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Thinking About a Trip in Late March

Illinois
posts: 1,063
reviews: 51
Thinking About a Trip in Late March

We are thinking about a late March trip to Death Valley, flying into Las Vegas and probably staying at Furnace Creek. We would have six nights, and the better part of the arrival and departure days. A few questions...

We would be renting a car, and being a fairly cautious person, I would not be taking it off paved roads. I know there are a lot of great things to see, but is there enough to see for several days without getting off road? Is there a list of what attractions are on paved roads and which are not? I would consider renting a jeep, but because of the cost, not for more than one day. What would be the best things to see on that one jeep day?

I'm not so sure that I would want to spend all six nights there, so thinking about a few days at Joshua Tree. Is this worth the drive? Another option would be to spend some time at Death Valley along with a few days at Zion. (We've been there three times and loved it).

Thanks!

Encinitas...
Destination Expert
for Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park
posts: 12,518
reviews: 7
1. Re: Thinking About a Trip in Late March

You could combine Joshua Tree and DV, and on the drive in between, you will go right thru the Mojave Preserve.Big dunes like DV and more Joshua Trees than Joshua Tree NP.

www.nps.gov/moja

A few days at Zion would be nice too!

Edited: 8:00 pm, November 03, 2012
San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 10,515
reviews: 41
2. Re: Thinking About a Trip in Late March

Late March will be beautiful in Death Valley! From early March (sometimes late Feb depending on weather) until May, there should be wildflowers somewhere in the park. Elevations vary from below sea level (limited vegetation) to thousands of feet above sea level, so the wildflower season moves higher as the weather warms up. It’s impossible to foresee how abundant the flowers will be and where they will appear at any time, because it’s influenced by the amount and timing of the winter rainfall.

All of the roads to major natural wonders and historic sites are paved or unpaved but well maintained gravel or hard dirt. The main roads are all paved (Hwy 190, a state road; North Highway aka Castle Road; Badwater Road, Daylight Pass, Mud Canyon, Beatty Cutoff, and Emigrant-Wildrose Road except for 3 miles which is graded gravel). There are roads that are not paved but are fine for any ordinary car driven carefully: Devil’s Course, Natural Bridge, 20 Mule Team Canyon, Salt Creek (a must-see in spring), Mosaic Canyon, and Wildrose Charcoal Kilns are the main ones. Emigrant-Wildrose, Artist’s Drive, 20 Mule Team Canyon, and Dante’s View Road have 25’ length limits because of tight turns or sharp dips. If you plan to have a regular automobile, this won’t be an issue. You will want to take it easy on graded gravel roads mainly to prevent flat tires.

You can rent a Jeep Wrangler from Farabee’s at Furnace Creek Inn if you want to take a backcountry day trip. Unlike many city rental agencies that rent 4wds but hae regular street tires and tell you not to drive off pavement (kind of defeats the purpose, eh?), Farabee’s has heavy-duty tires and encourages guests to play in the dirt. They rent by the day, starting at $175, and include maps, trip ideas, and a chest of ice.

For first time visitors, the backcountry trip I would suggest is Titus Canyon. It starts from east of Death Valley, near the ghost town of Rhyolite, which is worth seeing. Titus Canyon has beautiful colors and rock formations, higher elevation plants, a ghost town founded on a lead mining scam, petroglyphs, a chance to see bighorn sheep if you go early in the day and are very lucky, and sheer, high walls at the west end that show the power of flashfloods in the desert. Titus is not extremely difficult, but once on it, you are committed; it’s one-way and you cannot turn back.

After you have time to digest the initial replies you’ll be getting, I’ll have other backcountry ideas.

If you’ve been to Zion before, I’d suggest other side trips to see something new. Handy side trips near Las Vegas and Death Valley, which you could do on the way to DV, include Red Rock Canyon or Hoover Dam. To the west of Death Valley is another Red Rock Canyon, a California state park on Hwy 14. If you go there, you’ll pass through the interesting mining and mineral processing town of Trona, where salts harvested off the ancient Searles Lake bed are refined for the chemicals. Just south of town is Trona Pinnacles, a dry area that was once under the prehistoric Searles Lake and now has great mineral spires called tufa (similar to the more famous Mono Lake tufa). Not far from Trona, on a paved county road, are the late 19th-early 20th century mining settlements of Randsburg, Johannesburg, and Atolia. Randsburg is the most extensive and interesting and even has functioning hotels, shops, and an eatery or two; being there is like being in your own Western movie.

Another worthwhile place to visit is Lone Pine, on Hwy 190 about 2 hours west of Furnace Creek. It could keep you occupied for more than a day. I spend a lot of time in the DV area, but when I was working in the park in the summer, I went to Lone Pine and stayed over on one of my weekends. Just east of town is a fine visitor center for the whole eastern Sierra Nevada and northern Mojave Desert. Mt. Whitney is just west of town, and you can drive partway to the base camp where the climb starts (in March, the last stretch at the top may have snow). It’s 8 miles from Lone Pine. On this road, only 2 miles from town, is the Alabama Hills, a popular movie filming area; you may recognize some landscapes from your favorite Westerns or adventure pictures. In Lone Pine is a movie museum that celebrates Hollywood’s close relationship with the Sierra and Mojave. Ten miles north of town is Manzanar, one of the WWII internment camps for American citizens of Japanese descent. and now a national historic site. As the gateway town to two of America’s greatest natural marvels and also to the eastern Sierra, Lone Pine has plenty of visitor services.

3. Re: Thinking About a Trip in Late March

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