Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Las Vegas - Los Angeles - San Diego - Las Vegas Road Trip via Death Valley National Park and Palm Springs (part 1)

Las Vegas-Death Valley-Los Angeles-San Diego-Palm Springs

I had several queries lately about a trip flying to and out of Las Vegas, then, taking a road trip to Los Angeles and San Diego via Death Valley National Park and Palm Springs, for about 6 days or less, without the hikes. This post assumes that the airport destination is Las Vegas. The challenge is 6 days or less, let us see what I can come up with, since I have not done this road trip at all. Although I've been to all these places, but not in one road trip. I understand however, that most tourists, make Las Vegas their airport destination, then, they take the Grand Circle road trip, where the start and end of the trip is Las Vegas. Maybe after a few days of rest at Las Vegas, they would do another Circle, the Southern California road trip such as in this post, and then Pacific Northwest Circle. Some tourists spend a month or more to explore the West which really explodes with National Parks and nature's wonders. I don't know if I could find another place on Earth having as diverse landscape and geology as the West, where mind boggling desert landscapes, glacially curved mountain peaks, and ocean waves beating the mountains could all be experienced. Maybe, for 90% of tourists to Las Vegas, it's all about the strip, but for other tourists, there is so much to see after Las Vegas. And they wanted to make the most of their expensive airfare by taking road trips and seeing more wonders of nature.

Anyway, let me go back to the Southern California Circle from Las Vegas by starting with the map of this road trip.
( you can click to enlarge the itinerary )
Notice that this road trip forms a loop, so any of the three cities, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, or San Diego can be the airport of choice, depending on where the air fare would give the best deal. The itinerary here serves to provide information only for those who are planning for this kind of road trip. Though I will start here from Las Vegas then going in the counterclockwise direction, anyone can start from any of the three cities, going in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. 
BEST TIME TO DO THIS ROAD TRIP: late fall- early spring, because Death Valley and Palm Springs may get too hot at other times of the year.
Death Valley ( top 2 pictures ) and Palm Springs area ( bottom 2 pictures )

Day 1: Fly to Las Vegas. Unless you are in a hurry to really be on the road right away, I suggest that you stay for a night first at Las Vegas, because from late fall to early spring, the day is still short, it would be best to start your trip to Death Valley early in the morning rather than middle of the day or late afternoon. Besides, Las Vegas is a vibrant city, you will find so many things to do in the strip. Also, it is easier to find hotels in Las Vegas that offers 4-5 star luxury at a much affordable price, enjoy it, because in Death Valley, you may be paying a lot more, but the hotel offers very basic accommodation. Where to stay in Las Vegas? I really suggest for you to find a hotel right at the heart of the strip. The traffic at the strip is kind of unbearable, it is better to be walking to your hotel while you are exploring the strip, than, being stuck on traffic for long time going to your hotel from the Strip.
Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas has many free night shows, such as the Fountain Show at Belagio, and the Pirates at Mirage. I love both of these shows. You may want to combine it by watching concerts as well, or theater plays, or Cirque du Soleil ( my favorite is O at Bellagio), in that case, you may want to check out Ticket Master for best priced tickets and for the recent shows going on.
Day 2: Leave Las Vegas early morning for Death Valley National Park. 
Las Vegas Blvd is very quiet early morning, no traffic at all, if you wait later, you may spend most of your day stuck in Las Vegas traffic. In 116 miles, about 2 hours from Las Vegas, your first stop at Death Valley National Park is Dante's View.
stop 1 @ Death Valley: Dante's View
Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, CA
Dante's View is a part of Amargosa Range, that was geological Mesozoic volcanos. These mountains were created when the surface of the earth was being stretched, forming a pulling force. The crust ruptured because of this force, and as a result, lava erupted and ended up deposited on top of the preceding sedimentary rock.
Overlooking the Badwater Basin and Panamint Range from Dante's View
If you are a follower of Star Wars, Dante's View is the filming location in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In a scene where Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2 and C-3PO approach Mos Eisley the city and stopped to watch the Mos Eisley from a view point, that view point was Dante's View. Ahhh, if you are a Star Wars fan, you can actually follows the Star Wars Walk in Death Valley.
From Dante's View, you will start your descent towards the heart of the park. About 17 miles from Dante's View, you will reach Zabriskie Point.
stop 2 @ Death Valley: Zabriskie Point
Hikers At Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point is a part of Amargosa Range located east of Death Valley and is noted for its landscape shaped by erosion. It is composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago—long before Death Valley came into existence.
Can You Find Me? How Small Am I Compared to this Landscape?
Zabriskie Point is also the name of a 1970 movie by Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni. The philosopher Michel Foucault called his 1975 acid trip at Zabriskie Point the greatest experience of his life. Also, Zabriskie Point is featured prominently on the cover of U2's album The Joshua Tree. The Joshua Trees can also be found in the Western section of the Park. 
After Zabriskie Point, it may be the right time for your lunch, where you can stop at Furnace Creek Inn, before you proceed to explore Badwater Basin.
3rd stop: Furnace Creek Inn for Lunch or Nourishment
After Furnace Crek Inn, you can continue your exploration of Death Valley National Park at Badwater Road. There are many stops here that could be explored without hiking, such as:
4th stop: Borax Harmony Works
Borax Works
Part of the history of Death Valley is the Borax Works, founded in 1881. The famed 20- mule teams were charged with the task of hauling borax 165 miles to Mojave, California. Today, mining in Death Valley proper has been stopped, but borates are still mined throughout the region.
5th stop: Badwater Basin
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, CA
Badwater Basin is noted as the lowest point in North America, with an elevation of 282 ft (86 m) below sea level.
Spring Fed Pool @ Badwater Basin
The site itself consists of a small spring-fed pool of "bad water" next to the road in a sink; the accumulated salts of the surrounding basin make it undrinkable, thus giving it the name. The pool does have animal and plant life: including pickleweed, aquatic insects, and the Badwater snail.
6th stop: Artist's Palette 
Colored Buttes @ Artist's Palette, Death Valley National Park
The colors in Artist's Palette resulted from the oxidation of different metals.The rock unit provides evidence for one of the Death Valley area's most violently explosive volcanic periods. Chemical weathering and hydrothermal alteration are also responsible for the variety of colors displayed in the Artist Drive Formation and nearby exposures of the Furnace Creek Formation.
There are more places to explore along Badwater Road, but they require some hikes, if short of time ( late fall to early spring has shorted day time), The Natural Bridge and Golden Canyon can be skipped.
7th stop: Mesquite Sand Dunes
Mesquite Sand Dunes
Depending on time, Mesquite Sand Dune may be the last stop of the day, or may be the first stop the next day. Though Mesquite Sand Dune can be seen from the road, but to photograph the dune, a little hike ( or longer hike to the tallest dune) is needed. Exploring Mesquite Sand Dune can be as short or as long, depending on one's time and interest. 

Where to Sleep at Death Valley National Park
There are two lodging options at Death Valley National Park, one is at Furnace Creek Inn, and the other one at Stovepipe Village. The Furnace Creek Inn is closer to Zabriskie Point and Badwater Road where most of the attractions of Death Valley are. However, Stovepipe Village is closer to Mesquite Sand Dunes. If photographing Mesquite Sand Dunes is your target for sunrise and sunset, I suggest, you make reservations at Stovepipe Village. If however, your plan is photography of Zabriskie Point at sunrise, sunset, and with the stars, then, Furnace Creek Inn is the best lodging option.

My personal preference is Furnace Creek Inn since it is easier to photograph the area around it for sunrise, sunset and night skies. I am still hoping for one day to go back to Death Valley and do night photography with the amazing stars and Milky Way.

Room rate at Furnace Creek Inn is from $160- $450 / night for two persons, whereas the room rate at Stovepipe Village is from $95-$165 per night for two persons.
Death Valley National Park, CA
So, this is Day 2 of the road trip, at Death Valley National Park. Wow, I almost could not believe that all these could be photographed without the hikes or very little hikes. Well, of course, except for the Mesquite Sand Dunes, but then, you are already in Death Valley, why miss out the sand dunes? Unless you will aim to get to the peak of the tallest dune ( it's work since you have to go up and down several sand dunes, and walking on sand is not easy ), you would still be able to enjoy the sand dunes with very little hike, leaving the main road to the dunes. I assure you, all those sands will bring out the child you, I still have to see a child who does not look happy at the dune, almost all of them shows too much love for it, kissing the sand almost as they play with it! :) Did I kiss the sand? Nope, I enjoyed taking photos of the sand though. :) And I was blown away by all of those magical curves created by the wind!
Day 3: Leaving Death Valley National Park for Los Angeles, CA ( to be continued, this will be in part 2). 
The other viewing points to take in the beauty of Death Valley will be on the way out, at the Western portion of the park, on the way to Los Angeles, CA.
Day 4: Los Angeles to San Diego, CA ( this will be in part 3)
Day 5: San Diego to Palm Springs, CA ( this will be in part 4)
Day 6: Palm Springs back to Las Vegas, Nevada ( this will be in part 5).

Wow, so impress of myself- I am able to come up with an itinerary indeed, only for 6 days! Yehey! Though I must say, this will be a busy road trip, full of ohhhs and ahhs, and sightseeing, and one would only be able to see more if they start early of the day.

More of  Las Vegas - Los Angeles - San Diego - Las Vegas Road Trip via Death Valley National Park and Palm Springs road trip itinerary to come.
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  1. wow....yes I see you there! you are so small compared to the landscape yet your love for nature makes you huge in our eyes...I wish I could explore Las Vegas and Los Angeles with you one sweet day :)

  2. I've learned a lot from this post which makes me want to got there and see the beauty of nature though my naked eyes although your photos here are already stunning. By the way, mentioning the Cirque de Soleil, do you know that I am saving ticket to watch them? Hope they'll perform here in Edmonton. For sure I'll book a day-off for that.

  3. Very vast and totally enticing! hubby sent me postcards during his road trip and made me envious, I'm coming with him on the next trip! :) I sense how you are totally having fun with all these, keep the fun!

  4. That's such a very challenging trip, Miss Babette! But I can feel the excitement as well. Without a baby in tow, that is so fun I think! :D The places are worth trekking; so beautiful and breathtaking!

  5. Impressive post.I have to bookmark this post so I have an idea if we're going to a road trip someday and it is easy for me to make our itinerary.

  6. Oh my!! This is so cool! I want to take that road trip too and set foot on that vast and beautiful landscape! You've detailed it so good that as if I've taken the trip myself. Awesome!

  7. You are so blessed to see these majestic beauties of nature Ate Beth!

  8. WOW!!! so lucky of you to be able to get there without any hassle, your road trip escapade is quite fascinating, That is awesome.

  9. Kala ko makikita ko is mga restaurant or club in Las Vegas LOL! Pero napaWOW ako sa ibang side ng Las Vegas ng makita ko to.

  10. The photos are simply amazing and stunning! You're lucky to see and explore that places. Thanks for sharing, keep on posting!

  11. For now, I'll content myself simply watching your amazing photos. Hanggang pangarap na lang muna ako.

  12. it's going to take me acouple of years pa before i can visit those places., but it'd sure be great specially when it's going to be with my son and wife.

    cheers for sharing! :)

  13. great shots once again Betchai.. not many people can go to too many places and be able to explore and enjoy them.. The Death Valley gives me some chills.. dunno why..

  14. Wow! This just sounds fun and exciting. Can I tag along Ate Beth? :)

  15. Awesome! You never fail to mesmerize me and hold me in awe of your beautiful adventures captured in these beautiful photographs, Te Betchai! I could only cry in full appreciation! Puedeng-puede ng pang postcard!!! I am so overly amazed!

  16. 6 days? That's so tiring, hehe! But of course, it's worth it! Love the photos, as usual!

  17. Thank you much Beth......will see you soon....please keep it coming and this is such a great help! ;o). LOL

  18. I like the loop. Also been discussing Death Valley with SO. This itinerary is really great, I will send this link to him. Thanks!

  19. The nature places in the pictures are beautiful. I'd feel much more comfortable in those places than the cities. I guess Las Vegas might be fun, but I really like nature.

  20. That sounds like an amazing trip. I should take the family out west.

  21. So I have literally made a good tour within a few minutes.

  22. wow, really amazing pictures and I am sure you had so much fun...you're so adventurous and blessed to see those places. :) thanks for touring us around, its a great one. I am sure this very detailed information will be useful to those traveling those area...who knows someday, we can travel this route and this will be really handy to know, *dreaming* hehehe!

  23. very detailed and well-written post as always, Beth! this would come in handy should we travel to Las Vegas, SD and LA one sweet day.

  24. I wonder why it's called Death Valley. Grabe ka ate Betchai, gala lang ng gala :) Hope I could do something like what you do someday.