Best way to do Death Valley at Thanksgiving?
July 20, 2019 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Visiting Death Valley during Thanksgiving break -- what's the best place to fly into if we want to minimize the chance of driving in snow? How many days and where should we stay?

My family doesn't celebrate traditional Thanksgiving so we're looking to take a vacation to Death Valley during that time period instead. Half of us are in San Francisco and the other half in Philadelphia - which airport should we meet at, LAX or Las Vegas, for the easiest commute to the park? We have some experience with winter/snow driving but would prefer to avoid it if possible.

General tips on Death Valley in late November are also appreciated -- how many days should we plan on if we want to do day hikes? Where should we stay (we're not the camping type); is the Death Valley resort worth it?
posted by serelliya to Travel & Transportation around Death Valley, CA (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In general, you won't encounter snow in November in Death Valley except at the very highest peaks of mountains. California's rain patterns mean that you don't typically see rain until November at all. The National Park Service tells us the November averages are 77°F/25°C high, 48°F/9°C low. The roads into Death Valley do not traverse any high mountain passes.

Scotty's Castle is closed until 2020 due to very unusual flood damage back in 2015.
posted by blob at 5:01 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

You’ll definitely want to go into and out of Las Vegas. It’s much closer and there’s only a small range of hills between the two. Snow will not be an issue.

I’ve never stayed in the valley. I’ve stayed at the Longstreet Inn right at the edge, which was fine, but usually I’m at the Best Western in Pahrump.

I’m sure other people will have hike suggestions, but if you’re into cool science things make sure you walk far enough out onto Badwater Basin to see the roughly hexagonal mosaic the salt makes. It also lacks the algae which is the only form of life in most salt flats. Not really a family activity but if you walk out a way, you and your internal biome will be the only living things around. I find it restful.

Have fun!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:21 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Almost any time there is an LAX or Las Vegas question, the answer is Las Vegas.
Some reasons -
Quicker in and out.
Cheaper rental cars.
Delirious desert highways that accommodate excessive speed.

It's not a contest for me. I've flown into to Vegas to go into San Diego, timing it so most of the drive was at night — all those ever-loving stars!
posted by Glomar response at 6:44 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cheaper rental cars.
Delirious desert highways that accommodate excessive speed.

Last time I was there the car rental place as LAS didn't have my midsize so I was forced to accept a BMW 410 for the same price. That sounded like a great deal until I got the $330 speeding ticket a few miles outside of Pahrump.

A) Yeah alright, I can't technically blame excessive speed on the BMW. But it didn't hurt. :-)

B) Rural Nevada counties aren't shy about writing tickets for revenue enhancement, particularly on a tourist corridor like Las Vegas <> Death Valley. Many miles of meticulously maintained motorways do encourage a bit of speeding here and there, but keep your eyes open for the fuzz.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:14 AM on July 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I suggest renting high clearance vehicles for exploring the park ,
interesting 2star hotels in Beatty Nv. to see Rhyolite ghost town, Goldwell open air art museum, Daylight Pass Nevada 374 is best way to visit the race track and Ubehebe crater, that'll take most of a day, and there are dunes.
The Longstreet is a great recommendation, It is the only casino that I know of that has huge windows ! Devils Hole, Dante's View and most of the centrally located park attractions are nearby.

Shoshone Ca has a Lodge /Inn with a warm spring fed pool nice lawn, plenty of shade grocery store, museum , Jubilee Pass Ca178 to Ashford Junction , old ruins and mysterious canyons to explore, the geologist cabin is amazing usually stocked with a variety of libation , you should check it out if you have the chance .
Have a blast , drive slow on those gravel roads though.
the usual, extra water extra fuel good maps .
posted by hortense at 2:24 PM on July 22, 2019

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