The visitor center at Furnace Creek is 310 miles from L.A. by the eastern or western entrance to the national park (both State Route 190); if you come in from the south on State Route 178 and Emigrant Pass Road, it's 285 miles from L.A.
The main roads in the park are fine for two-wheel-drive passenger cars; backcountry roads sometimes require vehicles with high clearance and/or four-wheel drive.
Because of repaving on State Route 178 south of Furnace Creek and construction at the Badwater pools, Badwater Road will be closed to vehicles longer than 25 feet through mid-April.
WHERE TO STAY:
Besides campgrounds and RV parks, there are several places to stay in Death Valley National Park:
Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resort, P.O. Box 1, Death Valley, CA 92328; (800) 236-7916 or (760) 786-2345, fax (760) 786-2514, www.furnacecreekresort.com. The ranch is in the Furnace Creek oasis, near the interpretive center and 18-hole golf course. It has 28 cabins, $105 per night; 32 one-story motel units, $159; and 164 two-story motel units, $137. There's a stable, a spring-fed swimming pool, tennis courts, general store, museum, saloon, cafe and steakhouse.
The historic Mission-style inn sits on a hillside just southeast of Furnace Creek, with sterling views of the valley. It has a formal dining room, tennis courts, a swimming pool and lovely palm garden. The 66 rooms are priced depending on view: $240-$350 through May 10; $160-$215 May 11-Oct. 9; $240-$335 Oct. 10-Dec. 23; $270-$355 at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Stovepipe Wells Village, P.O. Box 559, Death Valley, CA 92328, (760) 786-2387, fax (760) 786-2389, www.stovepipewells.com, is a compound with restaurant and saloon, swimming pool, general store and gas station near the sand dunes on State Route 190; doubles $75-$95.
Panamint Springs Resort, P.O. Box 395, Ridgecrest, CA 93556 (that's the mailing address; the resort is 48 miles east of Lone Pine on Route 190), (775) 482-7680, fax (775) 482-7682, www.deathvalley.com, is in the Panamint Valley at the western edge of the park. It has 14 motel rooms, $65-$94; a cabin, $139; and a restaurant and bar.
WHERE TO EAT:
The restaurant at Furnace Creek Inn has a dress code (no jeans, shorts or T-shirts during peak dinner hours) and entrees from $20-$30.
Furnace Creek Ranch has more modest options, including the 49er Cafe, Corkscrew Saloon and Wrangler Steakhouse, where the steak dinners are $20-$35 and a breakfast buffet is $8.50. The cafe has salads, sandwiches and entrees from about $5-$15; snacks and finger foods are available at the saloon.
The restaurant at Stovepipe Wells serves three meals a day, with dinner entrees such as steak and fish priced from $10-$25.
Panamint Springs Resort has a bar and restaurant that serves large, satisfying entrees from $10-$15.
TO LEARN MORE:
Death Valley National Park, P.O. Box 579, Death Valley, CA 92328; (760) 786-3200, fax (760) 786-3283, www.nps.gov/deva.