Time for our 4th annual Death Valley New Years road trip (see reviews/photos from 2009 or 2010 or 2011). This trip has a few short hikes each day, but also plenty of driving each day to get to our destinations (Death Valley is a big place). For most folks this will be a five day trip, but some people may want to leave on the 31st to get home to a party, which is also OK.
Important: Meet on our first hiking day, Saturday, at our campsites in Texas Spring, at 9:00 AM. If you are staying at Furnace Creek, we'll have a sign at the entrance to Texas Spring identifying our campsites, but likely they will be in the upper, far left side, in the campsites[masked] range.
Here's the tentative plan:
- Thurs Dec 27 (optional): Camp at Red Rock Canyon State Park (about 360 miles, six-seven hours from the Bay Area, and 160 miles short of Death Valley). [Katie and I will definitely make this stop --Lee]
- Fri Dec 28: Leave the Bay Area early, arriving at Death Valley late afternoon/early evening. People can either camp (Texas Spring) or stay in a hotel ( Furnace Creek Ranch).
- Sat Dec 29: Morning: Mosaic Canyon (easy hiking, but some "butt-scooting" along slippery rocks). Lunch on the road (can pick up food at Stovepipe Wells). Afternoon: Sand dunes, Devils Cornfield, Historic Stovepipe wells (hike into dunes, others sites are car accessible).
- Sun Dec 30: Morning: Historic dune at Beatty Junction (brief car stop), followed by drive to Ubehebe Crater, short hike in that area. Lunch on the road. Afternoon: Scottie's Castle (ticketed) Tour, short hike in the area.
- Mon Dec 31: Morning: Artists Canyon, Ventifact Ridge, Badwater. Lunch on the road. Afternoon: Open. Perhaps a hike up Willow Canyon to see the waterfalls (or maybe a hike down the canyon from the top. Evening: Dinner at Furnace Creek Ranch restaurant for those who desire.
- Tues Jan 1: Drive home. This group may decide to travel to hot springs on the way home, or other trip-lengthening detours, but that's up to those in each car/carpool (and depends on the amount of snow in the mountains, which can make the duration of this drive essentially impossible to do in a day).
At nights, we'll be staying in the Furnace Creek area, which has both camping (it will be cold at night) and motel rooms at the Furnace Creek Ranch (Furnace Creek Inn is just down the street for those who want more luxury). Each morning we'll carpool to our hikes--we'll aim for a moderate hiking pace, but leave no one behind--this is a hiking group, so I'll assume everyone understands that this is not just car-touring. I'll be posting some files (camping, park map, etc.) below for people to look at, or you can visit the Death Valley National Park web site.
Map: Here's a Google map showing the camping/hotel area, as well as some hikes we may make: http://tinyurl.com/deathvalleygeologyhike
Hikes: Hikes are always tentative: Road conditions, number of 4WD's available, etc. may change our plans. We may decide on longer hikes, or multiple shorter hikes, driving between them (there are many 1-2 hour hikes in the park). If we have cars with "high clearance," we can get down a few roads that are a bit too bumpy for most cars (I just bought a 4WD that fits four comfortably); but we'll probably [i]not[/i] go down 4-wheel drive roads (unless everyone has 4WD, and even then we'll likely avoid the really rough ones).
Camping: Camp sites hold up to 8 people and 2 cars--some are "pull through" others are "walk-in, tent only". Last two years we stayed in Texas Spring, which is nicer than Furnace Creek--but right near it. Texas Spring has water, sinks, and flush toilets, but no showers. Furnace Creek Ranch offers shower and pool access for $5/day. Camping is first-come, first served (non-reservable), so we'll ask the first person to arrive to reserve two campsites (probably some of us staying at Red Rock Canyon can reserve good spaces--then all campers will reimburse a portion of the fees). If, for some reason, we get there too late and can't get a reservation, Furnace Creek has 135 sites and won't sell out, so we won't be left without a site. Bring a sturdy tent: Last year in a daytime windstorm several tents got blown around.
Motel: If you want to stay in the Furnace Creek Ranch or the FC Inn (a pricier resort, also in the area), make your own reservations now Furnace Creek does sell out! If you want to share a room, leave a comment below stating your desires/preferences. Other alternative: Stovepipe Wells Village is a bit less expensive, and only about 30 miles from Furnace Creek area. Another much less expensive motel option is to stay in Beatty, Nevada. This is about 45 miles away (in 2009 a couple people stayed here), but the roads are mostly straight, but you do pass through a mountain pass. Google Maps estimates the drive at 1 hour 13 minutes, which I suspect is a bit longer than needed.
Food: We'll work out the details on food in early December, but plan on having at least your own lunches that you can take with you on hikes (we may coordinate breakfasts and dinners, for those who are interested-, but everyone is welcome to just bring their own). There is a restaurant at Furnace Creek for those inclined to dine in.
Weather: Cold at nights; may have some rain but not likely too much. http://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/weather.htm Regardless, be ready for cold, and be ready for rain.
Cost: Each participant will be responsible for:
- their own transportation cost, or helping with gas if they carpool
- camping ($18/site/night) or motel (2 queen=$169/night)
- entrance fee ($20/car)
- their own food (some may be shared).
- $5 contribution from each person for this trip (total, not per day). You must pay to RSVP, and this is non-refundable--so only sign up when you know you can go. This trip doesn't "fill up."
Cell phone reception: Is getting better, although most coverage maps I've seen show a big dead spot in Death Valley. In 2011 most of us could make calls/text messages from Texas Spring/Furnace Creek, but there are no guarantees how good it will be. Hopefully it's improving every year.
- I love Racetrack Playa, but we've done it three years in a row, and will likely skip it this year.
- Please don't RSVP until you know you can make it. The trip won't fill up, so you don't have to worry about beating others to get a space.
- I may add other notes here as I think of them
- Road conditions (all are fine now, but we'll want to check this before we leave just in case there are any washouts or other closures).
- Hikes in Death Valley From Trails.com: Rhyolite, Nevada Rhyolite is an eerie-looking ghost town set in the barren desert of western Nevada. In 1904, gold was found in the nearby hills, and Rhyolite boomed and busted in 1910. This famously photographed ghost town is a National Historic Site and has been featured in many western films. Rhyolite makes a great day trip from either Las Vegas or Death Valley National Park, and visitors can tour several remains of the boom days, including the old train depot, bank, jail and the Bottle House, which was fully restored for Paramount Pictures' film "The Air Mail." Read more at Trails.com: Ghosts of Christmas Past: Ghost Towns to Visit this Winter | Trails.com.