This post was most recently updated on December 19th, 2020
Death Valley is the second largest national park in the United States. 5300 square miles of desert, canyons, badlands, and mountains straddle the California-Nevada border. With stunning views, geologic wonders, a fascinating history, and an ever-changing landscape, it’s no wonder nearly one million visitors visit every year. You may be one of those future visitors wondering where to stay in Death Valley. Read on to see my recommendations…
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Right in the middle of Death Valley
Because there is so much to see in Death Valley, the best place to stay is right in the middle of the park. That way, you don’t have to go far to explore. Plus if you want to take a break in the middle of the day, it’s so convenient. There is lodging in nearby towns, but the closest are at least 40 minutes outside of the park. Within the park, there are three hotel options: Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel, The Ranch at Death Valley, and The Inn at Death Valley. There are also a few campgrounds — nice for the winter, but I can’t imagine camping during the summer months.
From the hotels at Furnace Creek, you can be at Zabriskie Point within 5 minutes. Just a few minutes drive south, and you’ll be enjoying the Golden Canyon, Artist’s Palette, and Badwater Basin. And turning north will get you to Salt Creek, the Harmony Borax works, and Mustard Canyon within a few miles. (If you’d like to see more of our itinerary with photos, check out Our Death Valley Anniversary.)
Stay where you can beat the heat
Unless you are visiting in the winter, heat is an issue. It is a desert, after all. There are safety precaution signs all over the park, reminding you to carry plenty of water with you and to stay out of the sun during the hottest times of the day. My husband and I enjoyed waking early to see the sunrise, and to hike and see many sights. When the temperatures soared to over 100 degrees F., we returned to our hotel to enjoy the air conditioning and the swimming pool, a lunch meal, and even an afternoon nap.
Stay in an oasis
Drive into Death Valley, and within minutes you’ll know you’re in a desert. The vistas are expansive. The mountains are rugged and beautiful. But it is definitely dry and mostly barren. Until you get to Furnace Creek. And that’s because there’s an oasis at Furnace Creek, created by underwater thermal springs. So you’ll see lots of palm trees, gardens, and even a golf course.
Both the Inn and The Ranch at Death Valley are beautiful places to stay because of the contrast: life-giving springs and all they produce…against the backdrop of a stark desert landscape.
Stay in a place with a rich history
Death Valley has been welcoming tourists since the first tent city was established at Furnace Creek in the 1920’s. When there’s 80,000 gallons of water rising to the surface every day, it’s not a place to ignore! The Pacific Borax Company mined and hauled borax out of the valley with their famous 20-mule teams. Of course, the miners and mules were camped at Furnace Creek.
In the late 1920’s, the Pacific Borax Company built the Furnace Creek resort. It didn’t take long before Hollywood celebrities realized what an amazing place it was, too. It became a winter getaway spot for Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable, and many others.
And nearby is where George Lucas filmed scenes from the original Star Wars movies.
Over the years, the Furnace Creek resort grew in popularity. Now it has undergone a major $100 million dollar investment and a name change. It is called The Inn at Death Valley. The Inn has 66 updated rooms, an additional 22 private casitas with use of a golf cart, a new pool cafe and spa, a new library, renovated restaurant, tennis courts and stunning spaces for weddings or other events.
Stay where you can explore so much!
Hiking Golden Canyon and walking on the Badwater Basin salt flats are also highlights. And the best places to view sunsets or sunrises are the Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes or Zabriskie Point. All of these sights are within a short drive from the following lodging options.
Where did we stay at Death Valley?
I must confess that I usually look for the most economical options when I travel. But for our anniversary, I really wanted something a little more special. Okay, even a luxurious setting! I got that at The Inn at Death Valley.
My room was spacious and had a balcony overlooking the oasis gardens. There was even a fireplace, which would have been nice in the winter, because ambience is everything! Bathrobes and wonderful-smelling toiletries were another special touch. There was even a bathroom scale so I could see that all my hiking paid off!
I loved the stunning photos of park locations displayed in the hallways. They inspired me to get out and see more of them. (By the way, hotel staff are very enthusiastic about Death Valley and have great tips for what to see!)
Other locations around the hotel, like the library and restaurant, had amazing American Western paintings. I appreciated the cool underground tunnels connecting the parking lot to the hotel and pool areas — so nice for staying out of the heat during the day.
At night, we were able to enjoy the stargazing terrace where you can see the Milky Way galaxy with the naked eye. (Death Valley is one of only 8 designated “gold tier” International Dark Sky Parks in the United States.)
And the luxurious pool, that’s always about 84 degrees, was heavenly! It’s a thermal-spring-fed pool that doesn’t need to be chlorinated because the water flows out to the gardens and is constantly being replenished.
Room rates are in the $300-$400+/night range with discounts offered for AAA and AARP. See offers and packages here.
Or you can stay at The Ranch
The Inn’s sister property is The Ranch at Death Valley. It’s just minutes away and also enjoys a very central location in the park. The feeling here is charming and historic too. While it used to be a working ranch, it now reflects mission California architecture. With its lovely central plaza and fountain, to its General Store and Last Chance Saloon, The Ranch is very family-friendly and lots of fun for the kids. This is also where the world’s lowest golf course is — at 214 feet below sea level! The Furnace Creek Golf Course is also an Audubon-approved bird sanctuary.
We strolled through The Ranch and enjoyed ice cream cones at the ice cream counter, souvenirs in the gift shop, and the Borax Museum onsite. The Last Chance Saloon is especially fun with its themed art and decor. There’s also a swimming pool, sports courts, horseshoe pits, playground, outdoor fireplace and firepits.
Rooms at The Ranch run about $190-250+/night and also offer AAA and AARP discounts if you book through their website. Sometimes you can get a slightly cheaper rate from Booking.com.
I hope I’ve convinced you to visit Death Valley National Park. It is unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else in the world. My visit was truly wonderful and eye-opening. Part of that experience was appreciating the contrasts between the park extremes and the comforts and even luxury offered at The Inn at Death Valley. Whether you opt to stay at The Inn or family-friendly Ranch at Death Valley, I know you’ll make memories to last a lifetime!
Note: As is common in the travel industry, I was offered a media discount for my room at The Inn. I can assure you my review is a sincere reflection of my experience. I would like to thank The Oasis at Death Valley and Christine Sceppe for the time she spent showing me The Inn and sharing her love of Death Valley.
Share this so others can enjoy Death Valley, too!