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Driving through Death Valley - what route?

Askim, Norway
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Driving through Death Valley - what route?

As part of our honeymoon self drive in California Las Vegas, we want to go through Death Valley on our way to Yosemite and San Francisco (starting in Vegas.

To see the highlights of Death Valley, what route do we take? We are not stopping for the night in the park but somewhere on the 395, got some good tips on that from other posts on where to stay between the parks.

San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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1. Re: Driving through Death Valley - what route?

For first-time visitors, I suggest entering from Shoshone and Death Valley Junction. You could go direct from Shoshone, but I feel the DVJ route has more variety.

DVJ is an old borax company town, now almost deserted (more wild horses and burros than people). It has a hotel and the Amargosa Opera House, where dance and melodrama programs can be seen on selected nights. The town has no stores or gas stations, so I hope you will have stocked up in Shoshone.

Take 190 west to the park. The road is narrow and curvy with rises and dips, so take it easy and enjoy the scenery; in early spring you may see colorful wildflowers. Along this road are turn-offs to several scenic spots, including Dante's View Point and Zabriskie Point. Eventually you'll come to the Furnace Creek Inn and a junction with Badwater Road. From Shoshone to this point is about 95 km (all distances here exclude side trips).

Badwater Road is a great optional side trip. The farthest point I'll send you to is Badwater, the lowest (and often hottest) spot in the Western Hemisphere. Along the way are Golden Canyon, Devil's Golf Course, and Artist Drive. The round trip is about 55 km.

Back on 190, turn left toward Furnace Creek Ranch. Both the ranch and the inn have meals and lodging. The ranch has a general store, post office, golf, tennis,horse rentals, and a gas station that can be very expensive. If you can wait, the next gas is only about 48 km farther, at Stove Pipe Wells Village.

The National Park Service visitor center is at Furnace Creek. Except for the hot summer period, the rangers give talks, nature walks, etc.

Between Furnace Creek and Stove Pipe Wells Village, you can see Harmony Borax Works (home of the original 20 Mule Teams), Salt Creek (habitat for a rare desert pupfish the size of your thumb), and the largest readily accessible sand dunes in the park. A paved road goes north to Scotty's Castle, one of the true "must-see" sites in the park. But if you only plan on one day, this may be too much; the round trip distance for this side trip is almost 100 km.

Just beyond Stove Pipe Wells is Mosaic Canyon, where you can hike up to see rocks that have been weathered by water over the centuries to a smooth, marble-like appearance.

To get to Yosemite from Stove Pipe Wells, follow the directions for Lone Pine, which you already know has all the facilities you need. It is about 135 km from Stove Pipe Wells, a beautiful drive. Keep in mind the season; between about late October and mid June, there is the potential for road closures due to snow. The east road into Yosemite is always closed for the winter after the first major snow.

This will be a long day if you want to see more than the bare minimum. Death Valley is nearly 14,000 sq km, the largest national park in the U.S. outside Alaska. I love it, and I always want everyone to enjoy it. You are coming a long way, and I suggest that if there is any flexibility in your schedule, try to stay at least one night in the park so you can see more.

2. Re: Driving through Death Valley - what route?

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