Death Valley and Valley of Fire
We flew into Las Vegas on a Thursday morning, eager to reach Death Valley. The drive from Vegas to Death Valley was scenic. This is along highway 190, approaching Death Valley from the Nevada side.
As soon as we entered the park, we spotted a (well-camouflaged) coyote along the road to welcome us.
It was fairly late by the time we reached the park and got settled into our hotel. We spoke to a ranger who recommended the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for a great sunset.
Walking over large sand dunes was a first for both Lisa and I. It was pretty magical.
One thing Lisa and I have learned from our visit to national parks is that while expensive (and pretty bare-bones), it is well worth it to stay within the park. We woke up early the next morning and hit the ground running with a hike on the Golden Canyon Trail, just minutes from our room in Furnace Creek.
The trail ascends fairly gradual at first, but becomes more vertical over time with sweeping views of the valley below.
The end of the red rock portion of the trail overlooks the valley below
We were both beginning to really love Death Valley at this point. Growing up, it was always presented as a hot, flat place. In reality, it’s truly a valley with breathtaking views from above, and otherworldly sights at the base.
Our next stop along the road was Badwater Basin, the lowest spot in North America.
From the parking lot, it’s about a mile walk out to the salt flats. This is the area many of us are familiar with from learning about Death Valley as children.
It may look like sand or snow, but this is all salt. Yes, we tasted it. It stretches to the horizon.
The entire park feels like another planet, but this area is on a whole other level.
Lisa making a salt angel.
Badwater Creek, near the start of the “trail” to the salt flats.
Another famous spot, just a few minutes down the road from Badwater Basin – the Devil’s Golf Course.
The salt deposits here are much taller.
A closer view of one of the salt formations.
Artist Palette is not far down the same road from Badwater Basin. Different mineral deposits over the centuries have created a multi-color landscape.
Due to the time of year we visited, the days were short, and sunset was before 5:30. It did force us onto an earlier schedule.
The next morning, we woke up early to catch the sunrise at Zabriskie Point.
The sunrise here did not disappoint.
Once the sun had risen, we made our way out to a ghost town outside of the Park. The ghost town was named after the mineral that was mined here, Rhyolite.
The ghost town thrived in the early 1900s, but gradually faded away until there was nobody left. Some of the structures left behind were impressive.
The drive back into the park from Beatty, Nevada was quite scenic.
We stopped to visit the Harmony Borax Works ruins on our way back into the park.
Back at Zabriskie Point, we started hiking the Golden Canyon Trail from a different point than the day before.
The trail ended up being a little confusing, and not the most scenic after the first portion.
One of the last good views on the trail as we made our way down into the canyon.
Lisa expressing our sentiments well into the trail. We were ready to be back at this point.
For our last sunset in the park, we planned a drive to Dante’s view… one of the highest points on the eastern side of the park. The white area in the lower lefthand portion of the photo is the salt flats of Badwater Basin, which we had visited the day before. It was hard to believe it stretched to the horizon when we were there. Dante’s view is over a mile above Badwater Basin.
It was quite a drive up to this view point from below, and required planning, but it was worth it.
One last sunset at Death Valley. This was a truly magical place that we’d both recommend.
The next day, we made our way in the Las Vegas area. After a very welcome brunch, we continued east to Valley of Fire state park.
We didn’t have an entire day for the park, so we looked up and decided on a trail that had many of the park’s most popular spots.
Not long after starting the trail, we knew this was no normal state park. We were blown away by the scenery.
The trail we hiked started off with the “fire wave,” followed by the pink canyon.
We lucked out with the weather. We had good cloud cover and the temperature was not too hot or cold. We realized later into our hike though, rain was probably coming.
We had one night in Vegas before flying home the next day.
The next day, before our flight home, we visited Meow Wolf. It’s hard to describe exactly what it is. The easiest way to put it is that it’s a fully-immersive art exhibit that is super trippy and completely “out there.”
The entrance is a parody of a grocery store. Waiting to enter, there are ads outside for various “products” available.
Once inside, the shelves are stocked with some crazy products, some available for actual purchase.
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