Hear about travel to Death Valley National Park in California as the Amateur Traveler talks to former park ranger Jeff Ohlfs about the largest of the national parks in the continental United States.
Jeff has tried to get to Death Valley at least once a year since 1996.
Jeff says, “It is so full of history and nature, at least geology speaking. It’s just incredible, mainly mining history. It’s really gonna be mining and geology are the two biggest things. And I pretty much have toured all around except for about five places are still on my bucket list to go see. It’s the largest in the lower 48, it’s a fifth largest in the country. It’s over 3 million acres, it’s just a little bit less than the size of Connecticut. And it’s about 140 miles north to south long. We’re not going to get to cover everything, but I’ll try to get the main highlights.”
Death Valley is about 140 miles west of Las Vegas, and 310 miles north of Los Angeles on the east side of this year is so a lot of people are going to Yosemite and Sequoia they usually try to hit Death Valley too. It’s really close to Las Vegas.
Since Death Valley is one of if not the hottest place in the world, Jeff recommends visiting in winter. They get barely 2 inches of rain a year, and 351 clear days a year. When the rains do come, the wildflowers come out all over the park and the lowest spot in the park, Bad Water Basin, can sometimes turn back into Lake Manly which this area was tens of thousands of years ago.
The United Nations declared Death Valley part of a biosphere preserve called the Mojave and Colorado Desert Biosphere Reserve in 1975. Also in that designation are Joshua Tree National Park (in the Mojave/Colorado transition zone), the Santa Rosa Mountains Wildlife Management Area (in the Colorado Desert), and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (in the Colorado Desert).
Death Valley got its name from a group of 49ers looking for a shortcut to the Goldfields in California without being on the Old Spanish Trail. They decided to cut across they got lost for 26 days. One person passed away as a result of it. And the story goes that as they were finally climbing out of Death Valley, someone looked back and said, Goodbye Death Valley.
Jeff describes what you will see on the paved roads or just off it in the park. We talk about Bad Water Basin, the Devil’s Golf Course, Devils Hold, and the colorful rocks of Artists Palette. We get views at sites like Dante’s View or Zabriskie Point. We visit Scotty’s Castle (closed until the end of 2022), and the visitor center at Furnace Creek.
We see a Borax Museum and the remains of mining operations in the park as well as a few ghost towns. Jeff guides us to hikes like Desolation Canyon Trail and Zabriskie Point.
To get to some of the well known sites like Racetrack Playa you will have to go off road. When driving in the park, always make sure you fill-up your car when you get a chance. But if you go off-road be doubly careful. Make sure someone knows where you are and make sure your car is provisioned in case you have problems.
If you have a small plane you can fly into the reopened Chicken Strip in the northern part of the park by the Eureka Dunes. Death Valley is the lowest, hottest, driest place in the USA and it is a site like no other.
This episode is sponsored by Cal-Am. With 12 properties across Arizona, Cal-Am Resorts offer experiences designed just for older audiences. Unlike a time share, you buy a home allowing you to come whenever you want and stay for as long as you want. Call Steve Ryerson at 888-883-4609 or visit discovercal-am.com.
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Devils Hole pupfish
Devil’s Golf Course
Golden Canyon Trail to Red Cathedral
Desolation Canyon Trail
Furnace Creek, California
Twenty Mule Team Borax
Salt Creek Interpretive Trail
Devil’s Corn Field
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Kelso Dunes – Mojave National Preserve
Death Valley Hotels
The Oasis at Death Valley
Panamint Springs Resort
Wildrose Peak Trail
The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns of Death Valley
Darwin Falls Wilderness
Joshua Tree to Death Valley Road Trip: 19 Key Stops & Routing
Hungry Bill’s Ranch
Death Valley Trail Review: Johnson Canyon
Farabee’s Jeep Rentals and Tours
Keane Wonder Mine
Driving the wild Chloride Cliff Road
Rhyolite Ghost Town
Ballarat (Ghost Town)
Surprise Canyon Trail
Tecopa Hot Springs Resort and Campground
China Ranch Dates, Inc.
Amargosa Opera House and Hotel
Lone Pine, California
I am a fan of Amateur Traveler. I just heard you read the listener’s criticism at the end of the hill country show. Okay, I totally disagree.
Your commentary helps fill in the blanks for listeners. Some of your guests are not as clear as they should be You fill in history, details, and important context.
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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ CaliforniaExpert 04/21/2022
Favorite travel podcast
Always look forward to new episodes of this show. Chris has a great format that works. He lets the guests tell the story, but always asks important questions and contributes to the conversation in thoughtful ways. Great mix of unusual destinations, and familiar ones. Guests are always knowledgeable and informative.
I’ve noticed a certain “luxury” travel podcaster has stolen some of his format…I had to unfollow her because it bugged me so much, lol.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ divebookreader 03/06/2022
Never miss an episode. Travel inspiration in each episode.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Sarita7981 04/02/2022
Could you consider doing an updated episode about Newfoundland, Nova Scotia or PEI? Our family is planning a trip this summer and the last episodes about those places have been several years. Thank you !
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