I had read stories of acute dehydration, sun burns, water shortage in Death Valley which almost pushed me towards paranoia. Although it was still April, and not as hot as it could get around Death Valley, still we experienced some scorching heat and temperatures as high as 70 and even going towards early 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I shudder to imagine what summers would be like!
So we packed enough water to last us 10 days, some energy drinks, and dressed in good coverage cottons and put on some good quantity of sunscreen. We also checked our fuel tank (almost full), oil levels, tire pressure and spare tier. We had a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but it should not be a big challenge in any other vehicle unless you plan to do some off-roading. Also, GPS hardly ever works in Death Valley, so it’s a good idea to grab a printed map when entering the Death Valley National Park. And it’s not a good idea to follow unknown trails or try risky unknown road routes, as getting lost in Death Valley could mean stranded in the wilderness and heat indefinitely! There are no cellphone coverage areas and only one gas station inside Death Valley (which sells gas at a preposterous $5.80 per galleon).
A good downloadable map can be found here: http://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/upload/DEVAmap1a.pdf
We took route 160 from Las Vegas to Death Valley. Ignore the early signs to Death Valley or Shoshone, continue on route 160 and then in Pahrump, turn left onto Bell Vista Avenue and continue till you see a brown “Death Valley” national park sign.
We came back to our lovely little cottage and as we walked out to the restaurant for dinner, the night sky was an absolutely delightful view!
Death valley is the largest national park in the United States, so a quick trip won’t be sufficient. Plan at least a 1-2 day trip and if you plan to stay within the park, book in advance. There are options at Furnace Creek Resort or Stovepipe Wells and there are also a few rooms available at Panamint Springs. There are also options for booking camp grounds and RV parks. We stayed at one of the cottages in Furnace Creek Resort, and we had to book at least a month in advance. It was a great experience and we couldn’t believe how dark it got outside in the night, and we could see the nebula as never before!
Once inside Death Valley, we saw a sign to Dante’s view. That was one of the spots on my list so I decided to pursue it. The road bifurcated into a narrower one with an uphill drive for a few miles. I could see old mining equipment at some places on my way. Waiting forever to reach the hilltop, the view was most definitely rewarding. It is a beautiful overlook of Death Valley as you stand at 1,669 m height. Because it was early morning, and a bit windy, it required a jacket (early morning and night temperatures in Death Valley vary so it’s good to be prepared). It is a beautiful spot overlooking the black mountains and the dried up sea bed with mineral deposits. A great panoramic view with tremendous photo opportunity. I took the trail to climb further to see the view from the father overlook. I also saw families sitting at picnic spots and having brunch, what a perfect outing!
Consider going to Mosaic and Titus canyon trails if you have the time, I could not fit those into my itinerary. Also be certain you take a snakebite kit to protect yourself from some unwelcoming desert snakes. Also, the Ubehebe Crater is a 2000-foot deep crater and offers photo opportunities and hiking.
Death Valley park rangers give a guided tour of Scotty's Castle year round, including a seasonal hike to Lower Vine Ranch, which was the infamous Scotty's real home. They also host daily guided tours, ranger talks, guided walks and evening programs.
Death Valley park rangers lead special Paleontology Tours a few times a year and they're so popular that there's a lottery just to get a spot on one of them. And it's no wonder. It includes a hike through a dramatic canyon with high cliff walls opening into a multicolored basin and a close up encounter with well-preserved fossilized tracks of bird, horse, camel, and mastodon-like creatures.