Want to stand below sea level (without a snorkel), roll down powdery white sand dunes, hike into a volcanic crater, search for the tiny pupfish in sparkling salty water or play in the sand for hours? Death Valley National Park is a natural sandbox for kids, with millions of acres of desert and rocks to explore.
Death Valley is a big area – in planning your family trip, allow time to travel from one part of the valley to the other without rushing.
Stargazing - Go outside at night and look at the stars. Check at the visitor center for ranger programs, or a night sky app. There's no big city lights, and the desert night sky, filled with stars, is timeless and endless.
Tips for enjoying Death Valley
Don't go in summer - Temperatures in summer average over 110 degrees. You can drive around the valley in your air conditioned car, but to really enjoy Death Valley, you need to get out and walk around. November - April is a lovely time to go - the weather is clear and the days are warm. It does get cold at night in the winter.
Water - Death Valley is one of the driest places on the planet and it's very easy to get dehydrated in this dry, dry climate. Bring lots of water bottles and keep drinking water throughout the day. Even on a short hike, don't leave without plenty of water!
Sunscreen, lip balm and hand lotion - Even in winter, clear days make it easy to get sunburned - slather on the sunscreen. To prevent chapped lips and hands, bring lip balm and hand lotion.
What to wear - Bring good shoes for hiking in the gravely areas, or certainly on the Devil's Golf Course (hiking in sandals can lead to stubbed toes and annoying cuts). In winter, it can be windy and chill, so bring windbreakers, gloves and hats.
Wildlife - As you look out over the desert, it might seem that nothing can live in the heat and dryness of Death Valley, but there are plenty of animals. Along with the cute road runners or chuckwallas (lizards), there's also well-adapted rattlesnakes and scorpions, which you want to avoid. If you're climbing on rocks, tell your kids to watch where you put your hands (you don't want to accidentally "pet" a rattlesnake). At Scotty's Castle, a couple of enterprising coyotes come out to beg for food as cars drive by. Don't feed the coyotes.
Flash floods - Death Valley gets precious little rain, but when it does rain, it can rain hard. If it looks like rain, don't hike in riverbeds or narrow canyons - these can become a torrent in no time at all. Also, don't attempt to drive through flooded road conditions.