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Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

Kirkland, WA
posts: 22
reviews: 4
Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

I am trying to plan a trip to death valley from Las Vegas. We haven't booked flights/hotels so our plan is quite flexible. Currently thinking of a 7 - 10 day trip with 3-4 days in Death Valley.

I am travelling with my husband and my mom. My husband and I are in our 30s and love to hike and explore. We love the outdoors and sites like Scotty's castle don't really appeal to either of us. My mom is in her 60s and has some mobility issues (cant go on long/strenuous hikes. 1-2 miles are fine). She is fine spending a couple of hours at the visitor centers when we go on longer hikes.

I wanted to explore what are the must see's for a once in a lifetime trip to death valley for folks like us. We all like to see magnificent landscapes, desert wildlife, sunrises, sunsets, stargazing.

Are 4 days good enough to cover majority of Furnace Creek,

Scotty's Castle, Stovepipe wells and Panamint Springs Areas with say a hike or two each day.

What we have shortlisted from the NPS site:

Scotty's Castle: definitely want to visit racetrack and the moving rocks and the eureka dunes. Do you think we could fit in Ubehebe Crater as well in a single day here?

Stovepipe wells area: Mesquite Flat Dunes and Titus canyon look interesting. Is Salt Creek worth visiting in December if there is little chance of seeing pupfish? Can these be done in a day?

Furnace creek: Definitely want to go to badwater, Zabriskie point, Dante's View. Can we walk on the salt flats? Is Dante's view accessible in dec? Is Twenty Mule Team Canyon worth the drive? Golden Canyon, Artists drive, devils golf course also seem interesting and will try to do them if we have time.

Panamint Spring Areas: Lee Flat Joshua Trees, Charcoal Kilns and Aguereberry Point sound very interesting. Is Aguereberry point accessible in dec?

As you can see we almost want to cover everything in this trip (We love packed trips :-)) Is this doable or am I kidding myself due to distances and other factors.

What is the best way to see these from LasVegas (Vegas -> Furnace Creek -> Panamint Springs -> Scottys Castle?).

Any suggestions to stay? Thinking of renting a 4WD from Vegas.

What about food options for vegetarians in the park?

I know these are a lot of questions but would really appreciate some answers to help with my trip planning.

Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Dusseldorf
posts: 2,798
reviews: 328
1. Re: Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

First,, vegetarians have no trouble in the park. Either SPW or FC will have enough options to feed you.

You do not want to leave your Mom at the visitors center that long. If you stay at Furnace Creek Inn which is pricey there is plenty to keep her occupied while you are gone. If not, Furnace Creek Ranch and SPW both have pools, although only FC is spring fed warm water.

Death Valley is a hiker's paradise, so you will have to decide how to balance Mom with hiking.

See Frissy's many posts on where to stay. Just ask in the search box above.

IMHO you are trying to cover too much geography, and some roads are now closed or in bad shape. You need to check with the visitors center on which roads are passable. High clearance is more important than 4wd, and you need to understand that rental car companies do not allow their cars off road, which means you are going to have to decide what to do about a trip to the racetrack and some other places you mention.

ZB

Encinitas...
Destination Expert
for Zion National Park, Joshua Tree National Park
posts: 12,890
reviews: 8
2. Re: Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

If you want to rent a 4x4, Farrabees rents them right near Furnace Creek Inn. They expect you to use them off road as intended, unlike a normal car agency at the airport.

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 50,463
reviews: 42
3. Re: Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

I only would go to the racetrack with a Farrabees rental jeep. There are chances on flat tires with the razor sharp stones and you definitely are not allowed to bring any rental car from Las Vegas to it. The road to Ubehebe Crater is all paved.

A lesser known part of Death Valley is Ash Meadows. You can make a nice flat boardwalk stroll along the creek. Don't think there are pupfish that time of year either in Ash Meadows or Salt Creek.

Tet

Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Dusseldorf
posts: 2,798
reviews: 328
4. Re: Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

On the other hand, I regularly take rental cars to the racetrack Tet. But I am always prepared and willing to take the financial risk. Always carry two cans of fix a flat, a tire repair kit, a shovel, but mostly drive slowly and let road set your speed. Of couyrse, water, food, warm clothes just in case.

ZB

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
posts: 50,463
reviews: 42
5. Re: Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

You are much braver than I am ZB. We retraced our steps driving 10 miles on that road because we didnot want to take the risk anymore ;)

Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Dusseldorf
posts: 2,798
reviews: 328
6. Re: Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

Or more foolish Tet. But I agree that the best bet is to budget the Farabee's and take it where you wish, as it is built for it. But realize that even a Farabee's has rubber tires that if driven too fast on a washboard Racetrack road with sharp rocks, flat tires still can and do happen.

ZB

Camp Sherman, Oregon
posts: 502
7. Re: Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

Your for info, we rented a Hertz 4wd Rav4 in August for trip in Rocky Mountain NP. We took it on several gravel roads, including the Old Fall River Road. I think the key thing here is maintained, gravel roads. Check with the rental company about this. In my mind the roads to Racetrack and Eureka Dunes are "maintained". Something like Echo Canyon is not. Many rental vehicles(cars too) are on the road to Racetrack. Perhaps, as the time you will be there is a big visitation time, the roads hopefully will have been graded.

Four full days would be best. You could do Dantes View, Twenty Mule Canyon, Zabriskie Point, Devils Gold Course, Badwater, Natural Bridge, Artist Drive and Golden Canyon in one day or you could combine some of those closest to FC with Borax Works, Mustard Canyon, Salt Creek, etc. for another day. Another day could be Rhyolite, Titus Canyon, then perhaps fitting in Mosaic Canyon and Mesquite Dunes. Another day could be Eureka Dunes with Scotty's Castle. Another day could be Racetrack with Ubehebe Crater. Those last two combos are enough for one day each unless you have time to fit someing in on your way back to FC.

Take a look at a map and see what you can combine most efficiently if you can't fit certain places in a certain day. Zabriskie Point and Twenty Mule Team can always be combined with Borax Works, Mustard Canyon, Salt Creek as they are so close to each other. Right now Big Pine road to Eureka Dunes from the south is closed.

You will have to check with the Visitor Center every morning on conditions and accessibility. The areas up Panamint Springs are fine if open. I really like Eureka Mine and Aguereberry Camp, easy to get to.

All these places are worth going to. Check the morning report.

Kirkland, WA
posts: 22
reviews: 4
8. Re: Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

Thanks everyone for taking the time to answer my questions. After a bit of reading, contemplating and booking our trip is finally taking shape and there are quite a bit of changes from my initial plan :-)

We booked our trip from Dec 15 - Dec 21 from Seattle to Vegas.

DV: Dec 15 (Start for Death Valley around 10am) - Dec 18 (would like to be back to Vegas before dark)

Vegas: Rest of the time.

We booked 3 nights at SPW Village. We have booked a standard sedan from Vegas to DV. Our current itinerary is something like:

Day 1: Arriving to DV from Vegas

Leave LasVegas around 10am. Arrive at FC Visitor center at 2pm via Old Spanish Trail.

Visit FC Visitor center to determine ranger programs and discuss our plan

Sunset: Dante’s View

Day2: Furnace Creek Area

Sunrise -> Sunset

Zabriske point -> 20 mule team canyon -> Borax works, Mustard Canyon -> Breakfast -> Badwater Basin-> Devil’s golf course -> Lunch -> Golden Canyon trail until Red Cathedral (2.5 miles roundtrip), Natural Bridge (if time permits), Artists drive in the evening.

Day 3: SPW/Scottys Castle Area

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Salt Creek -> Breakfast -> Mosaic Canyon hike-> Lunch -> Ubehebe Crater, Little Hebe, Scotty’s Castle (Not taking the guided tour) and Rhyolite (if time permits)

Day 4: Need to reach Vegas before dark

Morning? –> Ash meadows -> Vegas

Day 1: Old spanish trail route:Any thing that must not be missed here?

Do you think Day2, Day3 is doable or is it too tightly packed?

Are places like 20 mule team canyon, Borax works, Mustard Canyon just drive through or do they have hikes? What about Devil's golf course?

How is the Golden canyon trail hike? Is this hike easy/medium/difficult? Thinking of whether mom can do this? Same for Mosaic Canyon hike? Is this hike easy/medium/difficult?

I haven't planned anything for day4 morning. Is the drive from SPW to Panamint springs doable on a standard sedan? If yes, can we visit Father Crowley Vista, Lee Flat and Charcoal kilns with a standard sedan? Any ideas?

Any ideas for routes from Ash meadows to Vegas or do we just proceed to Vegas via Pahrump? Any thing to see along this route?

Our sedan choice rules out Racetrack, Eureka dunes, Titus canyon and Aguereberry Point. We havent made up our mind about renting at Farrabees and going to Titus.

Looking forward to your suggestions and comments on this itinerary.

Thanks.

9. Re: Death Valley trip from Las Vegas during last week in Dec

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