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How to Plan a Vacation in the Beautiful Desert of Death Valley

Updated on March 4, 2016

Plan How to Get There

One of the most essential parts of planning any vacation is figuring out how to actually get there! Death Valley National Park is located in Eastern California, near the border of Nevada. It's located about 120 miles (2 hours) northwest of Las Vegas, so one option would be to fly into McCarran International Airport (LAS), rent a car, and drive. Additionally, there are two aircraft landing strips available for private and charter planes.

Hate flying? Another way to get to Death Valley would be by taking an Amtrak train to Barstow, California, and then hopping in a rental car for the rest of the journey. The distance from Barstow to Death Valley is about 178 miles, which should take around 2 hours and 48 minutes.

Keep in mind, no matter how you get to the park- it's best to have a car with you to get around. Weather conditions can make it extremely difficult to get around by foot or bike. Be sure to carry plenty of water with you in case of car trouble, so you can stay hydrated until help arrives. It's always a good idea to keep these things in mind when you travel, so you can be prepared.

A markerDeath Valley National Park -
Death Valley National Park, California, USA
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The location on the map of Death Valley National Park in Eastern California, USA.

When To Go

Often, when people think of "vacation", they think "summer". However, the summer season might not be the best time to visit this extremely dry, hot desert. Temperatures can frequently get over 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months. As you can imagine, this doesn't create the best environment to be outside exploring nature! Though a couple resorts are in fact open during this time, spring is the most popular time to visit. Temperatures in March and April typically are in the 80's. If you're thinking you might want to visit, but don't particularly enjoy the heat, you'll be glad to know that during the winter, the temperatures do cool off a bit. In December and January, you can expect highs in the mid-60's.

Many people wonder when the best time is to see wildflowers in Death Valley. Beautiful wildflowers growing in such a dry, isolated place is surely wondrous sight to behold. If you are hoping to see wildflowers in the park, it's recommended to visit during the spring months.

Wildflowers blooming in Death Valley National Park.
Wildflowers blooming in Death Valley National Park. | Source

Where To Stay

There are several quality accommodations for yourself and your travel companions while visiting. If you want a luxurious resort experience, I would recommend The Inn at Furnace Creek. The resort has been awarded the Four Diamond Award by the AAA. The spacious rooms have free WiFi, modern bathrooms, in-room coffee makers, and ceiling fans. Room service is available from the resort's delicious restaurant.

Travelers looking for a more economical option can stay at The Ranch at Furnace Creek. This is part of the same resort as The Inn at Furnace Creek, but is designed to be a more family-oriented experience. Stand alone cabins and hotel rooms are both available. The rooms each have patios or balconies for your viewing pleasure. Visitors at both of these resorts will enjoy access to the swimming pool, fitness center, tennis courts, and several other amenities.

The Furnace Creek Resort.
The Furnace Creek Resort.

Things To Do

Contrary to what some people may think, there's a plethora of interesting activities to do in this national park! With over three million acres of wilderness, there's plenty to explore. During the Fall and Spring seasons, consider taking a guided tour with a knowledgeable park ranger. This is a great option for first-time visitors who want to learn more about all that Death Valley has to offer. Twice a month, during the evenings, "Moon & Star Tours" are offered. These tours are done during two spectacular times: the full moon, when the desert is lit up under moonlight, and the new moon, a time when no moonlight is in sight, and you can see the stars in all their glory.

There are also a few museums and visitor centers to inform you about the park. The Furnace Creek Visitor Center offers information exhibits and a bookstore. You can even watch a short informational film about Death Valley. This visitor center is staffed with park rangers to answer any questions you may have.

One of the best views of Death Valley can be seen at Dante's Peak, a viewpoint situated along the Black Mountains. Did you know that Dante's Peak was actually used as a filming location for Star Wars? It's easy to see why filmmakers would include it in their movies! It's an awe-inspiring place, offering a panoramic view of the desert basin. Check it out!

A sky full of stars over Death Valley National Park.
A sky full of stars over Death Valley National Park.

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