Las Vegas to Death Valley

  • 01 of 03

    Las Vegas to Death Valley: How to Get There

    Driving Routes from Las Vegas to Death Valley
    Map Data ©2013 Google - Sanborn

    Even though Death Valley National Park is in California, the closest major airport and metro area to it is Las Vegas. Whether you are going to Las Vegas just to get to Death Valley or visiting the park as a side trip, you have several options for getting there.

    Las Vegas to Death Valley by Automobile

    It's about a 2.5-hour drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley via the fastest route. Unfortunately, it's also the ugliest way to go. All of the routes between Las Vegas and Death Valley are shown on the map above. To get a bigger, interactive version of that map, where you can also get driving directions, go to the original version on Google Map.

    The National Park Service suggests keeping a full fuel tank when you come to Death Valley. Fill up before you leave Las Vegas and top off your tank in Pahrump if you're determined to save money. You'll find filling stations at the Ranch at Death Valley, Stovepipe Wells, and Panamint Springs. Gasoline prices in the park are higher than outside it and Panamint Springs has become notorious for having the highest gas prices in the United States.

    Guided Tours to Death Valley from Las Vegas

    If you'd rather not drive yourself to Death Valley, you can take a guided day trip from Las Vegas. Tours usually stop at the fascinating Rhyolite ghost town, peek into Ubehebe Crater, tour Scotty's Castle and descend to the lowest point at Badwater. 

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  • 02 of 03

    Driving Routes to Death Valley

    One of many long, straight, black roads in California Death Valley
    Buyenlarge / Getty Images

    If you only have one long day to visit Death Valley, I suggest taking the scenic route into Death Valley and returning to Las Vegas on the explorer route.

    The Fast Route: If you input the two locations, Google maps will put you on is the shortest one, which is 135 miles from downtown Las Vegas to Furnace Creek. It's shown in blue on the map. It will take you about 2.5 hours to drive this route, with no stops.

    This is one of those instances where mapping tools don't always know best. The downside of just taking the default, fastest route? It's the least scenic, most boring way to you could possibly go. If you take it in and out of Death Valley without exploring much - like I did the first time I went there - you may end up wondering what all the fuss is about. And that would be a real shame because Death Valley is one of the most starkly beautiful places in the state of California.

    The Scenic Route: Getting into Death Valley the scenic way takes an hour longer than the fast route. It's shown in orange on the map. This route is 164 miles and takes a little under 4 hours to drive. That is, if you can resist stopping for all the photo opportunities.

    The road climbs and winds over the Salsberry Pass at 3,315 feet and plummets into the lowest part of Death Valley. It will take you past Badwater, the Devil's Golf Course and Artist's Drive to Furnace Creek. This is my favorite way to go into Death Valley and I have even driven out of my way to use it. I think you should, too.

    The Explorer Route: A flash flood in 2015 washed out the road to Scotty's Castle. It is closed until 2019, according to the National Park Service.

    When it's open again — If you break away from the fast route and continue north, you can take a drive that goes past Scotty's Castle, Ubehebe Crater and the Mesquite Dunes. It's shown in green on the map.

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  • 03 of 03

    Other Ways to Get to Death Valley from Las Vegas

    Badwater in Death Valley
    Kent Kanouse/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

    There are no public transit options between Las Vegas and Death Valley, but you can take the Bundu Bus. It travels through Death Valley four times a week on its way from Las Vegas to Yosemite. Get the details on the Bundu Bus website. However, if you do that and have no other means of getting around once you reach Death Valley, you won't be able to see much while you're there.

    Small, private aviation airstrips in Death Valley are located near Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells, but no commercial flights are available. Private pilots can fly into either airport in their own airplanes. All the details about the airports are available on the National Park website.