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Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

London, United...
posts: 13
reviews: 18
Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

Hi All,

I'm looking to leave Las Vegas mid afternoon and arrive in Mammoth Lakes the next evening. This will be done at the start of June (I think I'm prepared for the temperatures - I know it's going to be 100-110F)

So far the route is:

Las Vegas to Furnace Creek via Artist's Drive and Golden Canyon.

Stay in Furnace Creek.

Travel to Dante's View for sunrise.

Travel through Titus Canyon (only if I can hire a Jeep)

Return Jeep to Furnace Creek

Maybe visit Mosaic Canyon (too much for the limited time?)

Visit Ubehebe Crater

Visit Eurka Dunes (if time)

Continue to Mammoth Lakes.

I will be travelling in a normal modern car.

I will bring lots of water.

I'm not concerned about the long day driving (I'd imagine it will be very exciting) but I am a little worried about the Death Valley Road - the one that goes from Ubehebe Crater to the turning for the Eureka Dunes. (I've checked the DVNP website and it seems like the other roads are paved with the exception of the Eureka Dunes road which is unpaved but quite good).

Could anyone tell me if I've chosen the wrong places to visit and if I will encounter difficulties on Death Valley Road?

Many thanks in advance,

David

Santa Clarita...
posts: 1,158
reviews: 4
1. Re: Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

Your rental car agreement will no doubt restrict your driving to paved roads only. Scotty's Castle is near the Ubehebe Crater, if you are interested in seeing that. The fee is $15 pp.

Edited: 9:21 pm, May 10, 2013
San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 10,407
reviews: 41
2. Re: Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

I want to mentally fill in some of the blanks in your itinerary. When you say you’ll go from Las Vegas to Furnace Creek via Artist’s Drive and Golden Canyon, it sounds like you plan to go through Shoshone and up Badwater Road. Just want to confirm that. Also along this road are Badwater (lowest point in North America) and Devil’s Golf Course (a vast expanse of mud and salt pinnacles and crystals that’s interesting and fun to walk on). Be aware that Artist’s Drive is 1-way northbound, so if you’re going north up Badwater Road, turn when you first see the Artist’s Drive sign because you cannot enter from the other end.

This route is very scenic but will take a little more travel time (not counting stops for exploring, sightseeing, etc.) because it is longer than the more direct Pahrump-Death Valley Junction route. It’s about 70 miles from Shoshone to Furnace Creek, with no services in between.

From Furnace Creek to Dante’s View is about 25 miles. Afterward, there are two ways to get to NV Hwy 374 for Titus Canyon Road. One is to go out Hwy 190 east to Death Valley Junction, then take NV 373 and US 95 to Beatty. Stock up on anything you want in Beatty, then take Hwy 374 west. See the ghost town of Rhyolite on the way. This route is about 85 miles from Dante’s View to Beatty and is almost entirely outside the park, scenic enough but not very dramatic or diverse. If you did this, you would want to get the Jeep before going to Dante's, to avoid having to backtrack.

The other way is to go back west on Hwy 190 through Furnace Creek and up to Beatty Cut-off Road. This connects with Daylight Pass which becomes NV 374. You don’t have to go all the way to Beatty, but it's only about 6 miles beyond the Titus turnoff and you can get cheap gas and some eats. And of course Rhyolite is worth seeing. Then head back to the Titus road. This way is about 70 miles from Dante’s to Beatty and is almost entirely within the park, with much more varied and spectacular than along 373 or 95.

A trip from Furnace Creek to Dante’s and then Titus will be a full day’s exploring, especially if you want to do other things the same day and still get to Mammoth. Coming out of Titus, you will already be in the north end of the park, so go and see Ubehebe Crater at that time, otherwise it is another 100-mile round trip from the FC area later. If you want to go on to Mammoth this same day and especially if you also want to see Mosaic Canyon, you won't have time for Eureka Dunes or Scotty's Castle.

No one familiar with the park, or who works there, would suggest Eureka Dunes and Big Pine Road in a regular car in summer. People do sometimes get away with doing it, but "getting away with it" is an accurate description. While I was working in the park last summer, we had a couple who started onto that road from the west thinking it was paved. They found out it wasn’t, and they got a flat tire about ten miles in. It could have been worse; it is something like 75 miles from pavement to pavement with no services or settlements and only occasional ranger patrols in summer.

Mosaic Canyon is a beautiful short to long, easy to strenuous hike, ad lib. You don't need to go far to see some of the unusual colors and formations and the smooth polished marble-like walls. However, it is a north-south canyon, unlike most of the canyons off the main body of Death Valley, and it is narrow with sheer walls. This means it does not get full sun all day long, so if you get there very close to sunset, you won’t have optimum light. If you do have time and energy for it, it is definitely worth seeing.

After Mosaic Canyon, if you are still determined to get to Mammoth, you have about 180-190 miles to go. There is a lot to see along the way, and if there is any way to add a day or even a half day to your time in Death Valley, you would have more time to explore in a more leisurely way. E.g. if you could start from Las Vegas sooner than mid-afternoon on Day 1, you'd have more time to enjoy Zabriskie Point and 20 Mule Team Canyon, which are along 190 enroute to Dante's. You could also have more pool time. And don't forget a visit to the park visitor center to see the park movie, ask any questions, and learn about all the places you won't have time for. If you get into the park early enough, maybe you could even go to the Sand Dunes and then Mosaic Canyon, which is about 26 miles from Furnace Creek, leaving yourself a shorter trip later to Mammoth..

All the main highways are paved, and some roads to major sights of interest (Devil’s Golf Course, 20 Mule Team Canyon, Mosaic Canyon) are graded gravel that is fine for any car driven carefully. These are not backcountry roads but high-usage spur roads that get regular care, and you may just want to take it easy to protect your tires and maintain traction.

London, United...
posts: 13
reviews: 18
3. Re: Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

@Mere

Good point wrt insurance - I will be sure to check this. Thanks.

@Frisco_Roadrunner

Many thanks for your very detailed reply.

You are correct about my intended route on Badwater Road. I wasn't aware of the one way nature of Artist's Drive so thanks for pointing that out.

After Dante's View I will check out the Zabriskie Point before taking the Daylight Pass to Beatty and then going back to Titus Canyon. On completion of Titus Canyon I will (time permitting) check out the Ubehebe Crater and then return the Jeep to Furnace Creek. Then I will continue to Mosaic Canyon by car and then West on 190 to join 395 North to Mammoth.

I may not have time but could I double back to see the Eureka Dunes in the car? Is the road only too dangerous between Ubehebe Crater and Eureka Dunes? Is it worth seeing the Eureka Dunes - Are the Sand Dunes near Furnace Creek that less impressive?

Thanks again for the advice and keeping me away from the Death Valley Road.

Best wishes,

David

Fortaleza, CE
posts: 6,546
reviews: 335
4. Re: Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

Dante's View particularly striking at sunrise. Remember that if you break down on DV roads, cell phone coverage is spotty at best and help may take a while to get to you. On most roads someone will drive by and can ask for help when they get to a ranger station, hotel, etc., but that may take a while. I don't believe any rental car agreement would permit driving to the Eureka Dunes. I'd definitely avoid it in mid-summer. If you get stuck for any reason, the consequences could be deadly. You can get up to the hour road conditions from the rangers in DV.

When you get to Hwy. 395, you could take side trips to see the Alabama Hills, Manzanar National Historic Site and maybe even the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest east of Big Pine.

Edited: 11:28 am, May 11, 2013
Fortaleza, CE
posts: 6,546
reviews: 335
5. Re: Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

If you're talking about taking a rented jeep from Furnace Creek to the Eureka Dunes, you'd have to ask there about getting to the dunes, both in terms of road conditions and advisability of a mid-summer visit. That assumes the concessionaire is operating during the summer. You can call the park in advance to ask.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 10,407
reviews: 41
6. Re: Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

Farabee's, the rental Jeep company at Furnace Creek, did open last summer with a scaled-down operation. At any given time they'd have 1-3 vehicles available. Check ahead to be sure about this summer.

http://www.farabeesjeeprentals.com/

Their Jeeps are equipped for backcountry travel and are intended for that use, unlike some from Las Vegas or other rental companies that use light-duty tires and include an agreement not to drive the vehicle off paved roads, which kind of defeats the customer's purpose. Farabee's provides maps, travel suggestions, and loaner ice chests. They also have a tow service that will go anywhere a vehicle can go in Death Valley, in case you get in trouble (provided you can contact them - as Sutter said, there is no cell phone coverage in most of the park.)

London, United...
posts: 13
reviews: 18
7. Re: Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

@Sutter

Thanks for the warnings. I will be leaving the Eureka Dunes for another trip then I think. Thanks you also for the other recommendations - I will do some research into them though am pressed for time on this day of the trip.

@Frisco_Roadrunner

Thanks for directing me to Farabees. Unfortunately they are closed from the end of May :(

Do you know if there are any other places to hire Jeeps from?

Do you think I could manage Titus Canyon in a Jeep Grand Cherokee rented from a standard rental company? Or is the issue more along the lines of if it breaks down I might die because no one would come rather than I'm not likely to manage the drive?

Thanks again,

David

Fortaleza, CE
posts: 6,546
reviews: 335
8. Re: Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

I think posters have made it clear rental cars, other than Jeeps from Farabees, aren't for roads like Titus. But if we say it's okay to take a rental car (with a rental agreement that likely says paved roads only) down Titus, and it gets damaged, and the rental company says you violated your rental agreement and wants to charge you for hundreds or thousands of dollars, will we still be friends?

Edited: 2:32 pm, May 11, 2013
London, United...
posts: 13
reviews: 18
9. Re: Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

@Sutter

We'll definitely still be friends :)

I'm not seeking binding legal advice here - just some thoughts from folks like yourself who know a lot more about this than I do. I understand that driving through the Titus Canyon is almost certainly not insured (thanks for pointing this out) but if a Jeep Cherokee is capable of doing it with very little risk of damage then I may deem it worth a go. Of course, given that you've told me that visiting the Eureka Dunes in June in a rental car may result in my death I won't be risking that (I don't have many $1000s but more than I have lives). If I was to learn the same about Titus Canyon in a Jeep Cherokee I'd not be asking either.

Fortaleza, CE
posts: 6,546
reviews: 335
10. Re: Las Vegas to Mammoth Lakes in 1.5 days

If you'd be violating the terms of your rental agreement, then the risk increases. My father our Buick Skylak many decades ago on Titus. True, not a Jeep Cherokee, but we didn't have a rental agreement we'd be violating. I'm not saying not to go to Eureka Dunes, but if you do, would you mind if I took our a life insurance policy on you with myself as beneficiary? There many places to go in DV with less risk. Driving anywhere there in mid-summer carries some risk, and there have been deaths.

Edited: 4:19 pm, May 11, 2013