The Inn at Death Valley: Where the Old West Meets 21st Century Luxury
While the Inn’s history and Wild West flavor are a big part of its appeal, it offers more than just ambience.
Where can you find the perfect balance between the historic romance of a vintage hotel and the pampering amenities of a contemporary luxury resort — in the middle of the desert? At The Inn at Death Valley, thanks to its biggest renovation in decades.
The completion of the multi-million project is a remarkable achievement for the 66-room inn, which opened in 1927 at a time when Death Valley was still as much a part of the Old West as it was the 20th century. Mining reigned, and with only a few primitive roads, Death Valley remained a rugged frontier largely cut off from the outside. Death Valley National Monument wouldn’t be established until 1933, and here, at the hottest place on Earth, air conditioning was decades away.
As one joking advertisement put it, Death Valley “…has all the advantages of hell without the inconveniences.” So why bother building a hotel in such an isolated and seemingly inhospitable spot?
Origins of a Desert Icon
A gradual decline in mining meant that the operators of the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad and the Death Valley Railroad needed to find new customers for their trains and turned to tourism for the solution.
In 1926, local Paiute and Shoshone Indians went to work onsite making adobe bricks, and construction only lasted a few months before the hotel opened. Then known as the Furnace Creek Inn, the hotel embodied the history of California and the Old West. Designed in the Mission style, with red-tile roofs, a tower, arcades, and walls made of desert stone, the building evokes California’s Spanish past.
Rather than obscure the inn’s history, the renovations have helped to bring out more of the hotel’s traditional character. In the lobby, a combination of terra cotta and decorative tile adds to the Spanish atmosphere, while classic artwork depicting scenes of the American West link the hotel to its frontier past. In the dining room, a beamed ceiling and newly installed dark plank-wood floor, as well as more pieces of Western-themed art, create a setting of rustic elegance.
It’s easy to immerse yourself in the ambiance of the Old West here: Saddle up for a trail ride to spot roadrunners, coyotes, bobcats and jackrabbits. Marvel at a genuine desert oasis with towering date palms and a spring-fed pool. Hike the breathtaking terrain and discover old ghost towns and abandoned mining pits. Visit a historic museum that documents the region’s traditional borax mining. And experience a classic Western atmosphere with stables, wagon rides, and real cowboy spirit.
While the inn’s history and Wild West flavor are a big part of its appeal, it offers more than just ambience. Especially after the renovations, the AAA Four Diamond Inn at Death Valley delivers the creature comforts discerning guests expect.
Exercise and Recreation. Always an ideal spot to pass a couple of hours on one of Death Valley’s frequent warm, sunny days, the historic spring-fed swimming pool, perpetually in the mid-80s, now has cabanas you can reserve for an added measure of luxury and privacy.
While hiking is the main fitness activity in Death Valley, if it’s a hot day, the improved exercise room overlooking the pool gives you an alternative way to get your workout in.
Many visitors are surprised to discover that they can golf at such a dry, remote location. But the beautiful and recently improved Furnace Creek at Death Valley Golf Course challenges players with a design that earned it a place on Golf Digest’s honor roll of “America’s 50 Toughest Courses.” That’s in part because it’s the lowest elevation course in the world — at 214 feet below sea level.
Then, when you need a little pampering after an intense workout or difficult golf round, take your pick of such wonderfully indulgent treatments as a desert hot-stone massage or an exfoliating sea-salt scrub in one of the brand new spa rooms by the pool.
Luxury Casitas. Although all of the inn’s newly renovated rooms offer such touches as remodeled bathrooms, the fall debut of its 22 casita units will give guests an additional upscale option for their stays. Lush gardens edge the duplex units, which include separate living rooms and private patios. There’s no question that these casitas will become a popular choice for honeymooners and the occasional celebrity coming to the inn in search of a discreet getaway.
Fine Dining. In addition to its Old West charm, the inn dining room serves up an inventive gourmet menu inspired by the desert. Many items incorporate dates, pomegranates, prickly pear, and other ingredients grown or sourced locally. Vegetarian and seafood dishes are available for guests looking for lighter, healthier eating, and a thoughtfully curated wine list rivals the quality in fine restaurants.
How to Explore
The Oasis at Death Valley in Furnace Creek is situated in a lush oasis surrounded by the vast and arid desert of Death Valley National Park — just 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas and 275 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The resort encompasses two hotels — the historic Inn at Death Valley and the family-oriented, 224-room Ranch at Death Valley. The entire resort is undergoing a complete renaissance with an extensive renovation to be completed in the spring of 2018. The resort includes natural spring-fed pools, an 18-hole golf course, horse and carriage rides, world-renowned stargazing, and is surrounded by Death Valley National Park’s main attractions. For information and reservations, visit The Oasis at Death Valley or call 800-236-7916.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Travel Collection® and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/stories.
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.