Prefer a roof over your head when the sun goes down? Death Valley offers four lodging complexes, with rates that from as little as $79 a night to nearly $500 a night.
Far and away, if cost is no object, stay at the Furnace Creek Inn when it's open, which is from early October through mid-May. This is one of the more polished and interesting jewels of national park lodging...although, it is actually located on private property surrounded by the park.
The original Inn was built by the Pacific Coast Borax Company in 1927 as the company worked to create an oasis in the desert that would attract tourist dollars. While it only offered a dozen rooms when it opened, the Mission-style inn slowly but steadily expanded, adding more and more rooms, a swimming pool (true, it's an 85-degree swimming pool, but that still feels great against the 100-degree air temperature), tennis courts, and a golf course. Today the inn is recognized as an AAA-rated four diamond facility with 66 rooms, including some two-room suites.
As David and Kay Scott, the Traveler's lodging experts, noted in a 2009 story, the inn "offers 66 rooms in five price categories that vary according to size, amenities, and view. Rooms are spread through four floors with elevator access near the registration desk. A limited number of the least expensive rooms are on the backside and offer no views. Other rooms are on a U-shaped terrace above the pool, while somewhat larger and more expensive rooms offer a terrace or deck. Five large "Luxury View" rooms each have a spa tub. The inn has two suites, each comprised of a living room with a sofa bed plus separate bedroom with either two queens or one king. All rooms have a television (many national park lodges do not), refrigerator, coffeemaker, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and a telephone with data port. (Keep in mind that cell phones do not work here.)"
Nightly rates (2012) range from $345 to $465.
Furnace Creek Ranch
Across Highway 190 from the inn stands the Furnace Creek Ranch, a decidely less opulent basecamp but suitable just the same at a considerable savings. In 2010, work wrapped up on a $2.5 million renovation of the ranch lodging. Upgrades included new tiling on the floors and walls of bathrooms, new carpeting, furniture, bedding, and drapes, the Scotts noted in a March 2010 article.
"Most apparent are French doors that replace the old sliding-glass units. The French doors are unusual in that one door of each pair includes a window that can be opened to provide room ventilation," they went on. "The door replacement has greatly improved the interior appearance of the rooms and the exterior appearance of the buildings. The biggest change for many previous visitors has been in the interior appearance of the cabins that were formerly rather depressing, but are now quite pleasant and likely to become the preferred choice of many guests."
The ranch has 224 rooms in three styles, with (2012) rates ranging from $145 to $215 per night. The rates drop in summer, the traditional height of the travel season, due to the spiking high temperatures that routinely surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit and approach 120 degrees.
Stovepipe Wells Village
Located just off the crossroads of 190 and 374 and with views of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, this roadside village offers a hotel with outdoor pool, saloon, restaurant, a general store and gift shop.
Stovepipe Wells Hotel offers 83 rooms with rates (2012) ranging from $95 to $160 per night, depending on the room style. At the lower end, "patio rooms" are designed for one or two people, offer air-conditioning, and coffee maker. Standard rooms are a bit bigger and come with either one or two queen beds. At the high end, rooms can accommodate four and, along with the requisite air-conditioning and coffee makers, feature televisions.
The ambience is Native American, with an emphasis on brightly colored fabrics. Wi-Fi is slowly expanding across the property.
Panamint Springs Resort
Found near the western border of the park, 31 miles west of Stovepipe Wells, this small, family owned resort is for travelers looking to enjoy Death Valley away from the crowds. There's a small lodge, a campground with a handful of RV sites, general store, and a restaurant and bar where you can wash away some of the valley dust while enjoying some pizza, steak, or a burger.
Why settle here?
Well, you've got sand dunes to explore in the Panamint Valley, or you can head to the high country of the Panamint Range, up onto Telescope Peak itself. The rooms aren't elaborate -- no TVs, phones, or even mini-fridges or coffemakers. But you can bring your pets (for an extra $5 a night). Just keep in mind, if you reserve a room, that the motel was built back in 1937, and the walls aren't the thickest...so mind yourself;-).
Finally, as David and Kay Scott note, "the main building, which looks like it should be located in Key West, has an interesting bar that offers 100 varieties of beer and serves excellent hamburgers. What more can you ask?"
Nightly rates (2012) range from $79 to $149.