Death Valley
Titus Canyon - Million of years ago, volcanic explosions, lake sand and mud, formed this canyon - red, black, gray, white, green, pink, yellow rock layers. Choose to explore this colorful landscape in two ways: take a drive through the entire canyon, or just hike up one section, the Titus Canyon Narrows.
Drive Titus Canyon - This drive is a 27 mile dirt road that zigzags up over a steep pass, and down into rugged Titus Canyon. It's a "rocky road" in all ways - at times the road is so narrow, it feels as if you can touch the sheer rock on either side. Look for bighorn sheep on the cliffs above.
The drive takes about 2 - 3 hours. Go on Rte 374 east, then turn left for the Titus Canyon turnoff. The road through the canyon is one way (you can't turn back).
Tip: You'll need a 4WD (four-wheel drive) or jeep to drive this rough dirt road. Jeeps are available for rent, across from the Furnace Creek Inn.
Hike through Titus Canyon Narrows - From the parking lot at the mouth of Titus Canyon, just walk up the road, as it winds back and forth through vertical black-and-white-striped cliffs; go as far as the kids like (it's largely level). Shout out to hear echoes, or play in the cave-like rock overhangs by the side of the road. Even hiking a short distance into the canyon, it's an amazing sensation with the cliffs towering overhead.
Hiking up through the narrows, there will be cars or motorcycles driving down the one-way dirt road, but it's easy to hear them in advance, so you can move to the side of the road.
From the road north to Scotty's Castle, take the two-way dirt road turnoff to Titus Canyon (the two-way road is okay in a regular car), drive three miles to the parking lot, then start hiking.
Tip: Don't drive or hike Titus Canyon if there is any danger of flash floods - check at the visitor center before setting out.
Scotty's Castle - Scotty's Castle was built as a vacation retreat for the Johnson family in the 1920's. Today the mansion and sand-filled swimming pool seems incongruous amidst the natural grandeur of Death Valley, but it's worth a stop if your kids like stuff about construction or house décor. You can take a 50 minute house tour, but your best bet is the technology tour. On the technology tour, you go into the basement tunnels to see how the house was heated and cooled and to the powerhouse where electricity was generated from a Pelton waterwheel.
Forget the tours if you have little kids along - at the ticket kiosk it says, "Disruptive individuals (including children) may be asked to leave the tour." Little ones can climb up the crenellated castle ramparts above the powerhouse or play in the grassy area around the picnic tables (there's a little stream along the grass too).
Ubehebe Crater - Ubehebe Crater was the result of a volcanic eruption about 6,000 years ago, a bunch of steam explosions that blew open the crater and deposited debris for miles around. Ubehebe is a Native American word that means " basket in the rock," and the crater is like a big rock basket, nearly half a mile wide.
Climb down into the crater. Starting at the top are thin layers of debris, the result of the explosions. As you go down, you'll see dramatic layers of white limestone and red mudstone. The bottom of the crater is lined with smooth silt and clay. The trail going down (500 feet) is easy, but loose cinders on the trail make it more of an effort going back up.
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