We stayed at Furnace Creek Ranch for two nights on March 14th and 15th, 2012. We booked our room online and they require a two night stay. We drove in from the Stove Pipe Wells side of the park and by the time we got to the park entrance the visitor center was closed. We saw a ranger and he told us we would have to drive back in the morning to get our pass. The good news is that there is a visitor center right at Furnace Creek too so getting our pass was quick in the morning.
The Furnace Creek Ranch and Inn are two separate properties about a half mile apart and on opposite sides of the street. The Ranch is the one that has the Chevron station (gas just under $6 per gallon, make sure you fill up before you enter the park to save a few bucks…I still needed a few gallons, but visited most of the sites), Visitor Center, and Golf Course. The check-in desk is immediately as you pull into the property toward the Gas Station. It is in a low one story building. The process was fairly quick and they staff seemed to know a lot about the Park. The “Ranch” itself is a nice place and reminds me a lot of a theme campground. As you drive back to your room you pass thru “town” there is a little museum, the restaurants and stores, and the golf course…all with a western town theme.
The rooms are either cabins…which are really rows of one story rooms or standard or deluxe rooms in a two story building. The cabins are closer to the restaurants and the rooms are all the way at the back of the property by the stables and walking to dinner can take a few minutes. You could always drive and I think many do. We were in a deluxe room on the bottom floor. Our room had two queen beds, a small table with two chairs, a nightstand with alarm clock, a dresser, mini-refrigerator, coffee maker, hair dryer, sink with mirror outside of the bathroom, closet, Heat/AC, and a back porch with two chairs and a small table. Our building also had an ice machine and pop and snack vending machines. Everything worked as was clean. The only complaint was that it was hard to find parking close to your room if you were staying in the back buildings.
We did not spend much time at all at the ranch as we wanted to go out and see the sights in the park. There is a 9-hole golf course that in hindsight, I wish I had made time to play. It is the lowest golf course in the world so they guarantee you will have a low round. We did go for a walk around the perimeter of the course and it looked nice. We saw a male roadrunner calling and displaying for an unseen female and there is a solar panel farm that is neat to check out…the panels track the sun. The ranch also has a small museum, but we only looked at the outside portion of the museum and the pieces they have displayed add to the western ambiance. The ranch store and the various restaurants are grouped together near the museum. They offer various horseback riding opportunities and we saw people heading out on their trips. The pool looked great and there were basketball and tennis courts, putting green, shuffleboard court, bocce ball court and bike rental among other various tour opportunities.
Unless you want to drive to Stovepipe Wells, dining options are limited to the three Ranch restaurants, the saloon, and the Dining room at the Inn. They had the menu for the Inn Dining Room displayed in front of the Ranch restaurants and it looked like more of an upscale dining experience. This didn’t seem to fit with our traipsing around the desert so we did not try the Inn. We looked in the Saloon and it looked like a fun place to hang out and they had a good sized menu so you could eat there too. We did not check out the 19th hole over by the golf course.
We did have dinner at the Wagon Wheel Steakhouse. We went there on a Thursday night about 8:00 PM and had to wait for a table. They gave us a pager and we hung out on the porch and 5 minutes later they were buzzing that our table was ready. The restaurant has great ambiance with a western gold town theme and the grill where they cook the steaks is visible. The smell was awesome. There we a lot of people in there and the dress was casual…you are on a Ranch. I ordered the barbeque plate ($34) which was a half slab of ribs and a quarter chicken. It was great! Quality meat and cooked just right. Jodie got the Filet ($38) and she thought it was great too. We each had a couple prickly pear margaritas ($8) which we pretty good, but on the small side. They did have a desert menu but we were stuffed from our meals. Overall we enjoyed our meal but some might not want the $125 price tag for one meal.
We also ate dinner one night at 49'er Café. It is a nice little diner, again in the gold rush theme. They had an all American menu with the standard comfort foods and some things you might not suspect because it is right by the other restaurants. I had the Chicken Fried Pork Meal ($15) and Jodie had the Linguini Bolognese…both were very good and more than we could eat. We also each had one of the nightly drink specials ($9) and they were good but kind of small.
The high prices are somewhat justified as it is expensive to get anything to such a remote place. We did a few things to help make sure we did not have to spend too much on things we could just as easily bring. Right after we picked up our rental car we went to Wal-Mart and bought a cheap cooler, some ice, a case of bottled water, Gatorade, pop, beer, and snacks that would not melt. We also bought energy bars and doughnuts so we could eat breakfast out on the trails. We picked up two subs each right before we entered the park and this allowed us to stay out exploring while eating lunch. We also filled up our gas tank at the last big town before the park.
The sites: It is possible to see most of the sights in one long day. We went on a few hikes, rarely more than a mile in and back. The good news is almost every trail starts going up so when you turn around you have an easier walk back. Once you have walked a couple of the canyons they all are pretty similar so if you are finding you have too much to do, consider eliminating a canyon hike. Must Do’s: 1. Badwater Basin. Lowest point in North America, easy walk, handicap accessible, restrooms. 2. Artists Drive – Get to see some of the most colorful rocks with little effort. 3. Devil’s Golf Course – don’t need to spend much time but it give you an idea of how hard it would be to cross this area. 4. The Ubehebe Crater – only if you have never seen a volcanic crater. 5. Either Zabriskie Point or Dante’s View – Great panoramic views of valleys below. Great for sunsets and sunrises. 6. The best for last – the stars. They look great when you step out on the ranch grounds, but that pales compared to what you see if you take a short drive out of the lights of Furnace Creek. We drove about a mile to a turn-off road and got out of the car. It was the most amazing view of the stars I have ever seen…more than you ever imagined you could see with your naked eye. We had good binoculars so we had some even better views. Doesn’t matter how tired you are…you have to do this. Overall we enjoyed our stay in Death Valley.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC