This is the first of three days spent around Las Vegas doing non-Vegas things.
Had two Tower Queen rooms at Excalibur, Christmas eve-eve, for ~$130 including the always funny resort fee. The rooms were quite nice. Great view of concrete. Note that if you are close enough to the smokey gaming floor you can mooch the free WiFi. Great for syncing maps.
The drive from Excalibur to Dantes View is mostly arid shrub but, it does get interesting as you go through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and once you leave the flood plain surrounding the Amargosa Opera House. Once you start descending into Death Valley Nation Park, you get to see striated cliffs.
If you want to do better than viewing the Badwater Basin from the typical crowded vantage point, head North instead of South from the parking lot. Notice the trail that heads up to the left of the rise. The trail may disappear for a bit, but just keep scrambling up and in. If you can see the rest of the ridge trail, chances are you are also nearby the USGS marker. Always bring work gloves for rock scrambling and for directing traffic.
Rolled up ~11:30am and left ~1pm.
NOTE: no toilet at the top car park, but there is a solitary concrete pit toilet about a mile before the parking area. Plenty of friendly rocks near the USGS marker.
Point forecast: 18 MILES SSE FURNACE CREEK CA
Inspiration: SummitPost : Dante BM
Pulled into the Golden Canyon parking lot ~1:30pm for eats; probably did the drive faster than we should have. Never before had I seen a selfie-stick in person; almost thought I saw some heels on one woman. WUT?
The gist is to hike up Golden Canyon, go past the Gower Gulch/badlands turn-off up to the Red Cathedral, turn around and head back down Gower Gulch. Total time ~2.5 hours: 30-45 minutes up Golden Canyon to the Red Cathedral, 30 minutes in the badlands, 45 minutes down Gower Gulch, and 15 minutes crossing back to the parking area from the Southern outflow. There is a good map at the bottom of the linked Hikespeak.com write-up.
If you want to hear total silence, stop and stand at 36.4149847,-116.8360711,224m, or in an image:
Point forecast: 4 MILES SE FURNACE CREEK CA
Inspiration: Hikespeak.com : Golden Canyon - Gower Gulch Loop
The Dennys as you head NE on Main St/Hwy 95 inside the smokey StageCoach Hotel & Casino was decent enough for a Christmas Eve; our server was way overwhelmed with tables. Picked up milk and cereal at the Rebel 74 (gas/kwiky mart) but, did not play the slots. I like guaranteed winning.
Point forecast: 6 MILES SSW BEATTY NV