When Old Hollywood needed an escape from the demands of making movies, they hopped in their convertibles drove out to a luxurious desert getaway, four hours from Los Angeles. The glamorous still lounge by the legendary pool, sipping cocktails and hiding under large chapeaus, sometimes shining brighter than the nighttime stars overhead. But it’s the service and the amenities that shine the brightest at The Inn at Furnace Creek, the iconic luxury property that offers hospitality as warm as the sunset in Death Valley National Park.
Legendary Luxury at Death Valley’s The Inn at Furnace Creek
Near the lowest point in North America sits a historic, AAA four-diamond luxury property that hosts Hollywood stars and Paris socialites. Nestled in the largest national park in the lower 48, The Inn at Furnace Creek offers graciously appointed accommodations that luxury travelers have come to expect in the wild and untamed desert of Death Valley.
The notorious summer temperatures create the starkest and harshest of environments. As the heat retreats and the shadows soften, the desert colors deepen and the mountain panoramas beg for a portrait.
The Inn at Furnace Creek offers luxury travelers poolside massages and guided off-road adventures. As the sun sets behind the Panamint Mountains, guests can enjoy fine dining al fresco or take afternoon tea. A round of golf at the lowest course in the world will have golfers tossing the clubs in their trunk.
History of Furnace Creek
In 1849, a wagon train of prospectors took a detour through the barren valley and one passenger perished. One member of the party turned and said, Goodbye, Death Valley, and the name stuck.
Mining, primarily borax, developed the area in the 1880s though moved on by the turn-of-the-century. The train tracks laid by the mining companies would soon shuttle tourists into Death Valley.
Built in 1927 with expansive views of the Panamint Mountains, The Inn at Furnace Creek offers a 66-room luxury hotel set in a garden oasis, complete with a spring-fed pool and poolside bungalows. The Spanish Revival property boasts a red tile roof with wooden balconies, a grand patio for sunset viewing and a desert-inspired color scheme.
In the fashion of other National Park Service lodges, the building materials were sourced locally. The Shoshone Indians handmade the adobe blocks and the large timbers came from railroad trestles. Even the stone used in the arches around the pool was harvested onsite.
My Stay at The Inn at Furnace Creek
I entered my room at The Inn at Furnace Creek through an entryway that opened to a spacious layout featuring a king-sized bed. The sitting area, complete with a pair of upholstered chairs flanking a fireplace with a mantel and decorative mirror, offered the ideal spot for enjoying a book or cup of coffee.
My accommodations featured all the amenities I expect in a AAA four-diamond property, like a flat-screen television, in-room stereo, ceiling fan, and a work desk with a charging station. My room featured a large walk-in closet with a mini-refrigerator, extra bedding, white terry robe and iron. I didn’t find an in-room safe that I know luxury travelers have come to expect.
My room overlooked the oasis garden and I had access to a shared balcony. The king-sized bed was dressed with high thread count white cotton linens with truffle-colored coverlet and bolster. My son found the bench located at the foot of the bed the ideal place to watch TV.
I enjoyed the in-room coffee provided by a Keurig coffee maker, complete with jade-colored mugs, real creamers and tea bags, along with glassware and complimentary water bottles. Due to the extremely dry desert air, the Inn at Furnace Creek has a water urn in the main lobby for its guests.
The bathroom featured vintage Malibu accent tiles, white hexagonal tile and a jetted tub with separate shower. The pedestal sink and mirror appear to be the originals. I found desert wildflower-scented signature toiletries, though The Inn at Furnace Creek uses mounted full-size toiletries instead of the individual-sized ones I take as souvenirs.
Dining at The Inn at Furnace Creek
The Inn Dining Room offers fine dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner with unparalleled views of the valley and the Panamint Mountains from the floor-to-ceiling windows. During the high season, guests can dine on the veranda, right outside. Afternoon tea and Sunday brunch are favorites; the Mother’s Day brunch is the end of the high season in Death Valley. In-room dining is also available.
During my stay, I had breakfast at the Forty-Niner Café at The Ranch at Furnace Creek area that serves western-inspired family favorites. They also had a kids’ menu.
My Stay at The Ranch at Furnace Creek
The Ranch at Furnace Creek ($$) is located a couple of miles from The Inn at Furnace Creek and features a kid-pleasing western theme. Most buildings overlook a large grassy area dotted with palm trees and features the spring-fed pool. A great place to let the kids run free since it’s separated from the parking lot.
The Pacific Coast Borax Company built this resort in 1933 and it has expanded over the years and features 224 rooms across several buildings within walking distance of a couple of restaurants, a general store and the horse stables. My room featured a pair of queen beds, great for families.
Activities at The Inn at Furnace Creek
The Inn at Furnace Creek exudes luxury, including their activities. A variety of massages, from deep tissue to prenatal, are available, reservations are recommended. The four-diamond hotel also features an exercise room and sauna, located next to the spring-fed swimming pool with a constant temperature of 82F. I found a pair of tennis courts close to the pool as well.
For golfers, Death Valley offers a bucket list golf course and named one of America’s 50 Toughest Courses by Golf Digest. Located at The Ranch of Furnace Creek, the course is 214-feet below sea level.
For guests looking for adventure, Jeep tours and rentals are available at The Inn at Furnace Creek from fall through spring.
Both The Inn at Furnace Creek and The Furnace Creek Resort offer nightly fire pits during the high season (mid-October to mid-May). Death Valley National Park received the International Dark Sky Park designation, perfect for stargazing.
Kids at The Ranch at Furnace Creek
The Ranch at Furnace Creek offers a hub of activity in Death Valley National Park, less than a couple of miles away from The Inn at Furnace Creek. I found a sports court area with a basketball, a volleyball and a bocce ball court. A playground with swings allows kids a place to play and I found shuttle board a few steps away.
Take a guided horseback tour at the Furnace Creek Stables, with one and two-hour rides available (minimum age requirements). Carriage rides last 45 minutes and can accommodate younger kids. The stables even offer moonlit rides around the monthly new moon.
For families who want to explore the desert on a bike, I found bike rentals in the Furnace Creek Resort. A kid’s bike rents for $5 an hour and $15 an hour for adults.
The Ranch at Furnace Creek also offers a year-round, spring-fed pool boasting a constant temperature of 82F. The NPS Visitor Center, located nearby, can assist guests with hiking trails.
Getting to Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is located 125 miles west of Las Vegas, the closest city with commercial flights. California Highway 190 transects Death Valley from the Panamint Springs on the west side to Death Valley Junction on the east side. Interstate 15 at Baker, California, is 84 miles south of Death Valley Junction, at the entrance of the Mojave National Preserve.
The Furnace Creek Resort boasts a public airstrip. Death Valley National Park doesn’t feature public transportation to the park.
Getting Around Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a 7-day pass for $25 per private vehicle.
Death Valley National Park features nearly a 1,000 miles of roads but read the map closely. The majority are unpaved, four-wheel-drive roads, unsuitable for most cars.
Scotty’s Castle, the multi-million dollar vacation home from the 1920s, is closed until further notice according to the NPS. A flash flood destroyed the road and the infrastructure servicing Scotty’s Castle. The building remained unharmed.
Tips from a TravelingMom:
- Death Valley National Park is best explored from mid-October to mid-May when the temperatures stay out of the 100s.
- Most activities and services suspend during the summer due to extreme temperatures.
- Make reservations for lodging and tours as soon as possible. Lodging reservations can be made 13 months in advance.
- The Inn Dining Room requires Resort Attire-meaning T-shirts and tank tops aren’t permitted.
- The Ranch at Furnace Creek’s cabins feature one queen-size bed and room for a pack-n-play only.
- Keep wild animals wild. Don’t feed them for your safety and theirs.
- Keep out of mine shafts or tunnels.
- Carry extra water year-round.
- Don’t rely on technology for directions in Death Valley, pack a good map for your trip.
- Be prepared for flat tires on unpaved roads.
- Don’t hike at the lower elevations in the summer.
- Don’t leave kids or pets in vehicles during the summer. Temperature can reach 160 F.