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Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

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posts: 19
reviews: 5
Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

Hi there,

We'll be traveling from Las Vegas to Death Valley during June 13 - June 15, spend two nights at Stovepipe Wells. A few questions:

1. Which route would be the most scenic route you would recommend coming from Vegas?

2. Any suggested initiary to spend our time worth wide in the park?

3. Any wildflowers during that time? Any specific location you would suggest?

4. Is it possible to see Mt. Whitney (a little bit..maybe?) if we drive west? I guess not...

We (mostly me) love taking photos and we plan to do short hikes if possible.


San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 11,617
reviews: 43
1. Re: Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

Just a quick answer for now, and I’ll be back later. First, I’m glad you have two nights to stay over. You’ll have a much more authentic and leisurely experience than if you make it a day trip, and you’ll have a chance to see sunsets and sunrises, maybe in different places.

Barring some unforeseen and very freakish weather condition, wildflower season will be over by mid-June. Summer is a very long season in Death Valley; this month, it has already been in the 90s (32ºC and over). The wildflower crops start at the lower elevations, below and at sea level, and as the weather warms up, they wilt at the lower elevations and bloom up higher. It is possible to see some flowers up in the Panamint range into early June, but not likely at road level. The highest elevation where most visitors would be driving is about 4000-5000’ (1200-1500m). If you climbed Telescope or Wildrose Peak in June, you would probably see some.

Some people claim to be able to see Mt. Whitney from Dante’s View Point. This is apocryphal at best, and I think most experienced DV people would question it. It is about perspective. Mt. Whitney is farther west than a few other peaks that are close to it in height, and the Sierra Nevada peaks visible from Dante’s are probably the tips of those other mountains. Even then, you’d barely see it. If it’s hazy, you won’t be able to see the Sierra from Dante’s at all.

To see Mt. Whitney, drive west on Hwy 190, and after you pass the Saline Valley and Darwin roads and are out of the Argus range, you’ll have a clear view to the Sierra. This is about 45 miles (a bit over 70 km) from Stovepipe Wells. Mt. Whitney will not appear to be the tallest peak, again because of the perspective; a lower one called Lone Pine Peak is closer and looks taller.

If you have time, you can go the rest of the way to the town of Lone Pine, another 40 miles, and be at the base of Mt. Whitney. At a visitor center just outside town, just before you reach Hwy 395, they will point out exactly which one is Mt. Whitney. You can also drive up to the base camp where the climb starts, about 8 miles from town (paved), and look down and see fine views of the area around Lone Pine. Along the way is the Alabama Hills, where many Western and adventure movies have been filmed; you can drive around there on good dirt roads.

posts: 19
reviews: 5
2. Re: Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

Hi Frisco_Roadrunner -

Thanks so much for a quick response. My apologies, I got a wrong travel month! We actually go to Death Valley in April. So the trip will be April 12 - April 15.. sorry for the confusion :) We do have another trip scheduled in June. I just posted the question about my other trip right before this and I got my calendar mixed up!

That's said, I think there is a possibility to see wildflowers in April then? Any specific location?

Very helpful info for Mt. Whitney and Lone Pine. I would wait to hear more from you re: the trip within Death Valley and see if we would have time to drive west. Otherwise, we may just stay within the park.

Thanks again!

posts: 19
reviews: 5
3. Re: Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

Correction: trip dates are April 13 - April 15... Oh my, I think I need to take a rest :) Please bear with me...!

posts: 19
reviews: 5
4. Re: Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

Can you please help validate the following itinerary? We are not that interested in Scotty's Castle thought we would skip that. We would love to do some short hikes and wanted to spend time on foot in the areas that are worth exploring. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Day 1: Las Vegas to Beatty

Rhyolite Ghost Town

Enter the park through Titus Canyon

Lunch around Furnace Creek area

Salt Creek (can skip to Day 3)

Zabriskie Point

Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Dante’s View (Sunset)

Sleep: Stovepipe Wells

Day 2:

Sand Dune (Sunrise?)

Devil's Cornfield

Mosaic Canyon

Drive down Emigrant-Wildrose Road

Aguereberry Point & Harrisburg (Sunset?)

Sleep: Stovepipe Wells

Day 3: Leaving SPW to Vegas - want to spend time walk around as well

Salt Creek (if cannot do in Day 1)

Devil's Golf Course,


Natural Bridge

Artist's Drive

Golden Canyon

Leave through 190 to Death Valley Junction to Vegas

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 11,617
reviews: 43
5. Re: Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

You’re allowing a good amount of time to spend in the park. I’m always glad to see people staying a couple of nights rather than just rushing through on the way somewhere else, so they can savor it and have a true desert experience. Day 1 looks a bit long since you are going through Titus Canyon. Most people will take 3-4 hours, because there is a lot to see. I’m supposing you’re aware that 4wd and/or high clearance may be needed at any time, depending on current weather.

I would consider saving the sights along 190 east of Furnace Creek for the last day on your return trip to Las Vegas if you have a couple hours leeway; it sounds like you aren’t in a big rush to get back to town because you mentioned wanting to walk around some. From Furnace Creek to Dante’s View is 50 miles round trip, and the driving time on the park roads will probably be 70-80 minutes (not counting time spent out of the car). Zabriskie Point and 20 Mule Team Canyon add only 2-3 miles, but you’ll want to spend some time looking around. Then it’s 25 miles from FC to Stovepipe Wells, where you'll want to allow time for a swim before enjoying the dining room and/or saloon, which are done up with mining artifacts, wagon parts, Native American crafts, and timbers from an old DV mine..

Salt Creek is north of Furnace Creek. You could be flexible with that, depending on how long you take through Titus Canyon and down the North Highway.* You could see it on the way to Furnace Creek, or wait until after lunch on your way to Stovepipe Wells. You could also do it on another day, because a typical visit will be about an hour, give or take a little. The gravel road is a couple miles long and there is a boardwalk along the creek where you can see the lush vegetation, reptiles and birds, and the pupfish which should be active now. There is a trail that goes beyond the boardwalk, but you can get a fine look at this habitat without going that far.

* Depending on when you come out of Titus, another sight in the north end is Ubehebe Crater, It is about 25 miles from the end of Titus. It’s a volcanic crater, made not by an eruption but a steam explosion from molten magna meeting groundwater. You can walk into the crater or around the rim. The soil inside is mainly loose pumice ash, so getting out takes longer than getting in.

If you decide to switch the 190 East leg, on your first afternoon you could go to Devil’s Cornfield, the Sand Dunes, and Mosaic Canyon, since they are near SPW. Everyone loves the Sand Dunes and there’s no such thing as too much time there, but if you feel like a short hike in Mosaic Canyon, maybe save the dunes for late afternoon and sunset when it’s a magical place. (It also is at sunrise, when you can see animal tracks from overnight).

I’m glad you’re going to sample the west side. Relatively few visitors get over there. It’s cooler and greener than the Valley proper, and you might think you are in Sequoia or another mountain park. Not too far after the turnoff, look for Journigan's Mill, where ore from various mines on this side of the Panamint range was refined. You'll see big vats on the hillside, whwere sodium syanide was used to refine gold and silver ore, If you walk around the back, you can see concrete foundations that indicate other big pieces of equipment that are no longer there. Another interesting spot is the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns, 8 miles up Wildrose Canyon Road off Emigrant-Wildrose Road. The stone kilns were built to roast wood into charcoal for use in a mine smelter. That mine was not in DV, but 25 miles away in the mountains south of the present Panamint Springs resort. The elevation was too low and had no trees, so the charcoal was made at Wildrose and hauled across the Panamint Valley. That mine was owned by the father of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst.

You can exit the park on the southwest end, where there is a tiny ghost town called Ballarat just outside the park boundary. If you’ve seen Rhyolite and will see Death Valley Junction, Ballarat is not a must-see. There are a few adobe and wooden remains from what was a base camp for prospectors in the west side of the Panamint range in the early 20th century.

Harrisburg and the canyon it's in have lots of old mining remains. You’ll want to stop occasionally and scan the areas to the sides of the roads to see old headframes, mills, and other odds and ends. At the Harrisburg camp, which is pretty ramshackle, walk around the back and look around.

Aguereberry Point is 7-8 miles up from Harrisburg. This road is gravel, sometimes very rough. It gets narrow and twisty toward the top. Years ago, I went up there in a regular car in winter, but it isn’t something I’d recommend, lol. The view point was named for a French Basque miner named Jean-Pierre (Pete) Aguereberry, who left home at 19 to seek his fortune in America. He never went back, became a well-known DV fixture, and is buried in Lone Pine. He loved this view, and so does everyone else. TBH, I don’t consider it the best sunset view (though there are no bad views anywhere in DV), because it faces east. However, it will give you a different perspective on the Valley and its natural features. If you stay at Aguereberry until night, remember there is no lighting on the west side; the only controls are reflectors and lane lines on the main road.

On Day 3, if you moved the activities around from Day 1, you wouldn’t do Salt Creek, but you could head straight down to the Badwater area. You could take the morning to see the sights you mentioned (you have them in the logical order for a down and back trip). If you feel you’re short on time, Natural Bridge is the one I’d scratch because it is almost a mile walk from the parking to where the main rock formations start (and there are more beyond the “bridge”). This is a beautiful area, but if you have been to the southern Utah parks, this natural bridge may feel anti-climactic. The other sites require less walking to get a good look and feel for the surroundings, including Golden Canyon—you park and walk right into the canyon and start seeing the colors and eroded formations. It’s possible to hike all the way up to Zabriskie Point.

If time permits, you can have lunch at FC before heading east on 190. Both the Inn and Ranch will have lunch, so take your pick. Even if you don’t spend any money at the Inn, visitors are welcome to visit the beautiful terraced gardens. If you have enough fuel at this point for 125 miles, don’t fill up at Furnace Creek but wait until Pahrump, where the prices might be 20% or more less.

Enjoy your trip!

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 11,617
reviews: 43
6. Re: Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

It's tough to predict wildflowers, because conditions vary so much from one year to another. The park website has not posted a wildflower update since February 13--not a very good sign.


In April, the flowers will most likely have gone from the lowest elevations, and you may have more luck a couple thousand feet in elevation or higher. Places like Titus Canyon, Hell's Gate, Daylight Pass, along the North Highway (the road to Scotty's Castle), and much of the Emigrant Canyon area will be better prospects once the lower elevations heat up.

You can get detailed wildflower info on the park website by clicking on "Nature and Science" on the left column, then "Plants." I also have a thread with tips for wildflower viewing on the "Top Questions" corner of the Death Valley National Park forum.:

posts: 19
reviews: 5
7. Re: Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

Thanks so much for the detailed suggestions (the history part of it is also a plus!), this is extremely helpful. I really appreciate it. Death Valley has been on my list for quite a while, so I am glad we could spend a few days there. We will rent a 4WD from Vegas so we should be fine at Titus Canyon.

For Day 1, we would follow your advice and skip the sights along 190 E to the 3rd day when we exit the park.

The Ubehebe Crater sounds very interesting. Thanks for suggesting that; we'll see if we can add that to Day 1 schedule. Also, what about Racetrack? I have heard about it, is it worth seeing and is the road condition that bad to get to the actual rock? Where is it actually located?

This might be a silly question, where is Hell's Gate? I couldn't locate it on the map and would like to go to the overlook there. Is it actually the entrance of the park before getting to Titus Canyon?

Any particular hiking trail would you recommend in Mosaic Canyon?

For Day 2, I believe there is no (long) hiking required in order to get to Aguereberry Point & Harrisburg, is that right? And if we would go further down to visit Charcoal Kilns, but probably skip the ghost town, do you think we should drive back to SPW the same way or we should do the loop via Panamint Valley Road? Considering if we would skip the sunset at Aguerberry point, any other place you would suggest we should stop by for sunset on the way back to SPW?

For Day 3, we will spend time exploring the major sites around the Badwater area as planned. Yes, we are not in rush to get back to Vegas. From Dante's View to Death Valley Junction and to Vegas, is that a scenic drive or has any sights that worth stopping by while there is sunlight? I enjoy photography and thought we may spend time at Dente's View until sunset then leave the park.

Also, many thanks for the wildflower tips! I took a lot of notes from your thread. If we are not in luck with the wildflowers this time, hopefully we could see animal tracks at the Sand Dunes or enjoy the creatures at Salt Creek.

Atlanta, Georgia
posts: 2,729
reviews: 14
8. Re: Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

A note on Titus Canyon - what you really need is high clearance, not necessarily 4WD (although that can be useful too). The two are not synonymous. Also be aware that your rental contract may forbid you from driving on backcountry roads in Death Valley (maintained dirt roads are usually allowed, but check the contract before assuming).

Titus Canyon is one-way from east to west, and can easily take 3-4 hours to drive. There is no cell service, so if you have a breakdown it may be a while before someone can reach you, and you will likely be responsible for the full price of the tow (which could approach $1000), plus any damage to the vehicle. It is not a drive to be taken lightly, and the fact that you have 4WD does not mean you will be OK.

At Mosaic Canyon, there are two trails, but most people take the lower one through the canyon itself. It's a narrow slot canyon, so there's not really any "trail" to follow - just walk through the canyon, in and out the same way. There is also a trail along the rim, but that requires bit of scrambling to get to. It does give you an interesting perspective on the terrain, however.


San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 11,617
reviews: 43
9. Re: Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

Quite true, 4wd and high clearance are not the same, which is why I typically say 4wd and/or high clearance. In springtime, if there has been rain (and Titus is at higher elevations so it will have a damper micro-climate than the Valley floor), both might be needed. Or neither might be. But it’s best to be prepared, because there is no turning back once you’re in the canyon. And as Jim said, read the fine print on your rental contract.

The Racetrack is a intriguing place and a fun mystery for visitors to ponder. It’s probably the most asked-about backcountry place by folks in the park Visitor Center, even in summer when we don’t suggest backcountry travel at all. It is 26 miles of rough dirt and gravel that may require 4wd and/or hc, and it’s slow because it is notorious for nasty tire-eating rocks. We have an artifact in the Visitor Center that I call the shark tooth rock; it is 6-7 inches long, somewhat tooth shaped, with edges sharp enough to make a hole in your hand. I would sometimes tell visitors that if they have one spare tire and only encounter one such rock, they’ll be fine. But seriously, it is a long trip, same way in and out, and doing it on the same day as Titus when you also have other activities planned might be too much.

Hell’s Gate is the junction of Daylight Pass, Beatty Cutoff, and Mud Canyon roads. It has a parking area, outhouse, info kiosk and automated fee station (credit cards only, no regular staffing, and no dispensing of the official park map), and hiking access to Death Valley Buttes. If you come through Titus Canyon, it is not on your direct route. Coming down the North Highway from Titus, you need to turn left on Mud Canyon Road (signed for Beatty NV, and just past a small parking area with an outhouse and info kiosk). If you come from Beatty down the Daylight Pass, Hell’s Gate is on your way; and Mud Canyon is the way to the Sand Dunes, Stovepipe Wells, and the north end of the park, and Beatty Cutoff the way to Furnace Creek. Late in April, Hell's Gate and the fields alongside Mud Canyon and Beatty Cutoff roads are often good for flower sightings.

** “I believe there is no (long) hiking required in order to get to Aguereberry Point & Harrisburg, is that right?” **

Yes, just drive to them and then walk around as you wish.

** “And if we would go further down to visit Charcoal Kilns, but probably skip the ghost town, do you think we should drive back to SPW the same way or we should do the loop via Panamint Valley Road? Considering if we would skip the sunset at Aguerberry point, any other place you would suggest we should stop by for sunset on the way back to SPW?” **

You would enjoy either of them.

If you go to the Charcoal Kilns, it’s about 10 miles farther south on Emigrant-Wildrose Road to the turn onto Pan Valley Road. About 3 miles of that is unpaved but well-maintained gravel. You’ll go through more green and pretty terrain, and just after the start of the gravel portion you’ll see stone ruins of a small resort called Wildrose Station that existed from the early 20th century until the 1960s when it was removed. It consisted of small cabins, a café, and a gas station, and substantial stone walls and foundations can still be seen on both sides of the road.

Pan Valley Road is not as diverse in scenery as Emigrant Canyon. It is more about “classic” Mojave Desert landscapes, with long-range views of the Slate and Argus ranges (Pan Valley is the next valley west of DV; the Panamint range is their common wall, and the Slate and Argus are the west wall of Pan Valley). The road is straight and all paved. It meets 190 just east of Panamint Springs resort, so this route would be a way to get a peek at that rustic little spot for possible future reference. It’s tiny, with about 15 rooms, a family cabin, a tiny store with limited offerings, gas (typically the costliest in the area), and great food to enjoy in the attractive dining room with DV pictures all over the walls or on the outside patio with a stupendous view of the Panamint Dunes.

On 190 east of PV, you’ll go over Towne’s Pass and then down a steady descent toward Emigrant Junction (where you turned off earlier) and Stovepipe Wells. BTW, the stone buildings at Emigrant Junction (a restroom and a currently inactive ranger station) were built by FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps around 1940. They did valuable work in scores of national and state parks on roads, trails, buildings, flood control, and more; and the CCC, part of the New Deal, was a government social welfare program that actually worked. It took unemployed men (the CCC was all male) off the dole, taught them useful skills, required them to save money, pulled many out of illiteracy, and probably gave America an advantage when it was attacked without warning by having millions of young men ready with the skills and discipline needed for the military.

It isn’t always easy to predict where you will be at a certain time, so “planning” for sunset can be tricky. If you decide not to stay at Aguereberry, and the timing is right, I’d suggest going back to the Sand Dunes. Sunset there never gets old. Walk out there and feel the warmth as the day ends, and look at the ripples on the dunes that might be fresh if the afternoon was windy. Photography is great when the sun is low. There have been times when I stayed at Stovepipe Wells that I would simply go outside, walk to the west away from the buildings, and watch the sunset from there. If you are still on the west side of the Panamint that late, you could stop and just enjoy it wherever you are. Death Valley has no bad views, no boring scenery, and no ugly sunsets or sunrises.

I can’t believe I spelled cyanide with an “S.” I do know better. I wrote a paper on hydrogen cyanide for a hazardous materials class I took when I was studying to become a fire inspector. Eye roll.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 11,617
reviews: 43
10. Re: Two nights in Death Valley from Las Vegas

Here's another idea for the trip back to Las Vegas, if you have a couple hours of daylight. After checking out the ghost town of Death Valley Junction (it was a borax company settlement in the 1920s; the Amargosa Hotel and Opera House were the employee housing and social hall), take Stateline Road east and turn off for Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. This is a desert marsh, a surprisingly green and fertile oasis in the middle of the Mojave Desert. It has ponds and streams, and you can take foot paths to where reptiles and birds hang out. The water is perennial. There is a visitor center with limited hours, but the preserve is open all daylight hours.

Ash Meadows is under the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, but one small enclave is actually part of Death Valley National Park: Devil's Hole. This is an underground water-filled cave and the only habitat of one particular pupfish species, the Devil's Hole pupfish. It is distantly related to the one at Salt Creek. When the Earth was cooler and wetter, much of the Mojave Desert was under water and pupfish were everywhere; when the climate changed, the inland sea dried and left scattered wetlands. Groups of pupfish were isolated in their own little habitats, and unlike birds or mammals, they literally couldn’t go home again. The survivors gradually adapted to the elevation, climate, seasnal cycles, vegetation, water salinity, and other conditions wherever they lived. So now, the half dozen or so pupfish species could not survive in each other's habitats, only their own.

The public may not visit Devil's Hole, for everyone's safety. The annual census by DVNP scientists usually counts 100 or fewer individual fishies, so they are protected from contact with people who might harm them (either accidentally or maliciously), or have cooties that could infect them. Also, the depth of Devil’s Hole is unknown; in the past, before it was fully secured, divers have gone in and vanished with nary a trace. It may be the proverbial hole that kids try to dig to China, lol. In fact, when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit the SF Bay Area in 1989, the water level in Devil’s Hole dropped so abruptly that scientific monitoring equipment in the water was wiped out; and at that moment, scientists also measured a drop in the water table at the Florida Everglades. So when Chief Seattle in the mid-1800s said that all things are connected and whatever affects one affects the whole, he was as sagacious an environmental advocate as any of the big blabbers in Congress today.