Here’s a sincere confession: “desert” meant sand dunes to me for the longest time of my life – vast lands of sand accumulated over hundreds of feet of more sand where the earth was virtually inaccessible, where scorpions and pit vipers roamed the underworld and humans on camelbacks scoured the surface for oasis in blistering heat. While I know that that’s only a stereotypical picture of a desert I conjured courtesy of popular media, I’m happy that the stereotype was finally debunked upon travelling to the American deserts.
While the presence of sand dunes are true for most deserts, Death Valley offers a variety of landscapes to satiate the nature-hungry eyes of the visitors.
The Death Valley National Park is slightly over 2 hours driving distance from Las Vegas. Given a day to make the most at the national park, we chose to explore the more popular area for our day hike around the east side of the park closer to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Despite the lack of clear directions otherwise, Google Maps successfully brought us inside the national park through NV-160 W, where a diverse mix of rock structures welcomed us near the Zabriskie Point. Our goal was to hike the Golden Canyon – Gower Gulch loop and go around the Artist Drive, and perhaps catch the sunset at the Bad Water Salt Flats if we could we make it on time given the short winter days.
While we did manage to go around the pretty trail, the completion of the loop took longer than expected as taking pictures and enjoying the view was obligatory. We thus completely missed the drive up to the salt flats. Instead, we drove around the Artist Drive and caught a glimpse of the setting sun and spent some quality time driving among the changing colors of the boulders after sun down.
Access to Death Valley National Park
- If travelling from McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas:
- 2 hrs through NV-160W or
- 2 hrs 20 minutes through US-95 N
- If travelling from California:
- 5 hrs from Los Angeles International Airport
- 2 hrs from Inyokern County Airport
- 3 minutes from Furnace Creek Airport
- 30 minutes from Stovepipe Wells Airport
- In the national park area
- In neighboring towns:
- Beatty – 45 mins away
- Indian Springs – 1 hr 30 mins away
- Goldfield – 1 hr 45 mins away
- Las Vegas – 2 hrs away
- Tonopah – 2 hrs 15 mins away
- Amargosa Opera House
- China Ranch Date Farm
- Eastern California Museum
- Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Area
- Goldwell Open Air Museum
- Lone Pine Film History Museum
- Rhyolite Ghost Town