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California/Nevada

Hiking Death Valley National Park and the Valley of Fire

Program No. 7608RJ
Death Valley isn't as scary as it sounds. Join experts to learn about unique rock formations, local ecology and ancient petroglyphs as you hike and explore these two stunning parks.

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At a Glance

Tread the sands of time to discover Mother Nature's diverse palette of colorful rock formations in this stunning corner of the desert Southwest. Study geology, ecology and human history through lectures, daily walks and hikes with geologists and other experts in their fields. Travel in our own comfortable Road Scholar 30-passenger bus with an upgraded video/audio system allowing our instructors to teach while "on the go."
Activity Level
Varies by date
Varies by date. OUTDOOR: NO SWEAT - Hiking up to two miles per day over varied terrain. Elevations up to 5,500 feet. OUTDOOR: SPIRITED - Hiking up to five miles per day over varied terrain. Elevations up to 5,500 feet.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

What You'll Learn

  • Learn why the sun-lit rocks inspired the park's name "Valley of Fire" as you view fascinating petroglyphs.
  • Find a world of sand dunes, rugged canyons and landscapes carved from primeval rock in Death Valley.
  • Hike Badwater, White Dome, Mouse Tank, Golden Canyon, Gower Gulch and more.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
Profile Image
Janice Hayden
Janice Hayden moved to St. George, Utah to work as a field geologist for the Utah Geological Survey after working as an oil and gas exploration geologist. For 20 years, Janice mapped eighteen 7-½-minute quadrangles of southwest Utah that delineate geological formations, structures, soils, water resources, mineral deposits, and geologic hazards. She is now full-time faculty at Utah Tech University and frequently leads local geology field trips as well as field trips to Utah's national parks.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Janice Hayden
Janice Hayden View biography
Janice Hayden moved to St. George, Utah to work as a field geologist for the Utah Geological Survey after working as an oil and gas exploration geologist. For 20 years, Janice mapped eighteen 7-½-minute quadrangles of southwest Utah that delineate geological formations, structures, soils, water resources, mineral deposits, and geologic hazards. She is now full-time faculty at Utah Tech University and frequently leads local geology field trips as well as field trips to Utah's national parks.
Profile Image of Diana Hawks
Diana Hawks View biography
Diana Hawks was fortunate to be able to work in a career she loved, as an archaeologist in both the southwestern United States and Mesoamerica. She completed a bachelor’s and a master’s in archaeology at Brigham Young and PhD courses in anthropology and law. She has worked most extensively as an archaeologist in southern Utah and northern Arizona specializing in ceramic analysis of Ancestral Puebloan cultures. She enjoys teaching and working with the public on archaeological projects, especially archaeological inventories and rock art recording.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Year
2024
  • 2024
  • 2025
Date
Dec 01 - Dec 07
  • Oct 27 - Nov 02
  • Nov 03 - Nov 09
  • Nov 10 - Nov 16
  • Dec 01 - Dec 07
Please Note: The program differs on certain dates.
Please Note: The program differs on certain dates.
Select trip year and date
2024
  • 2024
  • 2025
Dec 01 - Dec 07
  • Oct 27 - Nov 02
  • Nov 03 - Nov 09
  • Nov 10 - Nov 16
  • Dec 01 - Dec 07
While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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7 days
6 nights
17 meals
6 B 5 L 6 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Las Vegas, NV
D
Hilton Garden Inn Las Vegas Strip South

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 3:00 pm.

Afternoon: Program Registration 4:00 -5:30 pm. After you have your room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table in the lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm when and where the Orientation session will take place. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in.

Dinner: At the hotel, we’ll have a buffet meal including entree, salad, vegetables, iced tea and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation will immediately follow dinner in the same conference room. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Please remember to bring your National Park Pass, hiking poles, a small backpack and a refillable water bottle. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
2
Hiking Valley of Fire
Las Vegas, NV
B,L,D
Hilton Garden Inn Las Vegas Strip South

Activity note: Driving approximately 110 miles total; about 2 hours. Hiking up to 2 miles total throughout the day; most trails in Valley of Fire are unpaved; little change in elevation.

Breakfast: At the hotel restaurant, the breakfast buffet includes fresh fruit, yogurt, assorted baked goods, cereal, an egg dish, French toast, oatmeal, breakfast potatoes and meats, coffee, assorted teas, juice, milk and water.

Morning: We’ll transfer by motorcoach to Valley of Fire State Park for a full day of hiking. Dedicated in 1935, Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park and gets its name from the captivating formations of red sandstone throughout. The park is home to a vast array of desert creatures, most of them nocturnal due to blistering summer temperatures, and many floral species including indigo bush and a variety of cacti. We will begin our day with a hiking field trip to Atlatl Rock to view fascinating petroglyphs that have endured for over 3,000 years. At the petroglyph stop, our instructor will conduct a lecture on the wildlife and desert ecology of Death Valley.

Lunch: On the trail, we’ll find a spot to rest and eat our boxed lunches that includes a sandwich, chips, fruit and cookies. Water provided by the motorcoach.

Afternoon: Continuing, we’ll enjoy the brilliant landscape on short hikes and walks that include Mouse's Tank and Rainbow Vista. At the conclusion of our hikes for the day, we’ll transfer back to the hotel.

Dinner: At local restaurant we’ll enjoy plated dinner with coffee, iced tea, sodas and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
3
Death Valley National Park, Badwater Basin, Natural Bridge
Death Valley National Park
B,L,D
Oasis Ranch at Death Valley

Activity note: Driving approximately 140 miles from Las Vegas to Death Valley; about 2.5 hours. Hiking up to 1.5 mile round trip at Badwater Basin; easy terrain on hard packed salt flats. Natural Bridge hike is about 1 mile round trip; easy, gravelly terrain within a narrow canyon.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Setting out by motorcoach, we’ll travel to Death Valley National Park where our instructor will provide en route commentary on the geology, ecology and human history of the area. Death Valley is North America’s hottest, driest and lowest location. Snow-capped mountains surround the sun-parched basins, colorful badlands, beautifully carved canyons and rolling sand dunes. Despite its foreboding name, Death Valley has almost 400 species of native wildlife and more than 1,000 plant species.

Lunch: At a scenic location within the park, we’ll stop and have our boxed lunches including a sandwich, chips and cookie.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll explore Badwater Basin, noted as the lowest point in North America, with an elevation of 282 feet below sea level. Our instructor will lead a walking field trip from the parking lot and across the hard pan of the salt flat of the basin. Along the way, they will discuss the geology of the overall basin, the formation of the salt deposit, and give us time to experience the vastness of this desolate location. After the Badwater Basin stop, we’ll continue by motorcoach to Natural Bridge Canyon trailhead for a 1 mile round trip hike that ascends a gravelly wash trail, which is actually an ancient flood channel as evidenced by the large boulders strewn along the way. This is the largest of 14 natural bridges found in the park. We’ll then proceed to Furnace Creek Ranch to check into our hotel that is nestled in an oasis against the Funeral Mountains in the heart of Death Valley.

Dinner: 1849 restaurant for a buffet dinner that includes salad, entrée and dessert. Coffee, iced tea, water included.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Titus Canyon, Mesquite Sand Dunes, Mosaic Canyon
Death Valley National Park
B,L,D
Oasis Ranch at Death Valley

Activity note: Minimal driving throughout the day; multiple short transfers. Guided hiking approximately 2 miles total during group activities throughout the day: hiking about 1 mile round trip at Titus Canyon, relatively easy uphill grade on a gravel road in a narrow canyon; walking at Mesquite Sand Dunes according to personal preference; deep sand during independent exploration; Mosaic Canyon Trail is about 1 mile round trip, moderately difficult terrain.

Breakfast: At 1849 restaurant enjoy a breakfast buffer that includes fruit, hot oatmeal, scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, potatoes, pancakes and waffles, plus coffee, tea, milk, juice and water.

Morning: We’ll then transfer by motorcoach to Titus Canyon, one of the most visited sites in all of Death Valley National Park, for a field trip along a narrow gravel road within towering canyon walls that will take us through an area of fractured, cemented and polished rock. The canyon narrows to less than 20 feet in some sections. Proceeding to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, we will have some time to explore the landscape independently. These iconic dunes have been used as a backdrop for film scenes for several movies throughout the years, including the Star Wars series.

Lunch: We'll find a spot along the trail to enjoy a box lunch of a sandwich, chips, cookies and fruit.

Afternoon: Transferring by motorcoach a short distance to the trailhead for Mosaic Canyon, we’ll go for a hike through walls of polished dolomitic conglomerates and breccia, composed of tiny angular fragments of various types of rock locked within a natural cement. Formed over millions of years of geologic faulting and erosion, Mosaic Canyon is a beautifully sculpted canyon of unique natural art showcasing stratified sedimentary and conglomerate rock formations. After our hike, we’ll return to the hotel.

Dinner: Last Kind Words Saloon at the Ranch at Death Valley and order from a select menu that includes vegetarian options, steak, salmon and pork, plus salad and dessert. Coffee, iced tea, water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Ubehebe Crater, Salt Creek Marsh, Golden Canyon, Star Gazing
Death Valley National Park
B,L,D
Oasis Ranch at Death Valley

Activity note: Driving approx. 130 miles total for the day; about 55 miles to Ubehebe Crater, approximately 1.5 hours; short morning drive to Golden Canyon trail head. Guided hiking 2 miles for the day: approximately 1 mile round trip at Ubehebe Crater, moderate terrain with some loose footing; approximately 1 mile round trip at Golden Canyon, moderate terrain; approximately 1/2 mile round trip at Salt Creek Marsh boardwalk trail.

Breakfast: At 1849 restaurant enjoy a breakfast buffer that includes fruit, hot oatmeal, scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, potatoes, pancakes and waffles, plus coffee, tea, milk, juice and water.

Morning: After transferring by motorcoach from the hotel, we’ll set out on a hike along the rim of Ubehebe Crater, a large volcanic crater 600 feet deep and one-half mile across. Ubehebe Crater was formed by steam and gas explosions when hot magma came in contact with groundwater. We’ll then proceed via motorcoach to Salt Creek Marsh for a walking field trip along the boardwalk to view the elusive and endangered Death Valley Pupfish that lives in the spring-fed pools along Salt Creek. We’ll then return to the hotel for lunch.

Lunch: We'll transfer to the 1849 restaurant for a buffet dinner that includes salad, entrée and dessert. Coffee, iced tea, water included.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll proceed via motorcoach to the Golden Canyon Trail where we’ll join our instructor for a hike through this canyon full of fabulous colors and rock formations at each turn and twist. We’ll then return to the Ranch at Death Valley to relax before dinner.

Dinner: 1849 restaurant for a buffet dinner that includes salad, entrée and dessert. Coffee, iced tea, water included.

Evening: We will look to the skies as our instructor will help identify stars and constellations in the unique dark skies of Death Valley. The International Dark-Sky Association has designated Death Valley National Park as a "Gold Award Dark Sky Park."

DAY
6
Zabriskie Point, Harmony Borax Works
Death Valley National Park
B,L,D
Oasis Ranch at Death Valley

Activity note: Driving approx. 20 miles throughout the day to hiking options. Hiking approx. 1 mile total throughout the day: Zabriskie Point is a 1/4 mile round trip on paved trail to viewpoint; Harmony Borax Works is a 1/4 mile round trip on paved interpretive trail.

Breakfast: At 1849 restaurant enjoy a breakfast buffer that includes fruit, hot oatmeal, scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, potatoes, pancakes and waffles, plus coffee, tea, milk, juice and water.

Morning: We'll transfer by motorcoach to Zabriskie Point for a spectacular view from Telescope Peak at 11,331 feet, down to Badwater Basin at 282 feet below sea level. Then we’ll drive to the trailhead for Gower Gulch for our morning hike. This canyon is made up of red mudstone and colorful mosaic conglomerates.

Lunch: At the 19th Hole restaurant, a unique veranda-style bar and grill, we'll order off a select menu of hot sandwiches, salads and specialty burgers. Coffee, iced tea, soda and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Then we’ll drive to the nearby Harmony Borax Works where our instructor will lead a short walk and describe the history of borax mining in Death Valley, how it was processed, and the arduous journey it took by a 20-mule team to the railhead at Mojave, California. With this knowledge, we’ll return to the Ranch at Death Valley for independent exploration of the outdoor mining and transportation exhibits, and the interpretive borax history center.

Dinner: We'll board the motorcoach for dinner at the Inn at Death Valley and order from a select menu that includes steak, salmon or vegetarian options, plus salad and dessert. Coffee, iced tea and water included; other beverages available for purchase. During dinner share some of your favorite experiences from the program with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Be sure to prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
7
To Las Vegas, Program concludes
Las Vegas, NV
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by approx. 8:00 am for transfer. Driving approx. 142 miles from Death Valley to Las Vegas; about 2.5 hours. Drop-offs at McCarran International Airport and the starting hotel will be at approximately 11:30 am and 12:00 noon, respectively.

Breakfast: At 1849 restaurant enjoy a breakfast buffer that includes fruit, hot oatmeal, scrambled eggs, breakfast meats, potatoes, pancakes and waffles, plus coffee, tea, milk, juice and water.

Morning: Once checked out of the hotel we’ll board the motorcoach for transfer back to Las Vegas for drop-off at McCarran International Airport and the starting hotel. This concludes our program. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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