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2 nights October - help needed please

Wellington, New...
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2 nights October - help needed please

Hi there

We are planning a grand circle tour in October - driving from and back to LV, through Arizona and Utah and have that all sorted now. While posting on the road trip forum, I got the idea that we should include Death Valley NP and Tet has given me some really helpful ideas (thanks Tet!). Thought I would bring my next questions over here as I am overwhelming myself a bit! As we have yet to book our flights, I have some flexibility on arrival and leaving date into and out of LV.

I am leaning towards include DVNP at the end of our trip which would mean 30th and 31st Oct and we would approach from Laughlin. Alternative is to do before we hit Zion (so LV/DVNP/Zion) which would be 30th Sept and 1st Oct. Either way we have two nights to spend DVNP.

After that long winded explanation - my question is where would it be best to stay - Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells? We would leave early in the morning from Laughlin - I think it is about 3 1/2 hour drive from Laughlin to DVNP? On our last day, will probably book an evening flight out of LAS to SFO.

Thanks so much for any advice.

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1. Re: 2 nights October - help needed please

Furn. Creek and Stovepipe are only 30 miles or so apart. Either option is fitting.

San Francisco
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2. Re: 2 nights October - help needed please

Since you only asked about the resorts, we can leave discussion of sightseeing and exploration for another conversation.

Furnace Creek is bigger and busier, with two separate resorts that began even before Death Valley came into the National Park System. The borax company owned much of what is now the park, including Furnace Creek (the borax folks called it Greenland Ranch). They saw the tourist potential and built the Inn in the 1920s in a Spanish villa style. Today it’s the more upscale of the resorts, with prices to match and also killer views and ambience. FC Ranch is near it and is bigger, busier, and more mainstream. It had lodgings of several types, a store, restaurants, golf course, post office, and the Borax Museum, The NPS visitor center is next to it. The Ranch would be a better choice for families, with more going on and more services and amenities (including rental bicycles).

The Furnace Creek complex is closer to the natural wonders along Badwater Road (Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater, Natural Bridge, Artist’s Drive, and Golden Canyon) and to Zabriskie Point, 20 Mule Team Canyon, and Dante’s View, which you could see either enroute from or returning to Las Vegas, depending on the routes you take coming and going.

Stovepipe Wells is about 25 miles northwest of FC. It’s smaller and more rustic but has all visitor services (but no golf, tennis, or post office). The closest sights of interest to it are Mosaic Canyon, the Sand Dunes, and Devil’s Cornfield; it’s also a good base for exploring the west side of the park (along Emigrant Canyon Road west of the Panamint range, a mountainous and green area that can be a surprise for DV newcomers.

For visiting the north end of the park (Scotty’s Castle, Ubehebe Crater, or the Racetrack if you decide to go there), the distances from SPW and FC are similar. Ditto for Rhyolite and the backcountry trip through Titus Canyon.

There is also a third resort, Panamint Springs, which is smaller and cozier but located on the far west edge of the park. I like the place, but would suggest it as an enroute stop or a base for exploring the west side of the park, not the entire park because of the long travel distances to and from many places in the park.

Wellington, New...
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3. Re: 2 nights October - help needed please

Thanks DVJim and Frisco for your responses.

Frisco - that info is really helpful regarding the sights around the different accommodation areas - thank you.

I guess I don't have a good grasp yet of what we can realistically do in the time we have and I am reading previous posts to get some ideas on building an itinerary. I now realise how big DVNP is! The sights you mention around Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells definitely appeal and I believe that Scottys Castle and Rhyolite are great too, but I am not sure that we can fit those in. I would welcome any suggestions on exploration and sightseeing ideas.

We will be arriving from Laughlin - via 178/Shoshone. We can go back to Vegas (airport) on 160 I think?

Thanks so much.

San Francisco
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4. Re: 2 nights October - help needed please

Since you are staying two nights in the park, you don’t need to rush around as frantically as people who have one day or less. And yes, it is a huge park, the size of Luxembourg and Lebanon combined.

From Laughlin, it’ll be somewhere around 4 hours, maybe more, depending on the route you take in. It’s slightly longer through Shoshone and up Badwater Road, but that’s a scenic ride and you have time to do it.

These distances are to Furnace Creek:

It’s about 400 km if you take Hwy 95 to Henderson, Interstate belt routes along the south edge of Las Vegas, NV Hwy 160 to Pahrump, then NV 372 which becomes CA 178 and goes to Badwater Road.

Slightly less, maybe 10-20 km, would be Hwy 95 to Searchlight, NV Hwy 164 through Nipton to I-15, and Hwy 127 north through Shoshone to Badwater Road.

About 340 km if instead of Hwy 372 from Pahrump, you take Bell Vista Road and Stateline Road to Death Valley Junction and CA Hwy 190 to the park. You would not be taking Badwater Road, but you could see the major natural wonders of that area later. All of the “big” ones (Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater, Natural Bridge, Artist’s Drive, and Golden Canyon) are in the northern 25 km that are conveniently accessible from Furnace Creek. The southern part of Badwater Road is very scenic, but it is more about long-range vistas than specific natural marvels.

The best use of your time is probably to divide the park geographically and spend most of a morning, an afternoon, or a day focusing on an area. On your way in, since you’ll take either Badwater Road from the south or Hwy 190 from the east, see the things on your chosen road on the way in. It is OK to sightsee even if you have not yet paid your park entrance fee or presented your “America the Beautiful” park pass for verification, as long as you’ll be paying the fee at the Visitor Center. You will see unmanned kiosks with automated fee machines, but you need not use those if you prefer to go to the visitor center, which is a better idea anyway because there are real people there, the park movie and exhibits, maps, brochures, drinking water, store, etc.

While on your way to a fee payment location, you can sightsee. I work as a park volunteer, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am when people come to the Visitor Center and say they missed Dante’s View because they weren’t sure they were allowed to sightsee before they’d paid the fee, and didn’t have time to make the 25-mile trip back there. During field time (which we call “roving” in the NPS), the kiosk near the Dante’s View turnoff is one of my favorite spots to cover because everyone stops there (especially when they see a park vehicle or staff there), and I can tell them to be sure and go to Dante’s and what else there is to see while they proceed to the VC.. So don’t pass up anything that interests you.

If you take Badwater Road in, the most efficient order to see the main natural wonders is: Badwater, Natural Bridge, Artist’s Drive (one-way northbound road that begins and ends at Badwater Road), backtrack south a bit to Devil’s Golf Course, then back north to Golden Canyon.

If you come in on 190, stop at Death Valley Junction to see a tiny ghost town, a 1920’s borax mining company settlement (the Amargosa Hotel & Opera House was the employee housing and social hall). Then go to Dante’s View (nearly 1700 m above sea level, a grand panorama of all of Death Valley, the surrounding mountain ranges, the salt flats and Badwater which is 85 m below sea level. Continue west on 190 to 20 Mule Team Canyon, which is one-way eastbound, so you pass the exit intersection first; then enjoy another beautiful view at Zabriskie Point. From there, it is about 8 km to the Badwater Road junction and the Furnace Creek area.

Although you’ll do some sightseeing on the way in, I suggest a stop at the Visitor Center early on, so you can get a good grasp of what you’ve been seeing and will see. Death Valley is so big and so diverse in landscapes, climate zones, geological formations, and plant life that seeing a few major sights can be like seeing a few parts of a jigsaw puzzle. The exhibits and park movie will help put the big picture together.

For short hikes, the ones I most often suggest to new visitors are Golden Canyon (near Furnace Creek) and Mosaic Canyon (near Stovepipe Wells). They are very different and both are good for people with less time, or who want easy or moderate hikes, because you can see much of the colors, shapes, and textures without hours of strenuous effort. At Golden Canyon, you can enjoy some of the warm colors and eroded shapes closer to the mouth, or go as far as the spectacular rock wall known as Red Cathedral, or climb up to Zabriskie Point. Mosaic Canyon can be a stroll, a hike, a scramble, or a climb, and even just 15-20 minutes of walking rewards you with beautiful polished walls resembling marble and broken rock surfaces that look like mosaics.

Be sure to check on sunrise and sunset times, because those are spectacular in Death Valley. For sunset, plan to be at your chosen spot about 20 minutes before the official time; because of the low elevations and surrounding mountains, the sun is out of view before the “official” time.

Wellington, New...
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5. Re: 2 nights October - help needed please

Wow Frisco - thank you so much for all of that wonderful information. This will really help with planning our itinerary. We will make an early departure from Laughlin to head to DVNP - thanks for outlining the two route options for me. Stovepipe Wells appeals as a place to stay, to get the more rustic experience. We are not bothered by no golf or tennis :). The FC Inn does look lovely though. We will have an "America the Beautiful Pass" as we are covering a lot of parks in Utah/Arizona before we get to DVNP. We will be sure to check out the Visitor Centre as you suggest.

Thank you very much for your help.

6. Re: 2 nights October - help needed please

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