Our 2016 Mojave Desert Road Trip

In February 2016 we took a road trip through the Mojave Desert: hiking and looking at wildflowers and pretty rocks. This post summarizes the road trip and has links to our posts for the road trip.

Here’s the google map we made as we planned our trip. From the San Francisco Bay Area, we drove Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park in time to see the superbloom, and the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve near Lancaster.

Our Mojave Desert road trip
Our Mojave Desert road trip

In Las Vegas we hiked at Red Rock Canyon and visited the Las Vegas Strip.

Red Rock Canyon
Red Rock Canyon

The Death Valley attractions map shows places at Death Valley that seemed interesting when we planned the trip. We spent three nights at the Ranch at Furnace Creek, and we’d happily go back to this park lodging for its central location and cleanliness.

Three nights was about right for us. Following the pattern of safari game drives, we ventured out in the morning and afternoon, visiting places relatively close together, and we returned to our Furnace Creek base for lunch. We saw the geology and wildflowers we wanted to see, waiting for fierce winds to die down before trying to photograph tall wildflowers whipping in the wind, and we left before long drives through the desert became too tiresome.

Death Valley attractions
Death Valley attractions

We spent our first sunset and sunrise marveling at the badlands from Zabriskie Point in a fierce windstorm. The sunset was overcast so I came back at dawn for better light.

badlands at Zabriskie Point
badlands at Zabriskie Point

That morning we hiked the badlands from the bottom, Golden Canyon.

hikers on the Golden Canyon trail
hikers on the Golden Canyon trail

That afternoon, after the wind died down, we drove to the south end of Badwater Road, where we saw the superbloom, the desert blooming with flowers.

Heading back, we stopped at Badwater, a salt flat that’s the lowest place on earth.

Badwater, lowest place on earth
Badwater, lowest place on earth

On our second morning, we walked through the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and hiked Mosaic Canyon. We were lucky to catch the sand dunes just after a windstorm, so we were able to find some untracked dunes. Mosaic Canyon was the third canyon we hiked on this road trip, and it was our favorite.

That afternoon we looked for pupfish at Salt Creek and looked for more wildflowers.

Leaving Death Valley, we found the cotton-mouth cactus we had seen high on a canyon wall at Mosaic Canyon.

We looked for California poppies at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, but the early bloomers had been killed by a frost. We found some poppies at a lower elevation as we drove home.

Death Valley is a true desert, averaging only 2″ of rain a year. Last October there was a big rainstorm that enabled the superbloom in the desert this February. We had made and cancelled reservations for several years, waiting for enough rain for good wildflowers, and the 2016 superbloom exceeded our expectations. 🙂

This was our first visit to Death Valley, and we’d go back. We had a great time looking at the varied rocks, wondering how they all came together, and hunting for wildflower treasures in the desert. The desert has a simple and austere beauty that’s harder to find in a city.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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