Alluring Amargosa Valley, NV is a historic community on the southern Nevada-California border in sprawling Nye County. Flanked by Yucca Mountain and the Funeral Mountains, and named for the Amargosa River, Amargosa Valley is close to majorly popular destinations, including Death Valley National Park, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, and Big Dune, making it an ideal overnight base camp on your Death Valley Rally road trip.
Amargosa Valley: Parks, Pupfish & Places to Play
Located in sunny southern Nevada, Amargosa Valley stretches 17 miles from the junction of US-95 and NV-363 all the way to the Nevada-California border. The cluster of businesses at its northern tip—the Area 51 Alien Center truckstop, Amargosa Castle truckstop, and Alamo Fireworks Megastore—serve motorists cruising the Free-Range Art Highway (US-95), while its southern tip is a prime overnight stop for travelers road tripping Death Valley Rally, as it’s only about 25 minutes to Death Valley National Park’s east entrance. Local attractions that make Amargosa Valley a destination unto itself include the popular five-square-mile Big Dune OHV area and stunning Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge—home to the rare, endemic Devils Hole pupfish. If you’re wondering, “How far is Amargosa Valley from Las Vegas,” the answer is: only about 1.5 hours.
Amargosa Valley History
People have been in Amargosa Valley for a long time, as evidenced by ancient campsites dating back at least 10,000 years to the last ice age, when mammoths, dire wolves, and saber-toothed cats roamed the region. Later, the Southern Paiute and Western Shoshone peoples lived in the region, following seasonal plants and game.
In the 1870s, ranchers moved in to supply nearby mines, but the decline of the latter led to the abandonment of the valley for a generation by just about everyone—except Jack Longstreet.
In the 1890s, seeking to leave some sordid past chapters behind, the Legendary Nevadan gunslinger, trailblazer, miner, and gambler homesteaded in Ash Meadows, near the spring that now bears his name.
In the 1950s, the U.S. government opened the area to settlers (especially new employees of the nearby Nevada Test Site), paving the way—although not literally for quite some time—for modern development, and the population slowly swelled. In 1982, boundaries were drawn up for a “town” to be established. Originally called Lathrop Wells, Amargosa Valley is now the second-largest unincorporated community in the entire nation, covering a whopping 480 square miles.
Things to Do in and Around Amargosa Valley
If you’re into wildlife, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge has you covered. This literal oasis in the Mojave Desert is the only place you’ll find 27 rare species of plants and animals—the highest concentration in the country—across its 23,000 acres of desert uplands, lush wetlands, and sapphire spring-fed pools. The star of the show is Devils Hole—a disjunct portion of Death Valley National Park—and its resident Devils Hole pupfish, which, with a population somewhere south of 200, is the world’s rarest fish. Throughout the refuge, an array of interpretive trails and boardwalks carries you through the stunning landscape, including to Jack Longstreet’s cabin.
The Amargosa Desert, one of several Nevada locales where visitors can see and climb around on sand dunes, is home to BLM-managed Amargosa Big Dune Recreation Area, a staggering formation of sand dunes towering 300 feet over the surrounding landscape. While anyone can visit Amargosa Valley Sand Dunes, it’s most popular with off-roaders looking to send it in the sand.
Travel Nevada Pro Tip
Just across the Nevada-California border in Death Valley Junction, CA, you’ll find Amargosa Opera House. In 1967, after breaking down nearby—and settling here—Marta Becket, the late proprietress of this unlikely auditorium, performed ballet and opera for more than 40 years to anyone who showed up—as well as to all the permanent spectators she painted on its walls.
And then, of course, there’s Death Valley National Park, the east entrance of which sits just 25–35 minutes southwest along CA-190. This super-close proximity puts travelers within easy range of popular park features, including Dante’s View, Zabriskie Point, and Furnace Creek—as well as all the wonders south along Badwater Rd, like Golden Canyon, Artist’s Palette, 282’-below-sea-level Badwater Basin, and beyond.
Amargosa Valley Restaurants
For a spread-out desert community of just over 1,200 people, Amargosa Valley offers more dining options than you might expect. The Longstreet Inn is most travelers’ go-to, with staples like country fried steak and eggs, burgers, and other classics from morning to night at Jack’s Café, and fancier fare in the Nebraska Steakhouse. Across the street, the Stateline Saloon offers pizza, burgers, and other pub grub to soak up their ever-flowing supply of ice-cold beers.
North along NV-373, you’ll find Ruby’s Store for burgers and sandwiches and El Valle for Mexican classics. At the junction with US-95, dig into classic diner everything at either Amargosa Castle or the Alien Café within the Area 51 Alien Center truckstop (named for its proximity to mysterious Area 51).
Amargosa Valley Hotels & Camping
One of the closest hotels to Death Valley National Park, the Longstreet Inn Casino & RV Resort boasts 60 comfy hotel rooms, 51 spaces at its lakeside RV park, and solid amenities, including a swimming pool, hot tub, and casino—all open 24/7, 365 days a year. For something a little more rustic, crawl into bed at Tarantula Ranch, offering campsites and RV camping, glamping sites (in rugged but decked-out camper trailers) around a small family-operated vineyard (not kidding), and a bottling-room-turned luxe stay—all on a property dubbed by Sunset Magazine and Hipcamp one of the “Best Stargazing Campsites in the West.”