A trip to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks - Part One

- Part Two -

 

Day One

We left San Francisco Bay Area at about 8:00 in the morning, took highway 5 south routing through Bakersfield to Las Vegas. It took us a little more than 8 hours of driving to get to Las Vegas.

On the way to Las Vegas, we saw a bunch of M2 Bradley waiting to be transferred at Barstow.
On the way to Las Vegas, we saw a bunch of M2 Bradley waiting to be transferred at Barstow.

We stayed in M Resort Spa Casino for the night.

Our two bedroom at M Hotel at Las Vegas
Our two bedroom at M Hotel at Las Vegas
A roasted suckling pig in the buffet dinner of M Hotel in Las Vegas
A roasted suckling pig in the buffet dinner of M Hotel in Las Vegas

Day Two

After checking out from hotel, we started heading to our first national park destination Death Valley National Park at around 10:30. It takes about 2.5 hours to drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley.

The Death Valley National Park map at the the east entrance to the park. No entrance fee was charged because of government shutdown.
The Death Valley National Park map at the the east entrance to the park. No entrance fee was charged because of government shutdown.

The federal government shutdown also affected National Parks, but the park remained open. We didn’t need to pay the entrance fee though.

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point is located east of Death Valley, about 5 miles away from Furnance Creek Inn and Visitor Center. It is composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago - long before Death Valley came into existence.

Zabriskie Point of Death Valley National Park
Zabriskie Point of Death Valley National Park
Zabriskie Point - Volcano activity influenced this landscape. The black layer across the wash is lava that oozed out the ancient lakebed. Hot water followed the lava,  bringing minerals such as borax, gypsum and calcite with it. Hot water also altered the mineral makeup of the Artist’s Drive Formation, hydrothermally altering the rock into the psychedelic swirl colors on the hills beyond.
Zabriskie Point - Volcano activity influenced this landscape. The black layer across the wash is lava that oozed out the ancient lakebed. Hot water followed the lava, bringing minerals such as borax, gypsum and calcite with it. Hot water also altered the mineral makeup of the Artist’s Drive Formation, hydrothermally altering the rock into the psychedelic swirl colors on the hills beyond.

There is a parking lot and visitors need to walk uphill to the Point, a dramatic look-out there. A 2.6 mile hiking trail, Badlands Loop, lets you get a closer look at the otherworldly rock formations that make up Zabriskie Point.

A hiking trail, Badlands Loop, lets you get a closer look at the otherworldly rock formations that make up Zabriskie Point.
A hiking trail, Badlands Loop, lets you get a closer look at the otherworldly rock formations that make up Zabriskie Point.

You'll have the option to extend the hike, like Golden Canyon trail, which leads you to the Golden Canyon exit.

The Ranch at Death Valley is located at Furance Creek, an oasis in the desert.
The Ranch at Death Valley is located at Furance Creek, an oasis in the desert.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

These dunes are the best known and easiest to visit in the national park. Actually, sand boarding is only allowed on the Mesquite Flat Dunes and prohibited on all other dune systems in the park to protect sensitive plants and animals.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at Death Valley National Park
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at Death Valley National Park

Drive about 23 miles via highway 190 north from Furance Creek, you’ll see the sand dunes on your right. This dune field includes three types of dunes: crescent, linear, and star shaped. Since it is “flat”, visitors are easy to access and to enjoy the hikes towards any directions.

Most of areas in Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are flat. We were able to go as far as we wanted to explore.
Most of areas in Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are flat. We were able to go as far as we wanted to explore.
We didn’t climb up to the highest dune in Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, but some people did. Can you see them on the way to the top of the highest dune?
We didn’t climb up to the highest dune in Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, but some people did. Can you see them on the way to the top of the highest dune?
Hiking in the area of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes was pretty fun.
Hiking in the area of Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes was pretty fun.

According to Death Valley website, mesquite trees have created large hummocks that provide stable habitats for wildlife. We didn’t see any during the day but did see footprints in the sand.

In Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, we didn’t see any animal during the day but did see footprints in the sand.
In Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, we didn’t see any animal during the day but did see footprints in the sand.
Plants with long tap roots like mesquite flourish along with the fridge of the dunes
Plants with long tap roots like mesquite flourish along with the fridge of the dunes

There are some “ghost towns” around Death Valley. The most famous and accessible one is probably Rhyolite, even though it's not actually in the park or even in California. It is hard to believe that in early 20th century it was known as the "Queen City".

At the Goldwell Open Air Museum in the town, there we saw "The Last Supper" and "ride a bicycle" in Albert Szukalksi's sculptures, which were installed here in the 1980s.

“Ride a bicycle” is one of Albert Szukalksi's sculptures at Rhyolite
”Ride a bicycle” is one of Albert Szukalksi's sculptures at Rhyolite

The Inn at Death Valley

The Inn at Death Valley is a AAA-rated four-diamond resort. It is an elegant hideaway since 1927.

The tunnel to the elevator that takes us to the check-in lobby of The Inn at Death Valley
The tunnel to the elevator that takes us to the check-in lobby of The Inn at Death Valley

We stayed in one of the Inn’s Casitas, which is located in the shadow of the Oasis Gardens’ date palms. The Casita is over 500 square feet and comes with a complimentary golf cart for us to use to get around the property. It is only walking distance to the hotel’s spring-fed swimming pool.

The two-bed room in our Inn’s Casitas where was the room we stayed in The Inn at Death Valley
The two-bed room in our Inn’s Casitas where was the room we stayed in The Inn at Death Valley
The living room in our Inn’s Casitas where was the room we stayed in The Inn at Death Valley
The living room in our Inn’s Casitas where was the room we stayed in The Inn at Death Valley
The Casita is over 500 square feet and comes with a complimentary golf cart for us to use to get around in The Inn at Death Valley
The Casita is over 500 square feet and comes with a complimentary golf cart for us to use to get around in The Inn at Death Valley
Amazingly, there was a pond surrounded with palm trees at our Casitas‘s backyard.
Amazingly, there was a pond surrounded with palm trees at our Casitas‘s backyard.
The Inn at Death Valley is covered by palm trees and spring water
The Inn at Death Valley is covered by palm trees and spring water
The Inn at Death Valley has a spring-fed swimming pool
The Inn at Death Valley has a spring-fed swimming pool

We really enjoyed the unparalleled privacy and luxury offered by the hotel.

- Part Two -

Route Map

Route wmap from Fremont California to M Hotel at Las Vegas
Route wmap from M Hotel Las Vegas to The Inn at Death Valley
Route wmap from The Inn at Death Valley to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes

Trip Duration

2018-12-23 - 2018-12-29