Daytrip – Scotty’s Castle

Destination: Scotty’s Castle, Death Valley CA
Distance from Point of Origin: 181 miles.
Estimated (One Way) Travel Time: 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Directions: From the Stratosphere Casino head northeast on Las Vegas Blvd about 3 miles and turn left onto US-93/95, keeping on the left for 95 North towards Reno. Following US-95 North towards the Mt. Charleston area, drive 152 miles and turn left at Scotty’s Junction onto NV-267 W/Sutton. Continue to follow NV-267 W. for 22 miles, entering California. Continue onto Scotty’s Castle Rd. for 4-1/2 miles and turn right to enter the property.

General Description: Hidden in the green oasis of Grapevine Canyon in far northern Death Valley, the Death Valley Ranch, or Scotty's Castle as it is more commonly known, is a window into the life and times of the Roaring 20's and Depression 30's. Scotty's Castle is neither a "Castle" nor, "Scotty's."  In fact, the popular 32,000-square-foot compound was built in 1927 by Albert Johnson, a wealthy Chicago insurance executive, who constructed Death Valley Ranch for his health. How Johnson's ranch came to be called Scotty's Castle, is a tribute to Walter E. Scott, who during a lifetime of shameless self-promotion, hustling and swindling, came to be known as Death Valley Scotty. Two men as different as night and day, from different worlds and with different visions - who shared a dream. 
Special Attraction or Points of Interest: There are actually three different tours available, with tours of the house or castle being the primary point of interest, and is well worth the cost. An underground tour provides a view into the inner workings of the building. One-quarter of a mile of tunnels run under the building.  You can visit the powerhouse, see thousands of tiles that were to be used for the never-finished swimming pool, and see the "swamp cooler" which provided air-conditioning to the house.
Primary Activity: Photography
Secondary Activities: Hiking

Elevation: 2,997 Feet
Best Time To Visit: Open year round. The castle tour lasts about an hour. Check the website for fees, hours and tour times.
Difficulty: Easy walking around the castle grounds. However, the Lower Vine Ranch hiking tour is approximately 2½ hours and involves a 2 mile walk roundtrip over a graded dirt road. This tour is not handicap accessible and not recommended for those with difficulty walking. Check the website for details.
Facilities: There are restroom facilities, however, there is no gasoline available and dry snacks and bottled water are the only food available.
Estimated Round-trip Time: Travel and all three tours, roughly 10 hours.
More Info On Scotty’s Castle:

05/05/2008 Trip Notes: Knowing it was going to be a long day, we left home around 7:30 am and arrived around 11:00. We took two of the house tours and ended up getting home around 6:00 pm.

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The tour of the “main” house lasted about an hour and was well worth the price. The house is built around a courtyard with the main part of the house on the front and guest rooms and the music room on the back wing. The main part of the house is built around the large living room which is open to the roof. Directly below the chandelier is the seating area. To the left is a water fountain, to the right is a fireplace. The picture on the left is looking up at the huge fireplace in the main living room. The view on the right is looking at the opposite end of the same room from the 2nd floor balcony that surrounds the room.

History on Scotty’s Castle: Born Walter Scott, a former rodeo cowboy and wild-west-show performer, he claimed to own a gold mine in Death Valley, California. Walter, known as Death Valley Scotty, convinced Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson, president of Chicago's National Life Insurance Company, to invest in his (fraudulent) gold mine in the Death Valley area. After Albert invested in the mine, he grew suspicious and went west to California for a visit, starting a lifelong friendship between the unlikely pair. Johnson's health improved in the California desert climate, and decided to build a vacation home here. Construction began on Scotty's Castle (Death Valley Ranch) in 1922, and cost between $1.5 and $2.5 million. Johnson visited occasionally, but Scotty was the one who took up residence in the house, claiming he built it with his gold mine proceeds and calling it Scotty's Castle.  By 1937, Johnson had acquired more than 1,500 acres in Grapevine Canyon, where the ranch is located. The stock market crash of 1929 dealt a blow to Johnson's source of capital. Then, in 1930 President Hoover ordered the withdrawal of 2 million acres of land in the area pending the creation of Death Valley National Monument. Surveyors sent to map out the boundaries of the new National Monument discovered that the surveys done of the region in the late 1800s had been completed incorrectly. As a result, it was found that Johnson had not actually acquired title to the land where the "castle" had been begun, but instead a plot of land approximately one mile north and one mile west of the castle property. Following this discovery, Johnson was unable to continue construction until 1935, after five years of court battles. However, the hefty court fees and the price of re-purchasing his 1,500 acres in Death Valley, left Johnson with little capital with which to continue.
The picture above is a view of the bell tower from the second floor balcony overlooking the inner courtyard. Anything that was played on the organ-like keyboard in the picture on the right could be heard throughout the valley as it emanated from the bell tower in the above picture. E-20080508_52

(OPTION 1) Each show is designed to run automatically in place, without leaving the current browser window. If the show is not already running, just click the large "Play" button in the middle of the picture and let it run.

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Slideshow Description: The slideshow above contains 32 pictures that were taken around the grounds that surround the main house known as Scotty’s Castle, as well as nearly 20 pictures of the inside rooms.

PDF Collage: In 2009 I produced a series of  PDF collages for the creation of  "Our Travel & Entertainment Diary" blog. Click here to view a two page PDF collage of Scotty's Castle ... Scotty's Castle - Death Valley, California.