Dispatch: 'Tatooine' in Death Valley
PHOTO: R2-D2 and C-3PO explore "Tatooine." (Photo courtesy Janeen Christoff/Trent Smith)
Has the “Star Wars” premiere got you jonseing to experience the Force in real life? You don’t have to travel all the way to Europe or Africa to experience the power of the Jedi. Instead, just head to Death Valley National Park. TravelPulse went in search of the Force this weekend and followed in the footsteps of R2-D2 and C-3PO on an adventure in a galaxy far, far away.
Death Valley National Park’s vast landscape definitely resembles an otherworldly realm. The desolate expanse of desert that lies between the Amargosa and Panamint mountain ranges looks more suited to another, less habitable planet. Right now, the valley is capitalizing on its “Star Wars” fame, as a resurgence of interest in the filming of the movies inspires people to travel into its midst.
Fans visiting the valley will be able to enjoy a talk from rangers about the filming of the “Star Wars” movies in the park and speak to the rangers about where to find some of the locations where the films were shot. During our visit, we found the rangers’ excitement matched ours in regards to the film and they were happy to show us on maps and reference specific scenes and how they were shot, making the adventure even more enjoyable.
Plan the Perfect Star Wars Itinerary
If you are looking to plan your visit around hitting up several filming locations, it is easy to do it in one to two days. To begin, head to Badwater. Right now, Badwater Road is closed at Badwater due to the road being washed out at Jubilee Canyon, so you can stop there and visit the lowest place in North America, 282 feet below sea level, before beginning your official “Star Wars” tour.
The location got its name for its appearance of water in the middle of the dry desert that attracted parched explorers, but the salt beds that lie on the desert floor make the water undrinkable – giving it its name. The repeated freeze-thaw that occurs on the desert floor as well as evaporation cycles create a crystalizing effect on the landscape that build up into interesting formations, making it doubly worthy of a photo stop and a short walk out into the middle of the valley.
Next stop: Artist’s Drive. Here, you can relive the scene where R2-D2 is being carried by Jawas. The beautiful drive is punctuated by Artist’s Palette – also used in shots of the abduction of R2-D2 and a gorgeous stop for hiking into its sherbet-colored hillsides.
Just past Artist’s Drive is Golden Canyon. This is probably one of the valley’s most well-known hiking paths. There are several routes that you can take – a one-mile path to the Red Cathedral, a hike up to Zabriskie Point and the four-mile loop through Gower Gulch. If you are just looking to reenact scenes with R2-D2 and C-3P0, the one-mile hike will take you by these spots but any of the other paths are worth a stroll for views of the valley floor and an interesting look into the power of the water that has moved through these canyons carving the vanilla-yellow walls.
After Golden Canyon, you can leave the desert floor and drive up to Dante’s View for a glimpse of the panoramic establishing shots that were used for the view from the Mos Eisley spaceport. Hike to the end of the rocky outcropping to see what Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi saw as they looked out over the valley.
If you are trying to see every “Star Wars” filming location in one day, your final point of interest is Mesquite Dunes, which you can try to reach in time for sunset when shadows loom over these tall, sandy outcroppings located adjacent to Stovepipe Wells resort. For pictures that look truly desolate, hike far into the dunes where there are no footprints and the sand towers over your head.
Where to Stay
There are a number of options to consider when staying in Death Valley. Furnace Creek Ranch is a hub of activity and the closest to the Furnace Creek Visitors Center that offers a number of programs to educate guests on the wonders of the valley. The resort has hotel-style rooms, cabins, a general store, a café, a steakhouse and buffet restaurant, a pool, a golf course (the lowest in the world at 214 feet below sea level) and more.
The Furnace Creek Inn is a historic hotel built in the 1920s. The property features stunning views over the valley and is the closest in location to Golden Canyon, Artist’s Drive and Badwater.
There are also several campgrounds throughout the valley. For “Star Wars” exploration, Texas Springs, Furnace Creek Resort RV Park, Fiddlers Creek Campground and Sunset Campground are the closest to the filming locations within the park.
More by Janeen Christoff
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