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.
We stayed in M Resort Spa Casino for the night.
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 federal government shutdown also affected National Parks, but the park remained open. We didn’t need to pay the entrance fee though.
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.
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.
You'll have the option to extend the hike, like Golden Canyon trail, which leads you to the Golden Canyon exit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Inn at Death Valley
The Inn at Death Valley is a AAA-rated four-diamond resort. It is an elegant hideaway since 1927.
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.
We really enjoyed the unparalleled privacy and luxury offered by the hotel.