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Route from Palm Desert to Las Vegas through Death Valley

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 196
reviews: 100
Route from Palm Desert to Las Vegas through Death Valley

What is the best way to see DV's attractions when traveling between PD and LV. I have booked 2 nights at the FC Resort. Should we go to Scotty's castle on the second day and return to FC for the night or go on the third day and go directly to LV from the castle? We will be traveling in January. Thank you

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
posts: 43,951
reviews: 80
1. Re: Route from Palm Desert to Las Vegas through Death Valley

Did you see the replies on your other thread? .tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g143021-i2027-k5824796

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 11,634
reviews: 45
2. Re: Route from Palm Desert to Las Vegas through Death Valley

I’d suggest going to Scotty’s the second day and returning to Furnace Creek for the night. If you went to the Castle on the third day, you would be driving 50 miles north of Furnace Creek, in the opposite direction from Las Vegas. So in addition to the time you spend at the Castle, you’ll also add 100 miles or so over the distance from Furnace Creek.

I’m not sure exactly what order you’ve decided on for your sightseeing, but if you have a good part of Day 2 to spend on the Castle trip, you can also include Ubehebe Crater and the west end of Titus Canyon. Ubehebe Crater is a volcanic site about 10 miles from the Castle, on a marked road north of the (unstaffed) Grapevine entrance station. It was created by a volcanic implosion and you’ll see volcanic pumice soil and rocks all around. It’s possible to hike into the crater and back, or around the rim. Titus Canyon is a drive-through where 4wd and/or high clearance is often needed due to road and weather conditions, but you can drive to the west end in any vehicle, park, and walk wherever you like. The canyon walls are narrow and sheer, and show the effects of flashfloods in the desert.

Another side trip, a bit farther, is Rhyolite ghost town. It’s about 60 miles from Scotty’s Castle and 40 miles from Furnace Creek. It is one of the more extensive remaining ghost towns in the DV area, with substantial stone and concrete ruins and foundations. If you don’t want to go that far, you could go to the Sand Dunes that same day; they are only about 7 miles west of the junction of Hwy 190 and Castle Road.

If you have all of Day 2 for the Castle trip, you could include most or all of these other places. If you wait until Day 3, as I said above, you’ll drive farther and have less time for sightseeing, and the ride to Las Vegas afterward will be much longer.

If you do decide to go to the Castle on the third rather than second day, you can go to Las Vegas on Hwy 95 via Beatty and see Rhyolite, which is 5 miles west of Beatty. Other than that, there’s no scenic advantage to Hwy 95. It isn’t ugly, but it’s monotonous compared to Death Valley. This is another good reason to visit the Castle on the second day. You can savor the more dramatic DV scenery on the Castle round trip, have a relaxing last evening at Furnace Creek, and still have a few hours in the morning if you wish, to catch anything you missed or want to revisit around central Death Valley. Las Vegas is about 2 hours from Furnace Creek, so yo could do some final exploring and get to town at a reasonable time and not be fatigued.

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 196
reviews: 100
3. Re: Route from Palm Desert to Las Vegas through Death Valley

Thanks Frisco for the information. I guess I need to be spoon fed. I read the other threads but couldn't put the information together. I didn't realize there was enough to do around Scotty's to fill up most of the day. If we park at the west end of Titus Canyon, how far would we walk to reach the narrow, sheer canyon walls? I am good for two to three miles round trip.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 11,634
reviews: 45
4. Re: Route from Palm Desert to Las Vegas through Death Valley

You needn’t walk 2-3 miles to see the walls; they start almost as soon as you walk into the canyon mouth. It’s almost startling how quickly you are in shade, looking at the high walls. The narrowest point in the canyon is only about a quarter mile in, and not much farther on, you’ll see breccia walls, or rock surfaces broken into gigantic blocks by heat or some other geological process.

Just outside the mouth is a trail to Fall Canyon, which branches off north from Titus. I don’t recall the trail ever being marked, but it’s hard to miss. From the trailhead, it’s about a mile to the narrow entrance, then you are in a steep, high gorge with shades of red, brown, and yellow, and still other stupendous landscapes beyond there. Some people consider Fall Canyon one of the most colorful and spectacular hikes in the park. This is considered a moderate hike and it’s a tight fit to do it on the same day as the Castle, Ubehebe Crater, and maybe Rhyolite. I would prefer to have a half day for Fall Canyon; it would be perfect as part of a day-long 4wd trip through Titus Canyon.

Most visitors are delighted enough to see the dramatic Titus Canyon narrows and the unique Ubehebe Crater, the product of a steam explosion from groundwater coming in contact with molten magma (not a conventional eruption). Ubehebe (“you-be-he-be”) is from the Timbisha Shoshone phrase for “basket in the rock.”

Since Titus is driveable from east to west, you may encounter traffic as you walk into the west end. It won't be moving very fast, and the narrow, high canyon allows you to hear vehicles before they are close enough to be a hazard.

Also, remember that the Scotty’s Castle tour is about an hour long, the last one starts at 4:00 p.m., and the grounds close at 5:30. And in January, you’ll have less than 12 hours between sunrise and sunset, so work that into your sightseeing plans.

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 196
reviews: 100
5. Re: Route from Palm Desert to Las Vegas through Death Valley

Wow! Frisco, you are an expert on DV. Thank you for the reply. The Fall Canyon hike sounds great. I will have to do some planning. Yes, I was considering the short day light hours of January. We will need to be on the road early. I read about some good places to watch the sunset. Where do you recommend? The closer to FC the better. Thanks,

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 11,634
reviews: 45
6. Re: Route from Palm Desert to Las Vegas through Death Valley

For sunset, Zabriskie Point is a good nearby spot; it's about 5 miles from the Ranch. Dante's View is a mite more dramatic, but it is a 50-mile round trip. If you wanted, you could go there for sunset and then hang out for a few hours for stargazing. Take warm coats, because it will be cold; the rule of thumb is that every 1000' of elevation change translates to as much as 5ºF temperature difference, and Dante's View is 5475' above sea level. If you do this, you will notice a dull glow to the southeast; that is not an natural phenomenon, but the lights of Las Vegas, about 85 straight-line miles away.

The Sand Dunes are about 22 miles from FC, and the setting (or rising) sun creates dramatic shadow patterns.

One of the places near FC that is best seen in afternoon is Artist's Palette. The colors in the hillside are from mineral oxides like manganese, copper, iron, and others, which have dyed the rock green, pink, purple, and black. The hillside faces west and you can see the colors anytime, but they are more vivid when the sun is low, a couple of hours before sunset.

Chicago, Illinois
posts: 196
reviews: 100
7. Re: Route from Palm Desert to Las Vegas through Death Valley

Thank you for the advice. I will definitely keep your suggestions in mind. The upside of January is that we can see the sunset and then go to dinner at a reasonable hour. Thanks again.

8. Re: Route from Palm Desert to Las Vegas through Death Valley

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