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 solely to get to Death Valley or visiting the park as a side trip from there, you have several options for getting to Death Valley.
Las Vegas to Death Valley by Automobile
It's about a 2.5-hour drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley if you take the fastest route. Unfortunately, the quick way is also the ugliest way to go. That route — and other more scenic ones — are detailed below
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 of gas (or a fully charged battery) when you drive 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 gasoline 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.
It's about 150 miles from Vegas to the middle of Death Valley. If you are driving an electric vehicle, you need a 180-mile range to be safe, especially during hotter weather when your air conditioner will affect your range. If you don't have that, plan to stop for a recharge on the way, probably in Pahrump.
Guided Tours to Death Valley from Las Vegas
If you'd rather not drive to Death Valley, you can take a guided day trip tours from Las Vegas. Tours usually stop at the fascinating Rhyolite ghost town, where you can peek into Ubehebe Crater, tour Scotty's Castle, and descend to the lowest point at Badwater. You can find out more about Rhyolite ghost town by reading the guide.
Driving Routes to Death Valley
If you only have one long day to visit Death Valley, take the scenic route into Death Valley. Until the road to Scotty's Castle re-opens, you have little options other than the fast route for your return.
The Fast Route: If you input the two locations, Google maps will put you on is the shortest route, 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, with no stops.
Making this trip is one of those instances where mapping tools don't know best. The downside of just taking that default, fastest route? It's the least scenic, most boring way that you could possibly go. If you take it in and out of Death Valley without exploring much - as many first-time daytrippers do - 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. The route is 164 miles long and takes a little under 4 hours to drive. That is if you can resist stopping for all the photo opportunities. Even though it takes longer, it's well worth it because you'll see so much more.
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.
The Explorer Route: This route is a lot of fun to drive on, but a flash flood washed out Scotty's Castle Raod in 2105. It will be closed until 2020, according to the National Park Service.
When the road opens again — If you break away from the fast route and continue north after you reach the main part of Death Valley, 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.
Other Ways to Get to Death Valley from Las Vegas
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.