Road tripping Nevada’s Death Drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley.
Some of my best travel memories involve road trips to exotic places with good friends and sweet jams. There’s nothing quite like being on the open road with endless possibilities and adventures to be had, especially in a fresh location. So when my friend Jeremy (Travel Freak) asked if I wanted to go on a road trip through Nevada, I immediately said yes.
Honestly, I didn’t know much about the area prior to this trip and was pleasantly surprised at the amount of expansive, otherworldly landscapes and terrains we passed by. One of the reasons I love driving is being able to stop wherever looks interesting or taking a few detours along the way, which we did quite a few times! We might’ve gotten stuck in the sand while off-roading towards a massive sandstorm, but it all worked out!
What is the Death Drive?
The Death Drive is a 328 mile/528 km road trip that starts off in Las Vegas and ends in Death Valley National Park. It includes majestic landscapes, ghost towns, a winery and endless vistas along the horizon. I was constantly amazed at all the beautiful landscapes we passed by and the most colorful sunsets every night.
Here are my favorite spots we discovered during our week-long adventure.
Death Valley National Park
After flying into McCarren Airport in Las Vegas and quickly stopping for a photo at the Las Vegas sign on our way out of town, we drove about 3 hours to the entrance of the park and the Furnace Creek Visitors Center on the eastern side of Death Valley. It was close to nightfall so we headed directly to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for sunset. Arriving just as the sky turned all shades of purples and pinks, it was the first of many magical moments we had on this epic road trip.
Other popular and photogenic spots included Artists Drive, Badwater Basin, Natural Bridge and Zabriskie Point. Each location was clearly marked with signs and there’s only one main road so it was difficult to get lost. Even the drives from place to place were incredibly scenic with all the colors and layers.
Considered the gateway city to the park, Beatty was a convenient place to stay after a day of exploring. It’s interesting that this mining town survived when other similar places became ghost towns. We didn’t have too much time here, but enjoyed staying at the Beatty Cabins, which are fully furnished tiny homes in a quiet neighborhood.
Rhyolite Ghost Town
One of the former mining towns that became a ghost town in the early 20th century was Rhyolite. Driving through, there are remnants of what once was, with empty buildings, an old rail car and eerie signs of another era. The Goldwell Open Air Museum was right next door and housed a collection of seven outdoor sculptures put up by artists in the 1980s.
Amargosa Sand Dunes
While driving from Beatty to Mount Charleston, we saw the most incredible sandstorm happening amongst dunes in the distance. Obviously, we drove towards it and very quickly ended up off-roading through the desert sand, stopping every few moments to capture the scene. We realized our tires weren’t fit to go any closer and got a bit stuck. We quickly took our photos and maneuvered our car back onto the main road. There was a moment I thought we might need to call AAA, but like I said, it all worked out!
Valley of Fire State Park
This was perhaps the place that surprised me the most during this trip. I had seen photos from Valley of Fire, but didn’t realize the amount of color there could be in one park! Mainly comprised of red Aztec sandstone, while we were driving through, the rocks seemed to change color as the light shifted.
Perhaps the most colorful of them all was the Fire Wave, a section of the park full of colorful “wave-like” patterns. Covered in yellow, orange, pink, and red rocks in various shapes and patterns, if I didn’t see it for myself, I would’ve thought someone painted it on! A definite must see when visiting the park and an easy 1.3 mile hike on a clearly marked trail.
Other notable spots include Elephant Rock, Rainbow Vista, Seven Sisters, Petroglyph Canyon, Atlatl Rock and Arch Rock.
Where to Stay
Many parts of the Death Drive are quite remote and have very basic accommodation. With most road trips, the hotels themselves are less important than being in convenient locations that fit onto the route. These are the places we stayed, and I would easily recommend any of them for a Death Drive vacation.
- Beatty Cabins in Beatty
- Retreat on Charleston Peak in Mount Charleston
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites in Pahrump
- Red Rock Casino Resort Spa in Las Vegas
Where to Eat
Similar to accommodations, I wouldn’t consider fancy meals an important part of a road trip, but experiencing the local cuisine and culture is always a bonus. There’s definitely a lot of character in these small towns.
To ensure the success of our road trip, we initially loaded up on trip snacks at Whole Foods Market in Las Vegas.
One of my favorite meals was at Symphony’s Restaurant in Pahrump Valley Winery. After a quick stroll through their vineyard, we enjoyed a glass of wine in the tasting room and then a fancy dinner in the main dining room. It felt like a bit of Napa in the middle of the desert!
Other spots include:
- Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings
- Gema’s Wagon Wheel Cafe in Beatty
- Mt. Charleston Lodge Restaurant in Mount Charleston
- Symphony’s Restaurant in Pahrump Valley Winery
To see the full itinerary for the Death Drive, visit the Travel Nevada website.
Thank you Travel Nevada for hosting me on this fun road trip. As always, all opinions and photos are my own.