Death Valley is one of the most special places I’ve ever been.
The vast, strange, quiet history of the desert is expansive.
Every time we’ve been for a day trip or overnight, I’ve come home feeling replenished and restored.
Well…almost every time.
This past visit there was the great “food poisoning of 2018” event…but that wasn’t Death Valley’s fault. I will spare you all the details on that. 😉
This most recent trip to Death Valley was really special (food poising aside…) as my brother and I were able to take a tour in the currently closed Scotty’s Castle.
A few logistical things about the tour (especially of you’re making a day trip from LA or Vegas):
- Book your tour way ahead of time, they sell out and you cannot go without a spot
- If you’re doing a day trip, leave early and set aside the entire morning, afternoon, and evening for the tour and travel (From Vegas non-stop it’s about 2.5-3 hours, from LA non-stop almost 4 hours)
- Bring maps. GPS doesn’t really work in Death Valley, so you’ll need to research the route ahead of time and bring printed directions.
- Wear closed toe shoes, layers, a hat, and sunscreen. Almost the entirety of this tour was outdoors and on uneven terrain and the temperature varied greatly from sunny to shaded areas.
- Bring more water than you think you’ll need.
- FYI to parents I would NOT label this tour as kid-friendly and I wouldn’t bring a kid under 13 or 14 on this tour.
The tour meets at the Grapevine Ranger Station in Death Valley. From the Ranger station the group travels together in a Park Service van about 3 miles along uneven dirt roads to Scotty’s Castle. It took us about 15-20 minutes to get there from the Ranger Station and if you are a person who gets motion sick, bring Dramamine or ginger as the terrain driving was very bumpy.
Once we arrived at Scotty’s the Ranger gave an awesome overview of the history of the region, the history of the Johnson Family (who built Scotty’s Castle) as well as Death Valley Scotty (the con-man for whom the castle is now named). They also give geological history, the history of the flood, and information about how restoration is currently being done.
For people who are really hoping to spend a great deal of time inside the castle–this is not the tour for you.
I appreciated that this tour was more about the grounds and restoration, but we knew ahead of time that would be the focus.
You do however get to spend about 15-20 minutes in the interior of the house, which has had all of the antiques removed for restoration, so it was fun to see the house empty and appreciate the redwood architecture of the interior.
The tours are running through April and both my brother and I really enjoyed learning the history as well as seeing the progress of the restoration.
If you’re looking for a unique National Park experience this should be on the top of your list for 2019!
Thanks for reading and happy sobering friends!