Death Valley National Park is a surprising place! I had lived in California all my life but until 2006 had never visited this amazing place. Our family took a trip during the first week of April 2006, escaping to the warm temperatures and dry landscape for a few days. My boys had a blast in this vast and awe-inspiring place.
Hottest, Driest, Lowest…all describe this unique place on earth called Death Valley.
We stayed two nights at Furnace Creek Ranch, making that our home base for the three days we were there. The hotel and rooms were nice but the highlight was the swimming pool! My boys enjoyed swimming in February and I relished the time to have bare feet as I watched them splash around mid-February. There was a diner type of restaurant, a small store, and a the Visitor’s Center. It was super expensive so if we ever go back, we are going to go camping!
We started our visit with the Visitor’s Center to get our bearings and to learn more about his unique habitat. We talked to the rangers about hikes to take with our boys to give us the flavor of Death Valley. I purchased Hiking in Death Valley and Mohave Desert Wildflowers to have as references during our stay.
Yes, wildflowers! Can you believe wildflowers in the desert? This was our first experience with this kind of habitat and right away I knew I had been wrong about what we would find to observe and study there in the desert. I had expected only rocks but found a whole array of wildflowers and plants to learn about as we hiked and explored.
These are affiliate links to books I own and love!
I highly recommend both books we purchased because I think we did get more out of the experience knowing where and what to look for during our stay. Several of the hikes that were listed in the guide book are not clearly marked from the road and we would have driven right past them.We concentrated on the Furnace Creek region of the park and there was plenty to do just exploring this part of the vast desert.
Our favorite was “Canyon at second dip” along the Artists Drive. Sure enough, the canyon at the “second dip” was just as described and a favorite of the boys because the start of the trail is a scramble up a “short pink fall 50 yards from the road”.
We experienced natural bridges.
Hiked to the end of box canyons.
Explored places carved by flash floods.
Marveled at the stunning colors we observed.
Found surprising creatures.
Wondered at the way plants could grow right out of the rocky, sandy, graveling floor of Death Valley.
This is an amazing place to explore a study of botany, geology, ornithology, and zoology.
Look at that incredible sky!
Death Valley as 3.4 million acres to explore…be prepared! Water is a necessity at all times of the year and we also carried a good map, wore sturdy shoes and hats, and made sure to gas up the car. You can see this page for a list of places within the park to fuel up.
You will need a car to explore Death Valley National Park. It is reachable from just about any of the major cities in California. Please note that many of the highway passes going west-east in California are closed in winter. Check with Cal Trans information before planning a drive over
Also, your cell phone will not work in Death Valley National Park so be prepared for that if you need to make a call.
I found these links helpful:
When to Visit Death Valley – seasonal information to help you plan your visit
Directions - Routes to getting to Death Valley, including directions from Las Vegas, Nevada
List of Hikes We Did and Loved:
We also visited Scotty’s Castle on the way out of the park, heading towards home. This is a lot of fun to tour with the kids and we enjoyed seeing this unusual place and hearing the story of how it was built.
You may be interested in reading more in my national parks series: