One of my family’s favorite things to do in the winter is road trip. We’ve been to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Zion, Yosemite, and most recently — Death Valley. For a long time, my dad had been rambling on and on about how Death Valley was on his bucket list, and though the rest of us had little idea of what Death Valley would have to offer, we decided to commit to the idea and make the trek.
The drive ended up being about 6 hours, thanks to an additional hour in LA traffic. But I filled the time jamming out to music and reading a new book I got for Christmas, The Ramblers (which having now finished, I highly, HIGHLY recommend!). We stayed in Lone Pine, which has some sights of its own and is about a 1-2 hour drive from Death Valley, depending on where specifically you’re headed. This worked well because it allowed us to stay at a reasonably-priced Comfort Inn that had gorgeous views of Mt. Whitney and really excellent service, while the amenities actually within Death Valley are limited except for a few expensive resorts and cabins. (You’ll see in Friday’s post too how much Lone Pine is worth a visit in and of itself!) We enjoyed dinner at the Mt. Whitney Restaurant, where the main thing on the menu is burgers — and a heads-up for all the plant-based eaters out there, the restaurant makes a decent veggie burger! They also boast elk, ostrich, and buffalo burgers, oh my!
We headed back to the hotel in order to get an early start to the morning, which, because of the driving time and distance, is a must. Rest assured though, the drive is breathtaking and the road is only one lane, so it goes by fast and lets you take in the views.
Our first day was spent in Furnace Creek, which is roughly two hours from Lone Pine. We stopped at a few viewpoints along the way but really began at Golden Canyon, a mild hike through a fairly impressive small canyon. It was a perfect introduction to Death Valley for us and we hiked it for about 2 miles before heading back (we could’ve gone farther, but there wasn’t any stunning endpoint so we decided to turn back because we had other things to see!). It’s crazy to think everything in Death Valley was once under the ocean! We then made our way to Devil’s Golfcourse. This was definitely a highlight for us. Devil’s Golfcourse consists of a whole field of salt structures that look like rocks stretched out as far as the eye can see. It’s a strange conglomeration, but just goes to show how intricately beautiful nature can be!
Our next stop was at the Natural Bridge, a rock structure that (just as it sounds) creates an overarching bridge. You can’t cross it, but you can marvel at it! Coming to the parking lot, it’s a really short walk to see it, though the hike extends farther if you’re inclined. 🙂 We found a spot to lunch near the entrance to the hike, and then headed over to Badwater Basin, an expansive salt basin with only suggestions of water. It’s 277 feet below sea level, which is so cool to see because if you look up toward the rocks behind you, they’ve actually placed a sign marked “Sea Level” so you can really see the elevation (can you spot it in the center of the picture below?).
From there, we drove out to Artist Drive, which was one of my personal favorite parts of the trip. The turnoff brings you along a picturesque, winding trip of about 10-minutes wherein you get to observe rocks tinged with ribbons of color — blues, greens, pinks — like an artist’s canvas! You’re brought right back to the main road, but it worth’s pulling off to see.
We then headed to a few last sights — Zabrikie Point and the Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resort. Zabriskie Point is a collection of undulating mounds and really quite dramatic. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m so starkly reminded of the gravity of nature — it can really take your breath away. Rounding out the day at the famous Furnace Creek Inn was a stellar idea, as we sipped afternoon coffee and played cards before heading out to enjoy a bratwurst and chili dinner that my parents put together. We had a freezing cold picnic dinner at a really cool marble-esque table in Sunset campground, but it was well worth it for the dancing light show the stars and constellations put on for us. 🙂
On my outfit: Full disclosure, I found this jacket at Marshalls (go to Marshalls!) and fell in love. The plaid detailing and elbow patches sold me — I love stuff little touches like that! I’m also proclaiming this my year of turtlenecks because I. Love. Turtlenecks. I didn’t own one before this season (probably due to some traumatic experience as a child where I just couldn’t handle all the fabric around my neck), but they’ve recently become my best friend, and they keep you warmer than with just a normal sweater! Finally, I’m new to the duck boots bandwagon and though these aren’t L.L.Bean (someday! 🙂 ), they are an affordable, effective pair that are really durable from Target and currently under $20!!
My last “accessory,” if you will, is something every adventurer needs. 😉 I’m a Hydro Flask girl all the way — they keep your drink SO cold! I also added this sippy top instead of the normal screw top to mine because I hated it spilling all over me when I would try to drink it in the car, and I have to say, I am never looking back.
Navy Jacket with Elbow Patches (similar found here!) // Red Turtleneck // KanCan Jeans // Duck Boots // Hydro Flask in 24 oz size (I couldn’t find it in pink anymore in that size, though it is in pink in this smaller size!) // Hydro Flask Sports Sip Topper
What sounds like the place you’d want to check out in Death Valley, or have you been before? Comment below!