A little over a two-hour drive from Las Vegas, just across the California/Nevada border, you will start to think you entered a different universe. Not just a National Park, but a completely different world! You have entered Death Valley National Park.
On my first trip out to Death Valley, my guide told me what it is and his definition has always stuck with me. “Death Valley is where there is nothing to see, but it is the most beautiful nothing you will ever see!”
Military jets occasionally fly around and over it on their way to Area 51 and other mysterious desert training locations. It’s where in January of 1977, a relatively unknown movie director named George Lucas came to film a couple of scenes for a movie to be called “Star Wars”. Maybe you heard of it?? (smiles)
Death Valley National Park is the largest national park in the contiguous United States and the hottest, driest, and lowest of all the national parks in the United States. It contains Badwater Basin, the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere at 282 feet (86 m) below sea level. More than 93% of the park is a designated wilderness area. The park is home to many species of plants and animals that have adapted to this harsh desert environment including creosote bush, Joshua tree, bighorn sheep, coyote, and the Death Valley pupfish, a survivor from much wetter times. UNESCO included Death Valley as the principal feature of its Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve in 1984. ( Wikipedia )
Entrance Fee Required – Death Valley is a National Park and an entrance fee /National Park pass required. There is a self-serve pay machine at the entrance or pay at the Furnace Creek Visitor enter. If you choose to pay at Visitor Center, go directly to the Visitor Center!
The most popular route to Death Valley
- Take Hwy 160 to Parhump, NV (top off your fuel tank here)
Left turn to Bell Vista Ave in Pahrump
- At Death Valley Junction, right then a left onto California Highway 190
Death Valley is an unforgiving place. Yes, the roads to the places mentioned here are paved. Any services in Death Valley is far and few between, so prepare properly.
- Have plenty of water and snacks.
- Keep everything charged (cellphones!)
- There is fuel available inside Death Valley, but play it safe and top off your tank in Parhump!
- Dante’s Peak (vehicle size limit) no campers or trailers
- Badwater Basin (the lowest point in the Western Hempheshere)
- Artists Drive
- Devils Golf Course (rough road)
- Furnace Creek Visitors Center
- Harmony Borax Works
- Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Many people will exit out of Death Valley near the Harmony Borax Works and drive towards the mining town of Beatty. A few miles before Beatty, is the famous ghost town of Rhyolite.
If you keep to a basic tour, nothing too long or too many stops, you can do the loop from las Vegas to Death Valley Junction to Death Valley, exit out to Beatty, and be back in Las Vegas in 8 to 12 hours.