- Take in the distinct desert beauty of Death Valley
- Visit the breathtaking Mount Whitney
- See the biggest tree in the world in Sequoia National Park
- Hike to crystal clear alpine Lone Pine Lake
- Enjoy the sunrise across the desert skyline in Joshua Tree
|Day 1||Drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley||Death Valley|
|Day 2||Discover Death Valley National Park||Death Valley|
|Day 3||Drive to Lone Pine & Whitney Portal||Lone Pine|
|Day 4||Lone Pine to Sequoia National Park||Sequoia National Park|
|Day 5||Explore Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park||Sequoia National Park|
|Day 6||Drive to Pioneertown||Pioneertown|
|Day 7||Explore Joshua Tree National Park||Pioneertown|
|Day 8||Drive from Joshua Tree to Las Vegas, Stop in Kelso Dunes||Las Vegas|
Day 1: Drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley
As the lowest point in North America, and one of the hottest places in the world, Death Valley is home to unique and extreme landscapes unlike any other. From salt flats to rugged mountain ranges, sand dunes to badlands, this area is plenty more than just high temperatures.
There are two ways to get from Las Vegas to Death Valley- we recommend following the NV-160 to the CA-190, a 2.5-hour drive. About halfway through this scenic route, you'll pass through the city of Pahrump, where you can stop and stretch your legs.
Entering the National Park costs $30 USD per car, and you'll find just a few accommodation options inside. The Oasis Resort holds two properties: The Inn, a higher-end comfort option, and The Ranch, a mid-range family-oriented option. The resort also has dining options for dinner. After your long trip, eat, drink, relax, and recharge for another busy day tomorrow!
Day 2: Discover Death Valley National Park
Today is a full day to explore the many attractions of Death Valley. Your morning begins at one of the highlights- Zabriskie Point. Ideally, this will be a very early morning so you can make the half hour walk to the point and arrive as the sun is rising. This panoramic lookout offers one of the best views in the park. Take in the surrounding badlands and mountains, and if you're there early enough, watch the sunrise illuminate the sky with an array of colors. The Zabriskie Point also acts as a trailhead for a number of routes around the area should you want to explore for a couple more hours.
Hop back in your car and continue on your way, making your next stop at the Devils Golf Course. This expansive salt pan was once a lake bed, now composed of the salt and minerals left behind when the water evaporated. Over time, the elements have worn away at the salt formations, creating a rugged texture. Give yourself just a few minutes to admire this unique landscape and take a few pictures before continuing on to Badwater Basin.
Arriving in Badwater Basin, you'll have reached the lowest point in North America, at 282 ft below sea level. The basin boasts a surreal landscape of salt flats, appearing teasingly like a snowscape, with mountains in the distance. Walk across the built-in boardwalk to reach the salt flats. You'll be able to step out onto the salt and take in the incredible view that stretches as far as the eye can see. Give yourself no more than an hour to explore the area properly.
By now, the mid-afternoon sun will likely be beating down, so we suggest heading back to your accommodation for a reprieve. Cool off poolside, have lunch, and recharge for the evening.
Take the early part of your evening to make the Artists Drive and explore Artists Palette. The drive is along a 9-mile one-way road that takes you through a winding path of unique, colorful landscapes. About 5 miles in, you'll reach Artists Palette, an impressive display of colors on the rocky landscapes, formed from an array of oxidized minerals. Park your car and get out to explore this spectacular scenery up close.
End your day heading up to Dante's View to catch the last rays of sun sinking beneath the horizon. This mountain peak can be easily reached by car and gives a stunning view of the entire valley. When you're ready, make the drive back to your accommodation. If all this exploring has you in the mood for something a little special, head to the Oasis' The Inn for a fine dining experience before calling it a night.
Day 3: Drive to Lone Pine & Whitney Portal
For a final desert sunrise, head up to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and watch the sky fill with colors. Then, jump back in your car, grab your things, and begin your drive to Lone Pine. Head west along the CA-190 for just under two hours, about 100 miles, to the quaint town of Lone Pine. As you roll into town, Highway 395 narrows, slows down and becomes Lone Pine's Main Street. There are Western-style buildings with awnings shading the sidewalk. Check into your hotel, and start exploring the area.
No trip to Lone Pine is complete without visiting the Whitney Portal. From Lone Pine, the road climbs nearly 5,000 feet as it zigzags its way up the face of the Eastern Sierra before reaching Whitney Portal. This is your starting point if you are planning to summit Whitney, and a permit is required. For a taste of the big mountain without the hard-to-get permit, try the hike to Lone Pine Lake. The hike is around 5.1 miles out and back, with a total elevation gain of 1,800 feet. Start on the Mt. Whitney Trail up the mountain- take your time climbing up as the elevation can definitely make the hike much harder. When you reach Lone Pine Lake, you will be rewarded by incredible scenery around the water and vistas of the whole Owens Valley. Soak in the views and dip your toes in the crystal clear waters before heading back down the mountain.
Tonight, treat yourself for dinner at Season's in Lone Pine. From the outside, it doesn't look like much, but you will be pleasantly surprised by the menu options - these include steak done eight different ways, gourmet pizzas and many different desserts.
Day 4: Lone Pine to Sequoia National Park
Grab breakfast at Alabama Hills Cafe before you head out of town this morning. This is voted by locals and visitors alike as the best food in Lone Pine. The food is traditional American, it stands out for its huge portions and fresh ingredients- they only use the best, direct from local suppliers.
After breakfast, head out to the area the cafe was named for, Alabama Hills. The Alabama Hills is a surreal scatter of massive boulders and arches that have been a popular filming location since the silent movie era. Download a self-guided tour brochure if you want to match the scenery you see to classic western movies. Make sure you stop by the famous Mobius Arches rock, where you can see the jagged Sierras framed against round boulders.
From here, you will be driving 4.5 hr hours to the Three Rivers entrance of Sequoia National Park. There are not many great stopovers along the way, so it's best to just make the drive in the heat of the afternoon and arrive at the entrance of Sequoia National Park before dark.
Get settled in your accommodation. We would recommend going out for dinner at the Gateway Restaurant and sitting on the large patio overlooking the Kaweah River as you enjoy your meal.
Day 5: Explore Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Start the day with a hearty breakfast at your hotel- you'll need the fuel, as it will be a busy day of exploring! It's best to prepare a picnic lunch as well, as there will be many beautiful spots in the park where you can eat with great views. There are restaurants in the park if you would prefer, but this option gives you more freedom to enjoy points of interest along the way in your own time.
Start the day driving through the Generals Highway that runs through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. This is one of the most beautiful drives in the park and maybe even in the state! Roll down the windows and savor the way the crisp smell of the trees permeates the air- in this case, the journey really is as good as the destination. Your first stop is at the Giant Forest Museum. As you get out of the car, you will be hit by the size and smell of the sequoias all around the parking lot. Standing next to the Giant Sequoias for the first time is a true "wow" moment. The museum is a great starting point for your visit- you can learn the story of the Giant Sequoia and the unique ecology of the area and its trees.
After your visit to the museum, take the road towards Moro Rock. Moro Rock is a short but strenuous climb to a fabulous viewpoint in Sequoia National park. Begin at the Moro Rock parking area and be prepared for a 40 minute, 0.6 miles (400 steps) trek to the summit. You will be treated with views of the Sierras and the snow-capped Mt. Whitney in the distance.
After you descend Moro Rock, continue down the Crescent Meadow Road 0.75 miles to the Tunnel Log. This is a passageway that was carved into a fallen sequoia tree. Take a photo of yourself driving (or walking ) through the tunnel before you head back on the road and continue northbound on the General's Highway.
The next stop is the famous General Sherman Tree. The General Sherman Tree is the world's largest tree by volume. Its 275 feet tall, and has been growing for 2,300 to 2,700 years! It's a half mile stroll just to walk around the tree! Take the General Sherman Trail, a short walking trail that wanders through this grove of giant trees. There are lots of picnic tables in the grove, so this would be a good spot for a lunch break if you are hungry.
The next stop is at Grant Grove. Take the General Grant Tree Trail to the second-largest Giant Sequoia in the world. President Coolidge proclaimed it the Nation's Christmas tree in 1926. Visit the historic Gamlin Cabin and the Fallen Monarch along this 1/3 mile (.5 km) paved trail as well. Near this grove of sequoias is the Grant Grove Village, with a market for buying some snacks, and a number of different restaurants and cafes for lunch if you opted not to picnic.
After you are rested, it's time to continue on to the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (Highway 180). The road winds along the mountain and descends into Kings Canyon. This road is very winding. It's 30 miles long, but expect it to take an hour or more to drive with stops along the way.
There are a number of waterfalls along the way. The first stop is Grizzly Falls- the falls are just off the main highway. Continue on to Roaring River Falls just off the Cedar Grove Area. You can quickly access the falls via a paved, short 0.3 mile walk. As the water forces its way through a narrow granite gap and races down a short 40-foot drop, the theatrical sound demonstrates the reason for the falls' name.
Finally, as you continue on, you'll arrive at the aptly named "Road's End." Here, you will find yourself at the bottom of the canyon and presented with the beautiful Zumwalt Meadow. This is a lush, serene contrast to the powerful rock formations all around. A 1.5-mile self-guided trail circles the area and offers magnificent views of high granite walls, verdant meadows, and the free-flowing Kings River. Take a walk around the meadows, before heading to your accommodation near the Cedar Grove area for the night.
Day 6: Drive to Pioneertown
Joshua Tree National Park is filled with its namesake tree, and is also home to stunning rock formations and incredible natural landscapes. To get there from your lodging in Sequoia National Park, jump in your car and head a little over 5 hours (300 miles) south and then east on Highway 65 and 58. About 1.5 hours in, stop in Bakersfield to stretch your legs, grab a cup of coffee at Milt's Coffee Shop, and fill up your tank before continuing on your way. After another 2 hours, you'll find yourself in Barstow, where you can stop for lunch at Jenny's Mexican Grill Steak & Mariscos for some classic Mexican cuisine. After lunch, finish off the drive (1.5 hours) to Pioneertown, a worthy place to stop on your way to the park.
Travel back in time to the Wild West with a stay in this movie-magic town. Built in the 1940s by some big names in Hollywood, Pioneertown was created as the perfect backdrop for an Old West movie set. It features 1880s-style facades of saloons, stables, and even jails. Stroll around Mane Street (not a typo) and enjoy the sights and sounds (which sometimes include mock gun fights) before stepping inside Pappy & Harriet's for dinner, live music, and an all-around infectious atmosphere. We recommend a stay in the authentic Pioneertown Motel, or check out an Airbnb in the surrounding area.
Day 7: Explore Joshua Tree National Park
A note of caution as we venture into the park today and through the desert on subsequent days- this desert area regularly sees temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit and up, so it is best to avoid peak summer months in order to properly enjoy hikes and outings. Stay hydrated and start your days early to take advantage of the cool mornings before resting up in the middle of the day back at your accommodation. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks to start, though there are plenty of stops along the way to restock as well.
Beat the heat and hop in your car bright and early, making the 20-minute drive for breakfast to Crossroads Cafe in the town of Joshua Tree. Our advice, order lunch to go and take it with you for your day exploring! As it's right next door, stop by the Park's Visitors Center, located on Highway 62 and Park Blvd., to grab a map and get your bearings, and from there continue on to the North Park Entrance (another 20-minute drive). Before entering the park, be sure to fill up on gas, and have plenty of snacks, water, and something for lunch. Note, entering the National Park costs $30 USD per vehicle.
There is one main road, Park Blvd, throughout Joshua Tree. You'll drive first to the White Tank Campground, where you can park and make the easy walk over to Arch Rock. Get out and stretch your legs and even climb on this impressively large rock structure for your first stop of the day. Back in the car, head on in the same direction before turning down Park Blvd and stopping at Skull Rock. This granite rock formation has two concave depressions, giving it the appearance of a skull. There are also some short trails in this area you can explore further.
Hop back in your vehicle and continue the drive along the main road, soaking in the views. Make another stop to see Cap Rock. This area has a well-marked trail for an easy guided walk around the formations. Stay on Park Blvd and head up towards Intersection Rock, close to the picturesque Hidden Valley Nature Trail. Grab a spot on one of the many rock formations and enjoy an incomparable sunset. Then, it's back in your car to continue along the main road until you exit the Park at the West Entrance.
Right next to the Visitors Center from this morning, you'll find Joshua Tree Saloon, a great spot for dinner. Alternatively, you could make the 20-minute drive back into Pioneertown before grabbing dinner closer to your accommodation.
Day 8: Drive from Joshua Tree to Las Vegas, Stop in Kelso Dunes
Make your way this morning back to Las Vegas with a drive through the Mojave Natural Preserve. For breakfast, stop at Natural Sister’s Cafe, a quaint, local spot that's open early and offers delicious vegetarian options. As you make your way down the 29 Palms Highway (Highway 62), be sure to stop for gas, water, and any snacks for the road.
From there, settle in for a 2-hour journey into Mojave National Preserve. Your first stop will be at the Kelso Depot Visitor Center. Cut inland and drive 100 miles via Amboy Rd and Kelbaker Rd. Once arrived, get your bearings before heading nearby to the Kelso Dunes. Give yourself about two hours to hike up and back down, armed with plenty of water and snacks, and rewarded by incredible views of the entire park from these unique, natural wonders.
Head back to your car and continue on your way. We'd suggest taking Cima Road to loop your way through the rest of the Mojave Preserve. As you exit the preserve, jump on the Interstate 15 to finish off the last leg of your journey (an hour to Vegas).
Home to some of the most famous nightlife in the country, take the rest of the evening to explore Las Vegas at your own speed. From the casinos and hotels on the strip, to live shows and plenty of shopping, there's something here for everyone.
There is no shortage of great dining options in Las Vegas at every price point and style. For something more modest but stylish, try Le Thai for some reasonably priced, great food and a fun atmosphere in a cozy locale.