Sand Castles Where to stay for Death Valley fun
By Paul Lukas

(MONEY Magazine) – The nearest major airport to Death Valley is in Las Vegas, which is a 2 1/2-hour drive from the visitor's center in the park. Several of the roadways--including the spectacular Titus Canyon Road--are unpaved and rocky, so consider renting a high-clearance vehicle such as a pickup truck or a Jeep (keep in mind that not all SUVs are high clearance). A conventional car will still give you access to many of the park's highlights, however.

If you're planning a multiday visit, the easiest place to stay is Furnace Creek Ranch (760-786-2345; Located next to the visitor's center, it has two restaurants, a bar and a grocery store (along with "the world's lowest golf course"), and makes a perfectly situated home base. My simple motel-style room ran $137 a night. Less expensive options include the no-frills Burro Inn in Beatty, Nev. (775-553-2225;, 45 miles from the visitor's center, and the historic Amargosa Hotel in Death Valley Junction, Calif. (760-852-4441;, 30 miles away.

Gas and water are available here and there in the park. You'll need plenty of both--even in winter, Death Valley is no place to be stranded, especially since cell-phone service is spotty. --P.L.