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  1. Default Two days in Death Valley

    Hi to all at Roadtrip America.

    Last year I made my first visit to America. 4 days in New York City followed by 4 days driving around New York State.

    This year I am being a bit more adventurous and visiting Southern California and I would be really grateful of any advice regarding a section of my drive. I am leaving Los Angeles on the morning of September 22nd and heading off to Death Valley. I plan to arrive in Las Vegas for the 24th.

    The options I am thinking about, with regard to accommodation, are two nights at Panamint Springs, or two nights at Furnace Creek, or one night at each. What would be the best option with regard to seeing as many of the Death Valley highlights as possible? Are there any ‘tour routes’ on the net which will help me avoid criss-crossing the area in a desperate attempt not to miss anything?

    I have tried searching back through previous topics on the forum but there is so much information on Death Valley, my brain is now minced! To be honest though, most of the posts cover drive-throughs rather than a more leisurely 2 day meander.

    Regards to all.

  2. #2
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    Default What are you driving?

    Quote Originally Posted by UKTrevor
    The options I am thinking about, with regard to accommodation, are two nights at Panamint Springs, or two nights at Furnace Creek, or one night at each. What would be the best option with regard to seeing as many of the Death Valley highlights as possible?
    Panamint Springs is great place for a bit of lunch -- the photos in the main room are great and the folks who run the place are very friendly.

    But my money would always be at Furnace Creek (the Ranch if on a budget) and the Inn if 3-star+ luxury is your idea of travel.

    What will you be driving? If you have a SUV (ideally with 4WD) but most importantly with good tires and clearance you can drive to most of the places you would want to go. Do you have any experience with driving off-pavement in deep gravel, sand or on rough roads. If so, I can recommend a dozen drives in the park. But I am reluctant to mention them if you are primarily a hard tarmac driver. This article about the world-famous Sliding Stones deals with a truly awesome drive to the famous and mysterious racetrack playa. I should add that thousands of visitors have a wonderful time each year, driving two-wheel drive vehicles in Death Valley -- much of the park has graded, paved roads and most of the drives are fine for normal vehicle cars. There are also serious 4-WD roads -- If you have never spent much time driving in off-highway conditions, I wouldn't recommend Death Valley as the place to learn. Although I played a role in two off-highway "rescues" last week regarding motorists who failed to excercise due caution on some of those Death Valley roads!

    As an introduction to Death Valley I would suggest using the Trona-Wildrose Road over Emigrant Pass -- this is a narrow, twisting road, but it provides glimpses into little-seen canyons and plateaus. Other drives that first day would be the 20-mule team and Artist's Palette. On the second day, after a stop to the Visitor's Center (to check on road conditions, buy the trail map) you can go exploring.

    Happy Planning!
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-25-2006 at 09:17 AM. Reason: Added a clarification & a link

  3. Default

    Thanks for the reply.

    I will take your advice re the accommodation, although I see from their website that we will miss out on the luxury of the Furnace Creek Inn as it doesn't open until October.

    As for the vehicle (and I hope there no guffaws of amusement here), it will be a convertible, so no (intentional) off-roading is planned!

    Forgive my ignorance (and I will do some research after posting this) but is the Trona-Wildrose Road something I take before or after Panamint Springs? I am actually writing this from work - an oil rig in the UK North Sea - so my reference material is strictly web-based until I get back home in another week's time.

  4. #4
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    Default An Oil Rig in the North Sea in April?

    Quote Originally Posted by UKTrevor
    Forgive my ignorance (and I will do some research after posting this) but is the Trona-Wildrose Road something I take before or after Panamint Springs? I am actually writing this from work - an oil rig in the UK North Sea - so my reference material is strictly web-based until I get back home in another week's time.
    Sheesh! What is the weather like this time of year? I think I can understand why you are seeking someplace warm!

    Since you mentioned Panamint Springs, which most folks have never heard of, I assumed you were aware of the approach roads -- I am assuming that you will be using US-395 north to SR-190 and over the summit in the Darwin Hills? Shortly after leaving the Panamint Springs area, (hmmm -- I don't I think I would take a convertible rental over the Trona Wildrose road) -- so stay on SR-190 and follow that over Towne Pass into Death Valley -- it is a gorgeous, well-paved road. If you want to drive a portion of the Wildrose Road (and I do recommend it) wait until you reach Emigrant campground and turn right (south) on Wildrose Road. You can follow this road all the way to Wildrose Campground and then turn around and re-trace your path. It is great road, but you won't be able to go much faster than 15-25 mph due to the twisty corners.

    Mark
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 04-22-2006 at 11:31 AM. Reason: typos

  5. #5
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    Default After those curves!

    Quote Originally Posted by UKTrevor
    or after Panamint Springs?
    From the Wildrose Road, you will see the turn-off for Skidoo Ghost town (don't drive that road in your convertible!) but here is an article we did after visiting Skidoo - Death Valley has scores and scores of ghost towns in it.

    After you return to SR-190 head on down to Stovepipe Wells (and just before you reach the settlement, take the dirt road "Mosiac Canyon Road" and drive to the parking lot. It is graded, but a little bumpy -- put your car-top up! Take the 20 minute walk into the canyon. It really is a cool little walk and the perfect way to work out those creaks from the mountain driving.

    Mark

  6. #6
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    Default A desperate attempt?

    Quote Originally Posted by UKTrevor
    ...Are there any ‘tour routes’ on the net which will help me avoid criss-crossing the area in a desperate attempt not to miss anything?
    First, it would take years to see all of Death Valley -- you will have less than 40 hours. Relax, the place is wondrous, magnificient and calming. See what you have time for, and leave the rest of the "hurry" behind. I drove about 500 miles in Death Valley last week over the course of a day and only saw a couple of places.

    The tour at Scotty's is guite charming and the musuem at the Ranch is full of good stuff.

    Mark

  7. Default

    Hi Mark,

    I can tell you that now we are into Spring, April in the middle of the North Sea is much warmer than December!!! Today is a bright and sunny, with reasonable winds (10 knots) and a temperature of 9 deg C (48 deg F). After the winter temperatures and wind chill it seems almost tropical. 

    I have to own up and say I know nothing of the area, having picked up on Panamint Springs from threads on the forum. You suggest lunch at Panamint Springs Resort, so how long should I allow for the drive from LA?

    You say that it would take years to cover Death Valley and I have only 40 hours. Can I re-phrase my question then please? Considering the time I have, what are the ‘must not miss’ sights on my second day?

    Finally (for now!), how long shold I allow for the drive onwards to Las Vegas?

    Many Thanks
    Trevor

  8. #8
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    Default Not very tropical to me!

    Quote Originally Posted by UKTrevor
    I can tell you that now we are into Spring, April in the middle of the North Sea is much warmer than December!!! Today is a bright and sunny, with reasonable winds (10 knots) and a temperature of 9 deg C (48 deg F). After the winter temperatures and wind chill it seems almost tropical.
    Um. Maybe -- 10 knots and 48 degrees F doesn't seem very tropical to me! I have always longed to be in the north Atlantic in late December and seen some of those massive wind-strengthened waves (but I am 110% prone to seasickness so the liklihood of ever being there in person is zero...). But I digress...
    You suggest lunch at Panamint Springs Resort,
    Um, only the owners of that place can get away with calling it a resort. It is a roadside cafe and motel -- quite cute, but nothing on the scale of the nearest true resort -- the Furnace Creek Inn. Since time is of the essence, for your visit, I recommend not using the very scenic approach from Owens Valley (and missing the Panamint Springs "resort". To that end, I would approach Death Valley from the south and Use I-15 to Baker.
    so how long should I allow for the drive from LA?
    Depending where you are starting from in LA, you can reach the southern tip of Death Valley in about four hours.

    That first day could be spent in exploring Badwater, Artist's Palette, the Visitor's Center and Zabriskie Point. Over-night at the Ranch. The next day, I would drive out to Stovepipe Wells, do the walk into Mosiac Canyon, maybe a section of Wildrose, drive up to the Ubehebe Crater, Scotty's Castle and then instead of driving out of the park on SR-267 across the Bonnie Claire Flat, I would retrace the path back to Furnace Creek and take SR-190 out to Death Valley Junction. Along the way, be sure to drive the 20-Mule Canyon loop -- it is dirt, but should be OK for your car.
    Finally (for now!), how long shold I allow for the drive onwards to Las Vegas?
    From Furnace Creek to my home in Las Vegas is almost exactly two hours.

    The route I would suggest is turn west on State Line Road (from Death Valley Junction) which turns into Ash Meadows Road to SR-160 and then turn south and drive through the town of Pahrump and over to I-15 and Las Vegas.

    Have fun!

    Mark

  9. Default

    I think I have misled you somewhere along the line as I am planning to spend two nights at Furnace Creek, so I am quite happy to take your original suggestion and enter Death Valley via Panamint Springs.

    Considering you estimated 4 hours to the southern tip of Death Valley, would I get to Panamint Springs (US-395 & 190) in 5 - 6, or would it take longer? (I drastically underestimated the time to drive from NYC to Elmira, NY, via Woodstock and the Catskills last year...by about 2 hours! It didn't look that far on the map!!!).

    That would allow me to do a bit of the Wildrose Road and also the Mosiac Canyon walk in the afternoon en route to Furnace Creek.

    The middle day; Badwater, Artist's Palette, the Visitor's Center and Zabriskie Point.

    The following morning; Ubehebe Crater, Scotty's Castle, Furnace Creek for lunch then your route to Las vegas inc 20-Mule Canyon.

    How does that sound? You know distances and the attractions of each place and I am wondering if there is anything more I can get to see on the middle day?

    Regards

    Trevor

  10. #10
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    Default I was thinking two nights...

    Quote Originally Posted by UKTrevor
    I think I have misled you somewhere along the line as I am planning to spend two nights at Furnace Creek, so I am quite happy to take your original suggestion and enter Death Valley via Panamint Springs.

    Considering you estimated 4 hours to the southern tip of Death Valley, would I get to Panamint Springs (US-395 & 190) in 5 - 6, or would it take longer?
    Yes, that would be about right. But now knowing that you have two whole days in Death Valley, I would suggest using some alternative routes to Panamint. Where in Los Angeles will you be starting your drive that day?
    The middle day; Badwater, Artist's Palette, the Visitor's Center and Zabriskie Point.
    I would also add the 20 mule Team trip here.
    The following morning; Ubehebe Crater, Scotty's Castle, Furnace Creek for lunch then your route to Las vegas
    As you drive up Furnace Creek you could take the twisty drive up to Dante's View (if the road has been reopened) and then on to Las Vegas.

    Mark

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