This post is part of Just Ahead’s Death Valley Trip Planner—our guide to everything you need to know to plan your trip to Death Valley National Park. Click here to see the complete series, and be sure to download our Just Ahead smartphone audio tour of Death Valley before you head to the park.
You need a car in Death Valley. The park does not run shuttle buses. And besides, to enjoy Just Ahead’s narrated audio tour of the park, you need to be in a moving vehicle. Here are approximate driving times from major destinations:
- Las Vegas (closest airport): 2-1/2 hours
- Los Angeles: 5 hours
- San Francisco: 8 hours when Highway 120 is open
- Yosemite National Park: 6 hours when Highway 120 is open
The main park roads in Death Valley are excellent paved roads, so standard two-wheel-drive serves you just fine for seeing its major sights. Many of those sights require short drives on graded dirt roads that are also just fine for passenger cars. Just Ahead always tells you what to expect before you turn off a paved road.
As we say in this post, you’ll want to be sure your car is in excellent working order, particularly its cooling system and tires. Be realistic about your car’s ability to travel dirt roads. In addition to the graded dirt roads that are part of the Just Ahead tour of Death Valley, the park has a huge network (785 miles) of remote dirt roads that require a high-clearance vehicle, if not four-wheel drive. Only set off on those roads if you’re experienced, informed, and fully prepared for backcountry travel. The Just Ahead tour doesn’t extend to those remote roads.
If you do find yourself intrigued by the park’s backcountry roads (Titus Canyon or the Racetrack, for example) visit Farabee’s Jeep Rentals across the street from Furnace Creek Inn. They rent sturdy 4x4s and offer guided off-road tours.
Choosing an Approach
Just Ahead will guide you from any of these directions and begin telling you stories as you approach:
From Los Angeles and the south: Take Interstate 15 to Baker and follow Highway 127 north to either Highway 178 or 190 west into the park.
From Las Vegas: You can choose from several different approaches, but most direct is Highway 160 west to Pahrump, Nevada, then Bell Vista Road west to Highway 127 north to Highway 190 west into the park.
From the east (Highway 95 in Nevada): Take Highway 95 to Highway 373 (Lathrop Wells), Highway 374 (Beatty), or Highway 267 (Scotty’s Junction), all of which lead southwest into the park.
From the northwest: From Highway 395 in Lone Pine, take Highway 136 southeast to Highway 190 east into the park.
From the southwest (an alternate route from Los Angeles): Take Highway 14 north to Inyokern. Then follow Highway 178 east through Inyokern and Ridgecrest all the way up to Highway 190. Take Highway 190 east into the park.
- Entry fee is $20 for a seven-day vehicle permit or $40 for an annual pass. You can pay at automated pay stations and at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.
- You can also buy an annual America the Beautiful pass good for admission to all national parks and federal recreation sites. For information, click here.
To see our complete Death Valley Trip Planner series, click here.