Through Hell’s Gate to Death Valley

If you’re too broke, too old, or too straight and narrow for a spring break south of the border, try heading north to Beatty and turning left toward Death Valley. Later you can honestly brag you’ve been through Hell’s Gate — an actual geographic location west of Beatty.

Spring temperatures are great for exploring one of the most extreme environments in the world; Death Valley is flowing with "rivers of gold." Not the gold of the gold rush days, but golden flowers that seem to flow from the hills in streams, dotted with islands of purple and white.

For generations, Beatty has been the jumping-off place for Death Valley adventure — the village of choice to stock up on gasoline, food and water, before heading west on Highway 374.

The next stop will be in Rhyolite, one of the most photogenic historical sites in Nevada. Founded in 1904, the town quickly grew to 10,000, but rocked only four or five years before pay-rock ran low and the town began to wither.

While there you can explore your sense of whimsy at the Goldwell Open Air Art Museum.

About 12 miles past Rhyolite, you’ll approach "Hell’s Gate." Turn off the heater or air conditioning, roll down the windows, and hold your hands out in the air. Within the next three miles you should feel Hell’s Gate, a distinct change in temperature between the coolness of the mountains and the much warmer desert air.

Be on the lookout for an information kiosk, which marks the spot a flower-seeking adventure begins. Desert gold is usually the first flower encountered.

If continuing to Stovepipe Wells and beyond, look for evening primrose and the gravel ghost, a white flower with purple markings that fade as the bloom ages.

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