Death Valley: Rhyolite Ghost Town and Other Places to See

Rhyolite Ghost Town in Death Valley California
Rhyolite Ghost Town in Death Valley California

If you’re joining me we’ve been exploring Death Valley, California, and we’re on my last post. We just left Scotty’s Castle and now we are off to Rhyolite Ghost Town – which is located just over the Nevada state line. (Quick note – In 1908 Rhyolite was the third largest city in Nevada.)

After I checked into The Ranch which is where I stayed, I decided I’d drive over to the Ghost Town. It was about 4:30pm so I was hoping I’d have enough time to get there and back before the sun went down. I didn’t want to get stuck in the dark with no cell phone reception, all by myself on the back roads of Death Valley. (EEE!) Just a quick note – when you see that your destination is only 18 miles – it’s not a quick 18 miles if you’re in the Death Valley State Park. First, the speed limit ranges from 50-15mph and you have to watch for the signs. Even though you feel like it’s just you and a few rattle snakes, I actually saw a police officer pulled over on the side of the road handing out a ticket. Yikes!

I got to the ghost town around 5:30pm and I was all by myself. Well, me and the ghosts. I walked around and shot some photos and kept a keen eye out for rattle snakes (yes, I am confessing one of my fears). It’s actually just a lot of old, deserted buildings, but here is one of the most interesting ones to see – it’s called the “Bottle House“. The photo below was taken in 1906. It is believed that Mr. Kelly is the man in the doorway. According to a government report Mr. Kelly used between 25,000 and 30,000 bottles building the house. Now I have to wonder- where did he get 25-30,000 bottles for God’s sakes? Either he was a heavy drinker, or had a bunch of friends who were heavy drinkers. Or, maybe Mrs. Kelly hit the bottle(s) after finding how she was going to live in a house of bottles???? Anyway, food (or drink) for thought. The house has a double bottle foundation, three rooms with a door and window exiting each room. (Original Photographer Unknown)

Bottle house 1906 in Death Valley, California
Bottle house 1906 in Death Valley, California

And here is my photo of this house:

My photo of the bottle house taken in 2013
My photo of the bottle house taken in 2013

As I strolled through the falling down, boarded up homes one thing I love to do is try and imagine what it was like when the homes were new, and the people were just moving in. What were they wearing? Eating? What kept them awake at night? (wondering where they would find another 1000 bottles?) It was a bit eerie to be there by myself. It’s not like shopping at Nordstrom and you’re the only one over 20 in the sassy junior department…should I be shopping on another floor? Or seriously, should I head over to a more sophisticated department where I will find people with shirts that actually cover their belly button??? No, in Death Valley, there is NO ONE around…no cars and no cell phone reception (and nowhere to shop!) Makes me shutter just to think about it.

Death Valley Ghost Towns
Death Valley Ghost Towns

As I walked around I did I did find this old truck interesting. If you look in the first photo in this post (above), you’ll see this truck out behind the building.

Old truck from Death Valley Ghost Town
Old truck from Death Valley Ghost Town

And here is a closer view (photo below). Quick note, I did walk up and peak inside, and scared myself to death when a bird flew out! I obviously am not that man on the reality show who gets dropped off in the desert with a broken match, 1/2 a Snickers bar and a cup to collect sterile urine. No, not me. I somehow managed to have an ice cold Coke Zero and some Red Vines waiting for me in my air conditioned car… That’s it for Death Valley. I just did a trip to the Hearst Castle yesterday so I’ll be posting on my amazing visit soon. If you click FOLLOW you’ll get my post via email.

Death Valley Ghost Town - Antique Truck
Death Valley Ghost Town – Antique Truck

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Other Places You Might Visit in Death Valley

There is a lot to see in Death Valley. I didn’t see everything but here are some other places that you might want to consider:

  • Salt Creek Interpretive Trail (this is where you can see the Pup fish)
  • Mosaic Canyon by Stovepipe Wells Village (You can stay here too but I would recommend The Ranch per my earlier post:
  • Golden Canyon Interpretive Trail (nice hike)
  • Volcano crater trail (up by Scotty’s Castle)
  • The racetrack (This looks very cool! These huge rocks move on their own. You do need to have a jeep to get there and it’s a full day adventure)
  • Eureka Mines (which is an old gold mine)
  • Wildrose (beautiful views)

The best thing to do is go to the Visitor’s Center in Furnace Creek and have them help you. I hope you enjoyed visiting Death Valley with me!

Here are some past posts on Death Valley in case you missed them:

Death Valley Road Trip! https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/10/death-valley-road-trip/

Death Valley CA Overview & Travel Tips: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/18/death-valley-ca-travel-tips/

Death Valley Road Trip: Ghost Towns and a Sunset: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/10/death-valley-road-trip-ghost-towns-and-a-sunset/

Death Valley: Dantes View: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/19/death-valley-dantes-view/

Death Valley: Zabriskie Point: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/23/death-valley-zabriskie-point/

Death Valley: Badwater, Lowest Pt in N. America: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/24/death-valley-badwater-lowest-pt-in-n-america/

Death Valley: Where to Stay: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/25/death-valley-where-to-stay/

Death Valley: Scotty’s Castle: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/26/death-valley-scottys-castle/

Death Valley: Scotty’s Castle

Scotty's Castle in Death Valley, California
Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley, California

I love castles and ghost towns and Death Valley has both. I was a little surprised to learn there is a castle in Death Valley, so I’ll start by telling you about that.  It’s a little off the beaten path and you’ll truly feel like no one is around as you coast along the desert road to your destination. As you get closer you can see an oasis in the Grapevine Canyon which is located in the northern part of Death Valley. As if it’s a mirage, you’ll take a corner and find palm trees, green foliage and the tips of the castle off in the distance. Yes, nestled in that oasis is a castle that will take you back to the Roaring ’20’s and Depression ’30’s.  It was a wealthy matron’s vacation home and a “man-of-mystery’s hideout. When you visit this place you will step back in time.

View into the courtyard at Scotty's Castle in Death Valley
View into the courtyard at Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley

As you enter through the gates (above) you’ll find yourself in a courtyard.  Throughout the grounds and home, everything is pretty much original….The furnishing, clothing, kitchen, rugs etc.  Here’s a Reader’s Digest version I took from the National Park Service Website: “Walter Scott (below) was an accomplished horseman and eventually was engaged as one of the rough-riders for the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show.

Walter Scott aka Death Valley Scotty from National Park Service Website
Walter Scott aka Death Valley Scotty from National Park Service Website

Although his engagement with the show lasted for twelve years, it was only seasonal employement. When not fully engaged with the show, Scott would return to Death Valley and pick up odd jobs. His connection with the area became so well known that eventually Death Valley Scotty became his nickname. Scott left the Wild West Show after a disagreement with Buffalo Bill in 1902 and began a new profession that brought him even more fame and riches – gold prospecting. He convinced several wealthy businessmen that he had a claim to a fabulous gold mine in Death Valley. One of the investors, Mr. Johnson gave thousands of dollars to Scotty over the next several years. Unfortunately, a number of calamities prevented delivery of the gold.

Undaunted, Mr. Johnson finally decided to take a look at the gold mine on a personal tour of Death Valley. Scotty took Mr. Johnson on a grueling trek by horseback through Death Valley. He figured a few days in the desert would be too much for the city slicker whose health had been permanently by a near-fatal train accident in his youth. Surprisingly, Johnson loved Death Valley so much that he stayed nearly a month, and his health improved dramatically in the dry, sunny climate. Although he never saw Scotty’s mine, and was most certainly being swindled, Mr. Johnson did not seem to mind. He had found riches in the desert far greater than those that glitter.  The two men began a lifelong friendship that would change the history of Death Valley forever. Albert Johnson bought property in Grapevine Canyon and eventually built what became known as Scotty’s Castle, which you can visit today.”  Here are some historical photos I found:

scotty DeathValley_ScottysCastle_1928Welte_JLewis01

That's Scott in the middle. The room is exactly like this today!
That’s Scott in the middle, Mr and Ms Johnson on either side. The room is exactly like this today!

Here are some past posts on Death Valley in case you missed them:

Death Valley Road Trip! https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/10/death-valley-road-trip/

Death Valley CA Overview & Travel Tips: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/18/death-valley-ca-travel-tips/

Death Valley Road Trip: Ghost Towns and a Sunset:  https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/10/death-valley-road-trip-ghost-towns-and-a-sunset/

Death Valley: Dantes View: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/19/death-valley-dantes-view/

Death Valley: Zabriskie Point: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/23/death-valley-zabriskie-point/

Death Valley: Badwater, Lowest Pt in N. America: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/24/death-valley-badwater-lowest-pt-in-n-america/

Death Valley: Where to Stay: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/25/death-valley-where-to-stay/

Death Valley: Where to Stay

Fire pits at The Ranch at Furnace Creek in Death Valley
Fire pits at The Ranch at Furnace Creek in Death Valley

Since my trip to Death Valley was a last minute adventure, I figured out where to stay while parked on an off-ramp, about 3 hours outside of Death Valley. I urge everyone to change your mind when traveling. Why go home when you can keep driving and see something new? If you have the time – than I say go go go. There are a few places to stay in Death Valley, but not many. The first place I called was The Inn at Furnace Creek which is a four diamond AAA hotel. Very nice, but expensive. They told me there was a sister property (and a more casual) about a mile down the road called The Ranch at Furnace Creek. If you read my earlier post where I describe my fashionista tendencies when traveling – a wardrobe that consists of holy jeans, men’s white t-shirts and sneakers, I figured casual might be a little better. Besides, I’m in Death Valley – one of the only places where boots and heels just don’t make sense. With that said, I skidded out of the fancy schmancy place and drove over to The Ranch. The second I drove up, I knew this is where I wanted to stay.

Entrance at The Ranch at Furnace Creek
Entrance at The Ranch at Furnace Creek
General Store at The Rance at Furnace Creek
General Store at The Rance at Furnace Creek

First, not only is it a hotel/ranch, there’s a General Store, gas burning fire pits out front, a few restaurants and a Salon.  Everything you need in one place. Oh, and they have horses you can ride. The Ranch has been in operation since 1933 – and here is what their website says about this charming place to stay: “Hear the clatter of horse-drawn wagons as they roll through the Ranch and bring you back to the Old West. Stop off at the Corkscrew Saloon for a cool drink and a game of darts. Ride a horse, take a hike or challenge your kids to a game of horseshoes. Visit the General Store for a quick snack and some great gifts. Check out the antique stagecoaches, mining tools and steam locomotive at the Borax Museum. As you wander around the western-themed grounds, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to the 1800’s when this site was established as a working ranch. Yet, you’ll enjoy the amenities of modern civilization, like quiet, recently refurbished rooms, tennis courts, a children’s playground and the National Park Service Visitor’s Center – which is just a stone’s throw away.”

Sign in front of the General Store at The Ranch at Furnace Creek
Sign in front of the General Store at The Ranch at Furnace Creek

One of the restuarants at The Rance at Furnace Creek in Death Valley

Horses having a bit of dinner before their sunset ride
Horses having dinner before their sunset ride

There is also a spring fed swimming pool, the world’s lowest golf course (214 feet below sea level) I stayed in one of the standard rooms and loved it. They also have cabins and deluxe rooms.

The other part I really enjoyed was the antique outdoor museum with carridges (some photos are below).

After watching the sunset I got back to my room around 7:30. From there I could walk up to the restaurants, have dinner, walk around the General Store and head back to my room.

Another quick note – the stars were AMAZING that night.  (So if you’re there, don’t forget to look up!) For more information on The Furnace Creek Resorts: http://www.furnacecreekresort.com/lodging-295.html

Outdoor museum at The Ranch
Outdoor museum at The Ranch
Outdoor museum at The Ranch
Outdoor museum at The Ranch

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Here are some past posts on Death Valley in case you missed them:

Death Valley Road Trip! https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/10/death-valley-road-trip/

Death Valley CA Overview & Travel Tips: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/18/death-valley-ca-travel-tips/

Death Valley Road Trip: Ghost Towns and a Sunset:  https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/10/death-valley-road-trip-ghost-towns-and-a-sunset/

Death Valley: Dantes View: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/19/death-valley-dantes-view/

Death Valley: Zabriskie Point: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/23/death-valley-zabriskie-point/

Death Valley: Badwater, Lowest Pt in N. America: https://photogirltravels.com/2013/04/24/death-valley-badwater-lowest-pt-in-n-america/