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Take a Drive Through Nevada

Death Drive

About 160 miles west of Las Vegas, straddling the border of Nevada and California, lies one of the country’s most ominously named places: Death Valley. Groups can explore the national park there, along with several other natural, historical and artistic attractions on the state’s themed itinerary The Death Drive, which begins in Las Vegas.

The first stop for most groups will be Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, which sits within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Natural springs at the ranch maintain green lawns within the stark landscape of the Mojave Desert. The ranch was once owned by Howard Hughes, and his ranch house there now serves as the park’s visitor center.

Groups visiting the ranch can choose from numerous activities. Short walking trails highlight red-rock formations, yucca plants, desert tortoises and wild burros. In the evenings, rangers offer guided moonlight hikes that showcase the beauty of the area under night skies. Groups can also arrange to participate in the park’s Paint With a Ranger program, during which they’ll learn to use watercolors to capture the beauty of the Nevada landscape.

The itinerary also features a stop at Death Valley National Park, which, at 282 feet below sea level, is the lowest, hottest and driest place in North America. Groups can begin their exploration at the visitors center, where museum exhibits and a 20-minute film detail the geology and natural history of the area. From there, many groups drive through the park on Badwater Road, with stops at scenic spots such as the Devil’s Golf Course and Badwater Basin.

Groups traveling in the area should also make time to visit Rhyolite Ghost Town, which was quickly built and quickly abandoned in the early 1900s.

“We have over 50 ghost towns sprinkled throughout the state,” said Laursen. “The state was built on the mining industry, and if the mines dried out, people would move. These towns make great photo ops.”

Adjacent to Rhyolite is the Goldwell Open Air Museum, where a Belgian artist created a larger-than-life outdoor sculpture of “The Last Supper” in the arid landscape. Since then, many more artists have added their own sculptures to create a desert art park.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.