Romantic Getaway at Furnace Creek Resort
Three idyllic days of couples’ bliss in Death Valley National Park
Considering its intimidating name, Death Valley National Park may not sound like an ideal destination for a romantic getaway. But Furnace Creek Resort (the AAA Four Diamond Inn at Furnace Creek and The Ranch at Furnace Creek), with an oasis-like setting and fine dining, offers surprising luxury in one of the world’s most dramatic desert landscapes — a place of shifting sand dunes, multi-hued rock formations, and hidden canyons for hiking. Wake up before dawn to watch the rugged mountains turn pink with the sunrise, then, after dark, gaze up at star-filled skies as the desert wind rustles the palms. It’s a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, an engagement, or an anniversary.
Dawn at Zabriske Point
The desert is all about the changing light and Zabriskie Point, a 10-minute drive south from Furnace Creek on State Highway 190, puts on an especially impressive dawn display. Marvel as the rising sun illuminates the Panamint Range across the valley, while the badlands below the overlook, including jagged Manly Beacon, glow gold with the morning’s first rays.
Inn at Furnace Creek Dining Room
Enjoy an elegant breakfast in the Inn at Furnace Creek Dining Room, where select tables overlook the valley. For a taste of the desert, try the date pancakes or house-baked date bread. The Inn Benedict, with either honey-smoked salmon or Canadian bacon, is another favorite. On weekends, toast each other with mimosas during the dining room’s lavish Sunday brunch buffet. Breakfast served 7 a.m.-10:30 a.m., Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Information: 760-786-3385; furnacecreekresort.com/dining
A Drive Down Badwater Road
Explore along Badwater Road on your way to the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. Easy hikes lead into Golden Canyon, a serpentine chasm carved by flash floods, and to Natural Bridge, an enormous rock formation that spans a wash. Catch sunset along nine-mile-long Artist’s Drive, where the brilliant pinks, yellows, and greens of Artist’s Palette intensify with the last light of day. Note: Artist’s Drive will be closed for construction Jan. 9-March 16, 2017.
The Wrangler Buffet and Steakhouse, The Ranch at Furnace Creek
Get into the Western spirit of Death Valley at the Wrangler Buffet and Steakhouse, where succulent ribeyes and house-smoked baby back ribs with prickly pear barbecue sauce are prepared in an open kitchen. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, the steakhouse also offers grilled salmon and an extensive salad bar. Dinner served 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Information: 760-786-3385; furnacecreekresort.com/dining
Hike Sand Dunes and Visit a Desert Waterfall
Wake up early, then drive to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for walks along graceful slopes patterned with wind-etched ripples. Continue west over 4,956-foot Towne Pass on State Highway 190 to surprising Darwin Falls, where a two-mile round-trip hike follows a creek shaded by willows and cottonwoods before reaching the small cascade. (Note: Due to the dry climate, be sure to carry adequate water and dress appropriately for the weather.) Information: 760-786-3200; nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/hiking
Spa Time at the Inn at Furnace Creek
After a morning of adventure, pamper yourselves at the Inn at Furnace Creek with a spa treatment, including salt scrubs and hot stone massages. Inn guests can take a dip in the spring-fed pool — perfect any time of the year at a steady 84 degrees — or bask in dry saunas. Warm up by the poolside wood-burning fireplaces, then watch the sunset light up the valley from the terrace overlooking the pool. Information: 760-786-2345 (ext. 120); furnacecreekresort.com/activities/massage
Inn at Furnace Creek Dining Room
Decorated with paintings of historic scenes, the Inn at Furnace Creek Dining Room is the valley’s most romantic restaurant. Toast each other from a wine list that includes such leading California wineries as Santa Barbara County’s Au Bon Climat and Napa Valley’s Trefethen Family Vineyards. Savor a perfectly prepared filet mignon or an unexpected delicacy in the desert: rainbow trout prepared with jasmine rice, garlic, ginger, and cilantro. And for dessert, you won’t want to miss the four-layer chocolate chalet cake — perfect to celebrate Valentine’s Day or a special anniversary. Dinner served 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Information: 760-786-3385; furnacecreekresort.com/dining
Driving and Hiking Adventures in Titus Canyon
Take an adventure together as the two of you explore Titus Canyon, a 27-mile-long gorge through the Grapevine Mountains. Drive the length of the canyon, stopping to see a ghost town and Native American rock art, before reaching the narrows, where rock walls hundreds of feet tall are only 20 feet apart. High-clearance vehicles are strongly recommended and depending on conditions, you may need a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Rentals are available from Farabee Death Valley Jeep Rentals across from The Inn at Furnace Creek; 877-970-5337; farabeejeeprentals.com. Or skip the drive and hike to the narrows on a four-mile round-trip trek that begins from the parking lot at the canyon mouth, a few miles off Scotty’s Castle Road.
Forty Niner Café
With its mining motif and tables featuring maps of Death Valley, Furnace Creek Ranch’s Forty Niner Café has a fun, throwback atmosphere — plus delicious half-pound Angus burgers and milkshakes made from scratch. Lunch served 11:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m. daily. Information: 760-786-3385; furnacecreekresort.com/dining
Horseback and Carriage Rides with Furnace Creek Stables
Saddle up with Furnace Creek Stables for one-hour wrangler-led rides that explore the valley floor or two-hour adventures that lead into the foothills of the Funeral Mountains. Private outings can be arranged and for the ultimate in romance, take a guided moonlight ride (offered one week during the month). If you’re looking for a bit more comfort, hire a private horse-drawn carriage for rides across the world’s lowest golf course and into a grove of towering date palms. Information: 760-614-1018; furnacecreekstables.net
After dinner, find a spot away from the lights and look up at the Milky Way and a brilliant sky twinkling with countless stars — there’s nothing more romantic. In 2013, Death Valley National Park earned recognition as a Gold Tier Dark Sky National Park by the International Dark Sky Association. During winter and spring rangers lead stargazing events using high-powered telescopes. Information: 760-786-2345; furnacecreekresort.com/activities/stargazing
For information and reservations at Furnace Creek Resort, visit furnacecreekresort.com or call 800-236-7916.
For travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.
Written by: Matt Jaffe
Specializing in California, the Southwest, and Hawaii, Matt Jaffe is an award-winning former senior writer at Sunset magazine and contributes to a variety of publications, including Los Angeles, Arizona Highways, and Westways. His books include The Santa Monica Mountains: Range on the Edge and Oaxaca: The Spirit of Mexico.