Saline Valley, CA

After the Hopi Reservation, we went on to Saline Valley (part of Death Valley National Park) with an overnight in the parking lot of the Alien Cathouse Brothel / Area 51 Alien Cafe and Truck-stop, which was a surprisingly quiet place to spend the night.

I’ve heard about Saline Valley for years, but this was my first time there. Wow, what a wacky and awesome place! Image a free, clothing optional hot springs resort in the middle of a national park, complete with herd of wild burrows that eat everything in site, including someone’s guitar case while we were there. There are two sets of developed hot springs within a 1/2 mile of each other, each with two really nice soaking areas (around 102 degrees) big enough for 8-10 people comfortably, and some of the cleanest pit toilets I’ve ever seen. Both areas have a bunch of palm trees for shade, and one area had a big lush green lawn. There were probably around 50 people there between both sites the nights we were there, including several families with kids. We were told the Thanksgiving potluck attracts around 500 folks. The entire valley was surround by beautiful snow capped mountains, and we were lucky enough to get a big thunderstorm one of the days we were there.

Sounds like heaven, right? The problem is that its long brutal drive down a rocky road driving 5-10 mph. The gravel road part of the drive took us 6 hours on the south road on the way in, and 3.5 hrs on the north road on the way out. I’m not likely to do this drive again any time soon, and definitely not in a Sprinter. It would probably be much better in a Forerunner or similar vehicle. But 4WD is not required, a I saw few regular passenger cars there. But it’s a good thing its hard to get to, as otherwise the place would be too popular, and the NPS would likely close it down or restrict access.

My photos are here, and more information and history of the springs is here.

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