Saturday, March 5, 2011

Death Valley National Park

It's hard to believe that we have lived in Vegas for nearly 8 years and never made it to Death Valley. With a day off work, Amy's mum in town celebrating her and my birthday, and Amy still well enough to travel before the boys arrive next month, it was a good time to make the journey.
It is still relatively cool in Vegas and we knew Death Valley would be warmer, so timing was also right weather wise.

We left early for the 2.5 hour drive north-west. It is a fairly non-descript drive through the desert all the way and not much fanfare when you get to the park either. But the National Park itself is awesome.

Our first stop was at Zabriskie Point. This small hike leads to the overlook where you see the 200 square miles of salt flats that Death Valley is known for. A magnificent start to the days proceedings.

We then drove on to the Furnace Creek Visitors Center to get some ideas of what to do. We quickly found out that we wouldn't be able to do everything in 1 day and will have to make the journey back some day to see the northern and western parts of the park. We drove about 28 miles to the northeast to Stovepipe Wells Village, where stopped for lunch. Only a mile further was the Mosaic Canyon, where we stopped and did our only real hike of the day. We spent just over an hour making our way through a moderately elevated trail. It was nice to be out of the car, but certainly warmer than I expected.

Amy, Mom & I at Mosaic Canyon

Back the way we came, again past the Visitors Center and on to Natural Bridge. Again we got out here and walked the short distance up to the bridge. We didn't go further as we wanted to see more and time and daylight were running out.

Natural Bridge at Death Valley National Park

Our next stop was at Badwater. This overlooks the salt basin which, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest point in the USA. Just a vast expanse of salt flats that go nearly as far as the eye can see. There is a significant increase in temperature here and we walk out for about a mile to try and get an idea of how big this is. Pictures taken do not do it justice.

Amy & I at Badwater Salt Flats

We continue 55 miles to the south, to the Park's exit near Shoshone. Ashford Mill and Jubilee Pass are supposed to be areas where the flowers bloom, and are said to be a spectacular sight. We are here probably 3 weeks to early to sees this, but that gives us another reason to come back.

The only thing less exciting than desert scenery on a drive, is the desert at night. We took the drive back through Pahrump before getting into Vegas around 9pm. A great days exploring and definitely a place I would want to go back to, though next time I want to check out Scotty's Castle. Another US National Park to take off the bucket list.