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Colors of Death Valley

21 February 2015

Trip Report: 21–23 February 2015

A business meeting in Las Vegas is interesting. Adding a bicycle trip to Death Valley is exciting. Further inspiration came from Arlen Hall at Adventure Cycling Association, as he chronicled his trip to the area.


Location: 36.410638°N, 116.845467°W

Meetings were scheduled Tuesday through Thursday. I arrived Las Vegas on Friday before to bicycle for three days Saturday through Monday.

Badwater

Started the trip at the top of Salsbury Pass:


Location: 35.926208°N, 116.427222°W

It was a long descent from there:


Location: 35.910070°N, 116.579728°W

As the descent leveled off, I had time to stop & view the many flowers in bloom.

Phacelia & brittlebush:


Location: 35.901505°N, 116.659370°W

Brown-eyed evening primrose:


Location: 36.177170°N, 116.763992°W

The descent continued very gradually all the way down to the lowest point in North America at 86m below sea level:


Location: 36.229897°N, 116.768517°W

Colors started to appear more vividly & in much more variety on Artists Drive & Golden Canyon:


Location: 36.421105°N, 116.846313°W

Soon after, I was ready for a rest at Stovepipe Wells Hotel, themed as western cowboy saloon:


Location: 36.606128°N, 117.146308°W

Grapevine

Sunday morning, I left the hotel toward Scotty’s Castle to start ride. On route, I was treated to a beautiful view of Grapvine Mountains behind sand dunes:


Location: 36.606288°N, 117.114831°W

The area around Grapevine & Scotty’s Castle is green, unlike most of arid Death Valley. I visited the castle & read about its history:


Location: 37.032161°N, 117.340875°W

I started downhill from the castle, on winding road, between rock walls & palm trees. Bicycle ride destination for today is Furnace Creek.


Location: 36.785377°N, 117.183924°W

Water flash floods change much of rock formation, such as these aprons:


Location: 36.709512°N, 117.118575°W

Furnace Creek has many services: large visitor center, grocery store, campgrounds, gas station, & hotel. I took a long break in the visitor center talking to park rangers. The town is below sea level:


Location: 36.448463°N, 116.852975°W

After the gentle climb to sea level, I reached Inn at Furnace Creek:


Location: 36.454153°N, 116.852530°W

Sunset was not for a few more hours. I decided to take a quick trail run in Golden Canyon:


Location: 36.425953°N, 116.829842°W

Inside the Canyon was an explosion of golden colors:


Location: 36.426295°N, 116.827713°W

Non-stop view inside of the canyon & outside to the valley:



Location: 36.411058°N, 116.839670°W


Location: 36.423317°N, 116.826247°W

Snow

Sunday night was cold. But I did not expect snow, in Death Valley, at the end of February. With record level of snow that hit Boston, I was looking forward to a break.

Early Monday morning, I started bicycle climb to Dante’s View. The route is 40km on continuous climb for 1,650m.


Location: 36.299312°N, 116.678008°W

There was much beautiful color contrast between the rocks, sunlight, & snow capped peaks. Alas, the road was closed:


Location: 36.268222°N, 116.663912°W

I shivered the entire way back, descending fast against the frigid air.

The was the end of the trip. As I drove back to Las Vegas, snow stretched all the way to the outskirts of the city:


Location: 36.013147°N, 115.499847°W

Las Vegas skyline appeared in the distance. Ready for some indoor meetings.


Location: 35.995767°N, 115.454462°W

Tips

My itinerary required transport between different starting & ending points. I would schedule a continuous itinerary from end to the other, including the following sections:

  • Scotty’s Castle to Stovepipe Wells Village
  • Stovepipe Wells Village to Furnace Creek
  • Roundtrip from Furnace Creek to Dante’s View
  • Hike Golden Canyon
  • Artists Drive
  • Furnace Creek to Salsbury Pass

Late February or early March is likely better time to visit. The middle of February was still a little cold, with chance of snow, & early for full bloom of flowers.

Resources

  • Route maps & logs: record of route from GPS device. View map or download copy in multiple formats such as GPX, TCX, & KML for Google Earth:
    • Saturday: Salsbury Pass, Badwater, & Golden Canyon
    • Sunday:
  • Guide:
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From → Bicycle

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