engine outside of Furnace Creek Ranch. Beware, much of
the parkís areas of interest arenít all that interesting, and I recommend these
Badwater - The lowest point in America
Devils Golf course
- Itís a vast expanse of pure table salt, gleaming white, and a small
puddle where some endangered snails hang out. The Devils golf course is a salt
flat where unique salt sculptures are created.
The Devils golf course
Danteís point and the Artists Palate - This is the
place where the photographers and artists gather at sunset to watch the fading
light dance off of the unworldly landscapes. The artists palate is a cliff area
of muted red and green tones (the green from copper ore deposits), and itís
amazing at sunset.
The Racetrack - The racetrack is a fascinating place
where rocks move mysteriously across the desert floor, but it requires a high
clearance vehicle (Hummer of Jeep) for the grueling 28 mile drive on a bad
gravel road. I think itís the tiny earthquakes that happen almost every day in
If you take the 20 minute ride south of Furnace creek to
Badwater you will note the highly visible fault line that ruins parallel at the
base of the Funeral Mountains.
This area surrounding Death Valley sees mini earthquakes
which cannot he seen or heard, but you will get a felling of extreme dizziness
and nausea as the land shifts silently you! People who work in the China lake
area have those hanging ball toys which sway, indicating a minor tremor.
The Furnace Creek golf course,
the worldís lowest
golf course is 214 feet below sea level, and itís ranked as one of the worldís hardest golf
courses because of the extreme heat (which can reach 130 degrees) and the unique
way that golf balls travel below sea level.