I took three days with my husband Jordan the week of Thanksgiving to head to Death Valley and back – with some stops along the way – now that the temperatures are low enough to be reasonable on a motorcycle. It was actually cold most of the time! One thing to know? Desert riding requires layers! Another thing to know? I have a lot to say about this trip, so I broke my recap into 3 parts – one for each day!
Overall we covered 910 miles – pretty good for 3 days! You can see the route we took over those three days below.
It’s about 300 miles from San Diego to Death Valley – totally possible in a day of riding, even the shorter days of late November. We opted to take the I-15 up through Baker (with one little diversion along Route 66) and get to our overnight destination of Pahrump, Nevada before dark. We were somewhat successful – we ended up pulling into Pahrump just after sundown.
Elmer’s Bottle Ranch / Route 66
If you take a little detour off the I-15 in Victorville, you can scoot up Route 66 for a bit before getting back on the highway. It’s not the most glamorous stretch of the famous road, but you get a great view of active freight train tracks and a few run-down former tourist locations that make up part of the history of vehicle travel in the United States. There is one totally unique roadside stop along here though – Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch. While we didn’t see Elmer, we did wander around his folk-art paradise and take in the forest. Bottles and pipes make up hundreds of trees in here, and it would take hours to take in every little piece of treasure used to bring the piece to life.
Salt Creek Hills
After you turn off the 15 in Baker and take the 127 up to Death Valley, you start to get into the vast, seemingly-empty desert this part of California is known for. The road seems endless, it stretches through the deserted space between mountain ranges that never seem to get any closer. About 30 miles north of Baker there’s a deserted little trailhead and a bathroom just off the road at the Salt Creek Hills. We pulled over to get some shots of the landscape – if I lived closer you can bet I’d be all over hiking this trail though. I love a good hike – and this trail looked completely different than most of my favorite hikes at home.
Just beyond this little trailhead to nowhere are the Dumont Dunes. RVs were starting to dot the hillside in the distance as they set up camp for the holiday. When we came back through this way Wednesday morning, the dunes looked PACKED.
We made Pahrump, Nevada our basecamp for this trip. It’s not the closest lodging to the national park (in fact, there is lodging IN the park), but it is the cheapest near the park. We only paid $35 a night to stay at the Nugget Casino Hotel. The Nugget Casino Hotel boasts large clean rooms, a 24-hour on-site cafe, and it’s walkable to a few dining options. If you aren’t a gambler, there isn’t much going on at night in Pahrump, but it was absolutely perfect for our purposes.