Death Valley National Park's landscape may live up to its name, but Furnace Creek Resort -- 120 miles from Las Vegas -- within the park offers a level of comfort and hospitality at complete odds with its surrounding harsh, yet beautiful environment. We checked in to get a feel for this oasis in the desert.The AAA Four Diamond Award Furnace Creek Resort, with two properties to choose from: The Ranch at Furnace Creek and The Inn at Furnace Creek, is built near a natural spring where water flows through a cooling date orchard and fills a refreshing pool before flowing on to the resort. The property started with 12 rooms, and with a 1935 addition, now boasts 66 with four stories. Ample flagstone patios with large fireplaces face westward to view sunset. The pool is fed by Travertine Spring that flows in at 82 to 84 degrees year-round, and the water continuously exchanges and flows downhill so there is no need for chemical treatment of the spring water.
Year-round The Ranch at Furnace Creek (from $159 per night) offers a more rustic stay better suited for families. Rooms and cabins are available, as well as RV hook-ups and camping spots. The onsite Borax Museum explains Death Valley’s mining history, as well as the Timbisha Native Americans who had lived here for centuries before miners arrived. The resort's other property, The Inn at Furnace Creek (from $345 per night), is ideal for couples. Open from October to May, its wings wrap around palm gardens and flowing water. Rooms are available with king beds or standard doubles, in addition to spa rooms and a pool bungalow.
Rooms are charming in the style of the ‘20s and ‘30s, and while perhaps smaller compared to modern construction, they feature amenities such as Keurig coffee makers, satellite TV, free WiFi and, of course, air conditioning. The lobby has the Desert View Watchtower gift shop that sells everything from souvenirs to hiking supplies. The Inn Dining Room has fine dining that includes seafood and southwest offerings, as well as an impressive selection of steaks and salads paired with an extensive wine list.
From these luxury properties, guests may venture out among beautiful harshness of the 3.3-million acre Death Valley National Park. At Farabee Jeep Rentals across from the Inn, experienced guides take passengers on a number of adventures, including vising ghost towns and the abandoned mines, and through Titus Canyon -- a trip that takes ranges from door-scraping narrows to soaring switchbacks. Star Wars was filmed in parts of Death Valley in 1977, and these locations are sought out as well (stop by the nearby NPS Visitor Center for more information). Sand dune fields dot the map, and the famous Racetrack playa, where rocks seem to travel on the mudflats by themselves, is a popular -- though remote -- destination for photographers. Scotty’s Castle is a story of the unlikely friendship between a charismatic con artist Walter Scott and wealthy investor Albert Johnson, who built his extensive vacation house in remote Death Valley, complete with a pipe organ.
Guests 55 and older receive 10 percent off their first night, 20 percent off two nights, and 30 percent off a three-night stay. The Unlimited Golf Package begins at $130 per person per night (at The Ranch at Furnace Creek) and includes one day of unlimited golf, cart rental, club storage overnight accommodations, and use of the tennis courts and pools.
Be sure to check the website for specials offered throughout the season.