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Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Death Valley National Park

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  • Website: Death Valley
  • Cost: $30.00 per car for a 7 day pass
  • Hotels/resorts and campgrounds in the park
  • Restaurants and concessions in the park
  • Scenic drives
  • Historic sites
  • Hiking
  • Backpacking
  • Backcountry camping
  • When to go: winter, early spring, late fall. Visitors should be extremely cautious in the summer months when temperatures rise dramatically.
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Devil’s Golf Course – these “rocks” are actually salt crystals. The Panamint Mountains made a nice backdrop for this shot. Note the alluvial fan at the base of the mountains.

Getting There

Our trip is going to start in Las Vegas, Nevada, which has a major airport and is only 123 miles from Death Valley. Ice down a cooler full of water, grab your favorite road snacks, and let’s go to Death Valley!

From Las Vegas, take I-15 south to Highway 160 west to Pahrump, Nevada.

Travel tip: make a restroom stop and top off you gas tank in Pahrump.

From Pahrump, continue northwest on Highway 160 to Bell Vista Avenue. Take Bell Vista (which changes to Bell Vista Road) west across the California state line to Death Valley Junction and Highway 190. Continue in to the park on Highway 190. Drive time between Las Vegas and Death Valley: 2 hours.

Travel tip: Look for wild burros and horses along Highway 190.

Destination: Death Valley National Park

IMG_2601Arguably, Death Valley holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth – 134º F in July of 1913. Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, sitting at 282 feet below sea level. With an average of 1.5 inches of rain per year, Death Valley also holds the honor of being the driest place in North America. We are used to hot, dry weather where we live, but the 111º F (before noon) temperature when we visited Death Valley felt like a different type of oppressive heat that seemed heavier to us for some reason. With that said, we caution you to be conscious of the weather and prepare for harsh conditions when visiting this park, especially in the late spring, summer, and early fall. Also, make sure your car is in tip-top condition before starting a road trip through Death Valley.

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This is a spring in the salt flats at Badwater Basin, but the water is too salty to drink.

Death Valley is hot, dry, and its spring water is too salty for humans or animals to drink. So why would anyone want to go there? Well, see below…

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Breathtaking Beauty
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Vibrant Colors at Artist’s Palette
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Magnificent Mountain Vistas

When thinking of a desert, one usually thinks of sand dunes and scrubby cactus. At least that is what we envision when we imagine desert scenery. Death Valley is different from other deserts because of its diversity. The park features 11,000 foot mountains, wildflower super blooms after rare rains, as well as sand dunes. Badlands, salt flats, and dry lake beds where rocks race across the parched ground on their own, can also be seen here. With so much to offer, it’s easy to see the many facets of this unique landscape. And speaking of lake beds, all of Death Valley was once a lake. A trip here is definitely worth the time, and it’s not just about the scenery. This park also features oases, historic ghost towns, abandoned mines, and even a castle!

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Badlands of Zabriskie Point
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Salt Flats of Badwater Basin
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Multi-faceted Beauty

Did you know that borax was once mined in Death Valley? The mine was called Harmony Borax Works, and they hauled the borax 165 miles to Mojave, California, using huge wagons pulled by teams of twenty mules. One of the wagons can still be seen at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. The trip from Death Valley to Mojave took ten days and had to have been grueling. Today at Death Valley, there is a park road through scenic Twenty Mule Team Canyon. While the wagons probably didn’t travel this exact area, it is a wonder how they managed to get their animals and wagons through the rugged terrain of what is now Death Valley National Park.

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In Twenty Mule Team Canyon
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View of the terrain and park road through Twenty Mule Team Canyon

Thank you for joining us on our trip to Death Valley National Park! We hope that we have given you some insight and inspiration for planning your own trip to see this wondrous place. That is our goal in sharing our information, after all. We will leave you with one last look at beautiful, otherworldly Zabriskie Point.

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Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Get Ready and Four Let’s Go to Zion National Park

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  • Website link: Zion National Park.
  • Cost: $35.00 per car.
  • Accommodation in the park: Zion Lodge.
  • Restaurant and seasonal cafe at Zion Lodge.
  • Three campgrounds in the park.
  • Shuttle. (Mandatory in Zion Canyon from spring through fall.)
  • Additional lodging/camping in many locations outside the park.
  • When to go: Anytime. We like September.

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Ahh…Zion! One of the most popular national parks, and one of our favorites. From finding peaceful solitude, to hiking, climbing, canyoneering, backpacking, or simply enjoying the beautiful scenery, Zion has something for everyone. It is also one of five national parks in Utah. So, depending on how much time you have, a visit to Zion could lead to visits to Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks. Don’t worry if you don’t catch all of them on this trip. We’re going to cover them all in future posts.

Zion National Park is approximately:

308 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah427 miles from Los Angeles, California377 miles from Phoenix, Arizona — 159 miles from Las Vegas, Nevada

The closest city with a major airport is obvious. So pack your bag, stash some cash in your pocket, and get ready for a ride ’cause we’re headin’ to Vegas, baby!

Getting There

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Almost everyone has their favorite hotel in Las Vegas, but because we love staying on The Strip — and we are always looking for a bargain, these are our favorites:

*Recommended hotels in Las Vegas: Monte Carlo, New York New York, and Luxor.

There are many other hotels on and off The Srip, as well as downtown options. RV campsites are also available in the city. Travel tip: choose a hotel that has free parking.

*Recommended splurge restaurants in Las Vegas: Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House at the MGM Grand – 3799 S Las Vegas Blvd., and The Buffet at Wynn at the Wynn Las Vegas – 3131 S Las Vegas Blvd.

*Recommended theme-type restaurants in Las Vegas: Margaritaville – 3555 S Las Vegas Blvd., and Hard Rock Cafe – 3771 S Las Vegas Blvd.

*Recommended fast food: In-N-Out Burger – 3545 S Las Vegas Blvd.

Honestly, we’ve never had a bad meal anywhere in Las Vegas. And, as far as attractions go, there are way too many to list here. If this is your first trip to Las Vegas, we recommend that you check out the hotels/casinos on The Strip (aka Las Vegas Avenue). Each one has something different to see or do, and each one is worthy of a visit. Travel tip: take a picture at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign – 5200 S Las Vegas Blvd. There is limited parking, and you will probably have to wait in line to get your shot, but it will be worth being able to say, “Been there, done that, got the picture to prove it!”

Now, on to Zion National Park…

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Beautiful Scenery Along I-15 North of Las Vegas

Take I-15 North toward Mesquite, Nevada and the Arizona state line. Bonus stop: Valley of Fire State Park. The park road is a Nevada Scenic Byway. See spectacular red rock formations and petroglyphs. RV and tent camping available. Drive time between Las Vegas and Valley of Fire State Park: 1 hour.

Continue on I-15 to St. George, Utah. Drive time between Las Vegas, Nevada and St. George, Utah: 2 hours. Travel tip: near the Arizona-Utah line, you will enter the Virgin River Gorge. This is a very scenic drive, but the road has some tight curves and hills. Traffic may be heavy and fast in this area. Use extreme caution.

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The St. George Utah Temple (LDS)

*Recommended hotel in St. George, Utah or Springdale, Utah: Hampton Inn. St. George is the closest large city to Zion, and Springdale is at the entrance of Zion. Travel tip: the closer you are to the park, the higher the hotel rates.

Many camping options are available in St. George, Hurricane, and Springdale.

Destination: Zion National Park

From I-15, take Highway 9 east toward Springdale, Utah and Zion National Park. We highly recommend getting to the park early in the morning. Parking can be difficult during peak tourist seasons and the parking lots fill quickly. Overflow parking is available in Springdale, and the Springdale Shuttle runs to and from the park. Hop-on hop-off shuttles inside the park run the length of Zion Canyon with nine different stops. We never waited longer than ten minutes for a shuttle in the park, however, we waited in line for almost an hour to get on one of the first shuttles of the day. Did we let that bother us? Absolutely not! The park was definitely worth the wait. Travel tip: carry a backpack with everything that you’re going to need for a full day in the park, including lunch, snacks, and plenty of water. Get ready to hike.

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View From the Visitor Center

Here are our favorites:

Riverside Walk. From the visitor center, take the shuttle all the way up the canyon to the Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop. This is where the Riverside Walk trail begins. The paved trail, which follows the Virgin River, is easy, and it is the gateway to The Narrows. (The Narrows is a nine mile hike in the river. This is a strenuous 7-9 hour hike, but it is one of the most popular at Zion. Check with the visitor center regarding river conditions before attempting The Narrows.) After Riverside Walk, you can work your way back down the canyon by hiking other trails (check out Weeping Rock Trail) or by taking the shuttle to the next stop.

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View of the river from Riverside Walk

The Grotto Trail to Zion Lodge. Super easy, one mile hike, and the scenery is so much more spectacular from a trail than from a vehicle. The shuttle stop at The Grotto is also the trailhead for Angels Landing, which is another of the most popular trails at Zion. Angels Landing Trail is long, strenuous, and not for everyone, but we hear that the views are incredible.

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At Zion Lodge

Lower Emerald Pools Trail. From The Grotto Trail, take the Lower Emerald Pool Trail. This trail is easy, and just a little over a mile long, although, there are some inclines along the the way. Return to The Grotto shuttle stop via Kayenta Trail (moderate, 1.5 miles) for great views of the Virgin River and Zion Canyon.

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Along Lower Emerald Pools Trail

 

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Behind a Small Waterfall at Lower Emerald Pool
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View of the Virgin River and Zion Canyon

4. Kolob Canyons Road. Visitor Center off of I-15. This is a nice, scenic drive after a day of hiking in Zion Canyon. Great hiking here, too, and less crowded.

IMG_2006 Obviously, we have barely scratched Zion’s surface. There are many additional hikes, short trails, a museum, ranger led programs, and much more available in the park. Zion is a place where you can (and should) find your own level of adventure. We hope you have a fantastic trip! Leave us a comment below, and let us know what made you fall in love with Zion. We would love to hear from you. Until the next trip…

Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.

Mike and Kellye  

 

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As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.

©2018