Hi Vivek, me again !
I just have been to D.V. the last days (apart from Edwards Open House).
It all depends on:
- How many days do you want to spend ?
- Where do you plann to stay ?
Seeing that you come from L.A., for "stay" there are several options:
- Ridgecrest (I stayed there): about 2h driving to Furnace Creek; many motels to choose from; a number of restaurants in town. If you don´t have a 4x4 don´t use the road via Wildrose, but use CA
-178 to CA
-190 near Panamint Springs (it´s only 2 miles longer than via Wildrose, but much faster; road conditions on the pass outside Wildrose are bad and bet be avoided when it´s dark). Driving through Panamint Valley during Sunset (on your way from D.V. to Ridgecrest) is spectacular on its own ! Great colors on those rocks !
- Barstow (not the best choice; too far to drive)
- Baker (is there a motel in Baker ?)
- Pahrump: conveniently located; only 2 or 3 motels; gambling possible
- Las Vegas: 1h further away than Pahrump
- Beatty: closest town to Furnace Creek;
- Furnace Creek itself: hard to get accomodation; expensive
1. The usual stuff (all located around Furnace Creek and can be visited within 1 day, no special car required):
- Zabriskie Point
- Artists Drive
- Dante´s View
- Twenty Mule Team Canyon
- Scotty´s Castle: I haven´t visited it yet, but I heard that it gets full soon.
2. The extraordinary stuff:
- Drive through Titus Canyon (high clearance 4x4 required)
- Visit Mosaic Canyon just outside Stovepipe Wells
- Charcoal Kilns outside Wildrose (gravel road for the last 3 miles)
Hardly worth the visit:
- Mahagony flat: very bad road condition (worse than "unmaintained" - I had to make extensive use of "4x4 Low")
- Racetrack: 35+ miles of unpaved track oneway; not much to see; once you´re there, you have to walk another half a mile
- Ubehebe Crater: Okay, worth a little detour, but probably not a big one
- Eureka Dunes: Just Sand dunes after a lengthy trip on a unpaved road (sand dunes can also be seen east of Stovepipe Wells)
You can also find info on www.nps.gov
And: Don´t forget to bring along lots of water ! Keep an eye on your gas tank !
For the aviation enthusiast: Take CA
-190 from Olancha to Panamint Springs. Some miles before Panamint Springs, just before the descending cork srews begin there is a turnout on the north side of the road called "Father Crawley Point". Don´t stay in the main parking area, but continue on the gravel track over the little hill (best done with a 4x4; road conditions used to be better in recent years) for about 500 yds. At the very last plateau (or park on the one above) you have spectacular views of the Panamint Valles. And on weekdays, you usually get the chance to see fighter aircraft flying over you, pressing down into Panamint Valley and flying south on the evaluation courses in Panamint Valley (part of China Lake NAWS). Good binoculars recommended.
There´s also a tech´ Museum on China Lake NAWS (open Mon-Sat, prior pass req.). Check it out on their website or go to www.visitdeserts.com
for more info about tourists spots around Ridgecrest like the impressive "Trona Pinnacles" (west of Trona on CA
-178, allow 1-2h from/to CA
Any more info ? Just ask ! My memory is still very fresh
Carpe diem ! Life is too short to waste your time ! Keep in mind, that today is the first day of the rest of your life !