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California: Death Valley National Park

 

 

4 days from $2498

Though its name is as fearsome as its reputation, Death Valley is a wonderful surprise. Here, America’s most surreal landscape earns some remarkable superlatives: the largest national park outside Alaska, the lowest spot in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the driest environments on Earth. From the historic Inn at Furnace Creek, a plush garden oasis with a spring-fed pool, you’ll travel into a thrillingly alien world of color-drenched sunsets, remote canyons, undulating dunes, and ethereal rock formations.

See aptly named Dante’s View and Artist’s Palette, and amble Golden Canyon’s 400-foot cliffs and phantasmagorical badlands, a frequent backdrop for science-fiction movies. Trace the narrow recesses of Mosaic and Fall canyons, and visit Scotty’s Castle, a sprawling Spanish-Mediterranean oddity whose ornate interior reflects its flamboyant Roaring Twenties origins. Walk the rim of Ubehebe Crater, a half-mile-wide, 600-foot-deep hole created by volcanic explosions, then discover Natural Bridge, a giant span of massive rock that leads to record-setting Badwater, a sun-baked salt plain 282 feet below sea level that sums up the austere beauty of this special place.

Death Valley National Park

 

 

    Hike to Zabriskie Point for panoramic views of Golden Canyon


    Learn about one of the region’s most famous prospectors, “Death Valley Scotty,” at Scotty’s Castle


    See Ubehebe Crater, created by a volcanic explosion of superheated groundwater, and nearby Little Hebe Crater


    Visit Badwater, the lowest land elevation in all of North America


    Expert local guides

 

Day 1 – Death Valley National Park
You meet your guide(s) and group at your meeting hotel in Las Vegas and board your van for the 2½-hour drive northwest to the California border and Death Valley National Park. Death Valley forms the northern arm of the Mojave Desert and is also a part of the Great Basin, covering most of Nevada, half of Utah, and parts of Oregon and Idaho. Your first views of Death Valley are from Zabriskie Point, which offers panoramic views of Golden Canyon from the top down. Continue on to Artist’s Palette for a picnic lunch, where as its name suggests, you are surrounded by more colorful landscapes. After lunch, you set off on an easy walk in Golden Canyon, entered through the narrow part of the canyon that leads into golden-hued badlands. Formed millions of years ago when a lake filled Death Valley, erosion of soft lake sediments has resulted in the primitive landscape. You eventually see the striking 400-foot cliffs of Red Cathedral and turn into Gower Gulch, where the rounded hills carved out by erosion have been used as other-worldly settings in science fiction films. Completing the walk, you continue the short drive to your home for the next three nights, a luxurious historic inn set in a lush desert oasis, built and in operation since the 1920s. You have time to settle in to your room before gathering for a welcome cocktail and dinner in the inn’s fine dining restaurant. Overnight The Inn at Furnace Creek. (L, D)
Miles logged: Golden Canyon: 1.4 miles, easy; Gower Gulch: 4 miles, moderate

Day 2 – Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes / Mosaic Canyon
Awakening to the clear desert light and stillness you have breakfast at the inn before setting off for the Stovepipe Wells area of the park and a walk in the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. The morning light adds drama to these 200-foot-high graceful sand dunes that are scored with tracks of animals ranging from beetles, snakes, and lizards to rodents, rabbits, and foxes. After a picnic lunch, enjoy the walk to Mosaic Canyon—a wonderful introduction to exploring desert canyons. Named for the mosaic-like walls, composed of marble bedrock and breccia, small rock fragments embedded in natural cement, the canyon is situated at the north end of 6,600-foot Tucki Mountain. You enter the canyon through its first narrow. The trail alternates between narrows and wider open washes with the slopes of Tucki Mountain visible above where hardy desert holly and sage bushes have taken hold among the rocks. After walking through some rocky sections of the canyon, you eventually emerge at a small amphitheater coated with candle-like mud drippings. Desert animals are elusive, but you may spot a hawk overhead, the ubiquitous raven, and perhaps a scuttling lizard or iguana on the walk. After a full day of hiking, make your way back to the inn, where you have time to enjoy its beautifully designed extensive gardens, spring-fed swimming pool, and spa facilities. For the evening meal, you venture a mile down the road to the Ranch at Furnace Creek for a more casual dining experience. Overnight The Inn at Furnace Creek. (B, L, D)
Miles logged: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes: 2.2 miles, moderate; Mosaic Canyon: 3.8 miles, moderate

Day 3 – Fall Canyon / Ubehebe Crater

After breakfast, a full day begins with the drive to Fall Canyon. One of the park’s deepest and most narrow canyons, you start out on a small trail lined with turtleback, a grey-green plant endemic to Death Valley, before reaching a small ravine, and then the wide wash of Fall Canyon. Farther along, the smooth cliffs rise above in lovely shades of brown, tan, and yellow, before reaching the slick 18-foot-high “fall,” presumably for which the canyon was named. Concluding the walk, you drive to the northernmost part of the park to find Scotty’s Castle—a sprawling Spanish-Mediterranean mansion filled with antiques and custom-made furniture, wrought iron, and tile that reflects the heyday of the Roaring Twenties and the tall tales of “Death Valley Scotty,” one of the regions most colorful prospectors. You can try to separate truth from fiction in a guided tour, whether it was built by Scotty or his millionaire friends, after enjoying a picnic lunch on the grounds. After the tour, a short drive brings you to Ubehebe Crater, a crater resulting from a massive volcanic explosion of superheated groundwater measuring a half-mile in diameter. A smaller crater, Little Hebe Crater, is nearby, linked by a trail that follows along the rim of the 600-foot-deep hole that the Shoshone referred to as the “Basket in the Rock.” Rounding out the walk in the late afternoon, you are ready to return to the inn, and later gather for dinner in its casually elegant surroundings; enjoying an enticing menu of meat, fish, or vegetarian options accompanied by an excellent choice of California wines—a final celebratory evening. Overnight The Inn at Furnace Creek. (B, L, D)
Miles logged: Fall Canyon: 4.6 miles, moderate; Scotty’s Castle: Ubehebe Crater rim walk: 0.5-1.5 miles, easy to moderate

Day 4 – Natural Bridge / Badwater Basin
Check out of your hotel after breakfast this morning and embark on a short walk to see two stunning Death Valley landmarks. The first is Natural Bridge, a massive natural rock about 35 feet above an intriguing canyon wash, reached after a short ascent on a gravel trail. You then move on to Badwater, not only the park’s lowest point, but the lowest land elevation in all of North America at 282 feet below sea level. An enormous expanse of white salt flats, Badwater Basin is a surreal landscape that lacks any shade, with topography made up of a buckled and cupped salt crust. Likely the hottest and driest point in the Western Hemisphere and perhaps even in the world, one could walk endlessly, but not in the hottest months! Return to the van for the return drive to Las Vegas with a stop en route for lunch, arriving by mid-afternoon for your onward travels. (B, L)
Miles logged: Natural Bridge: 2 miles, moderate; Badwater: 40-minute walk on salt flat, easy


 

The Inn at Furnace Creek : A four-diamond historic resort offering luxury in the heart of Death Valley. This mission-style property is located on an oasis of palms and gardens surrounding a natural spring-fed swimming pool. Amenities include massage services, tennis courts, and gift shop.

 

 

 

Departure Date Twin Single Triple
3/3/13 $2498 $3148  
3/25/13 $2498 $3148  
10/27/13 $2498 $3148  

 

Additional Information

 

Prices are land-only, per person.

Please bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience.