Family Fun! Death Valley Inspires Awe and Wonder
With plenty of outdoor activities and enriching experiences, The Oasis at Death Valley is perfect for a family getaway.
Looking for a family getaway that’s both exhilarating and enriching? Look no further than The Oasis at Death Valley! This unique national park is brimming with outdoor activities and experiences that are perfect for the whole family. Death Valley’s nearby ghost towns, curious wildlife, and rugged terrain are sure to inspire a sense of wonder and excitement in children and adults alike. And, if you’re looking for a break from screens, this park provides the perfect opportunity to unplug and experience the world around you first-hand. So why settle for virtual reality when you can experience the real thing? Whether you’re exploring the dunes or stargazing at night, a trip to Death Valley promises not only fun but also the chance to learn and grow together as a family. Here’s a look at three days of family fun in the lower-48’s largest national park.
Day 1: Morning
Discover Desert Denizens
The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, a 30-minute drive from The Oasis at Death Valley, are a wonderland for early risers. The early morning is the best time of day to look for tracks etched in the sand by an assortment of Death Valley creatures: kangaroo mice, sidewinder snakes, coyotes, and desert kit foxes. Plus, kids love sliding down the soft dune slopes! On the way back, take a detour for the easy walk along the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail’s boardwalk to look for rare desert pupfish. During the spring mating season, these energetic little fish put on quite a show as they scuffle for territory and look for partners.
Breakfast at The Inn Dining Room
When it comes to breakfast, there’s no better place to gather together than The Inn. You and your family can expect a warm and welcoming atmosphere with some of the tastiest treats around. And one in particular stands out: date bread. Admittedly, young children may initially balk at what appears to be wrinkled fruit of indeterminate origin. But one bite of date bread fresh from the bake shop or a Belgian waffle topped with Deglet Noor date butter may convert even the most finicky of eaters to the sweet uses of these delicious desert fruits grown on the premises.
Hang Out by the Pool
Following your morning explorations, the afternoon is a perfect time to chill out at The Ranch’s pool. With natural springs providing a steady flow of warm water–an always pleasant 87 degrees–you’ll be able to unwind and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The kids can splash around to their hearts’ content, while parents can take a moment to bask in the sun and recharge. When you’re ready for a quick bite, head over to The Ice Cream Parlor for a delicious selection of refreshments to satisfy any craving. It’s the perfect way to cap off a morning of adventure and recharge for whatever the rest of the day has in store.
The Furnace Creek Stables offers one and two hour guided trail rides, suitable for riders of all levels. The one-hour horseback ride takes you into the valley floor where you will get a true taste of the desert. The two-hour ride travels into the foothills of the Funeral Mountains and offers extraordinary views of the valley below. Explore Death Valley as the ’49ers did over 160 years ago!
Gaze at the Night Sky
With its clear, dry air and distance from urban light sources, Death Valley became the third (and largest!) U.S. national park to earn Gold Tier status as a Dark Sky Park from the International Dark Sky Association. After dinner, drive just a short distance from The Ranch to find a big expanse of sky to introduce your family to the wonders of stargazing. Binoculars and a star chart will help you pick out individual features but the smear of the Milky Way across the blackness will be unmistakable. In winter and spring, park rangers host several stargazing events within the park.
Day 2: Morning
Walk Along a Volcano
The geological history of Death Valley is truly fascinating, and there’s no better place to introduce kids to it than at Ubehebe Crater. This crater was formed about 2,100 years ago when a volcano erupted, creating an 800-foot deep divot in the Earth’s surface. While some of Death Valley’s geological processes may be difficult to comprehend, the power of the blast that formed Ubehebe is impossible to ignore. Walking along the 1 ½-mile trail that follows the crater’s rim is an unforgettable experience, as you gaze down into the massive hole in the ground and ponder the sheer force of the volcanic explosion. For kids who love nature and are fascinated by the power of the Earth, Ubehebe Crater is a must-visit destination.
Explore Badwater Road
Head down south from the Ranch at Death Valley to explore some of the national park’s most distinctive landmarks. Your kids will love the short, one-mile hike to see Natural Bridge, a stunning eroded rock span that connects two sides of a canyon. The famous Devil’s Golf Course is also a must-see destination. Be sure to tell the kids to keep quiet for a few minutes, so everyone can hear the popping sounds that the salt crystals make as they expand and contract. The boardwalk at Badwater is another must-stop, so your kids can claim bragging rights about walking on the very bottom of North America. At 282 feet below sea level, it’s quite an accomplishment! As you look west towards the Panamint Range, your eyes will be immediately drawn to the towering peak of Telescope Peak, which stands at an impressive 11,049 feet – the highest point in the entire park. Gazing up at its sheer size and magnitude, you’ll feel in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds you. On your way back to the ranch, it’s worth taking a nine-mile detour along Artist’s Drive, which will take you on a journey through the breathtaking badlands of the Black Mountains. The drive eventually leads to the park’s most colorful natural formation – Artist’s Palette. Here, you and your kids can marvel at the incredible hues that adorn the rocky hills, with a spectrum of reds, greens, and purples that look like they’ve been painted onto the landscape. For the best view of these magnificent colors, make sure to catch Artist’s Palette in the late afternoon, when the setting sun illuminates the colors in all their glory.
Dinner at The Inn Dining Room
The relaxed elegance of The Inn’s Dining Room makes it a comfortable spot for families. The curving banquettes are ideal if you have a larger group, though t’s hard to beat a table out on the veranda. Even after dinner is through, the dining room has more to offer. Parents and kids alike can take a moment to observe the classic art pieces that adorn the walls, providing a historical perspective on the once wild and rugged landscapes of the West.
Day 3: Morning
Enjoy a Commanding View
Death Valley National Park boasts of being the largest national park in the United States, apart from Alaska. It’s a vast expanse filled with fascinating geological features and captivating scenery that draw visitors from all over the world. If you’re looking for the best place to take in the sprawling beauty of the park, 5,475-foot Dante’s View is where you want to be. This viewpoint, nestled in the Black Mountains, offers a panoramic view of the valley for miles on end, with Badwater and the salt flats far below. The trails along the ridgeline offer a range of views that will take your breath away, and the perfect opportunity to snap some unforgettable photos of your family’s time in this other-wordly environment.
Visit a Ghost Town
Take a drive up Daylight Pass Road and cross the Nevada state line to explore Rhyolite, the region’s largest ghost town. Once a city of 10,000 people, Rhyolite boomed after a nearby discovery of gold. Today, you can still see the shell of a three-story bank building and a house made out of bottles. And if you’re up for an adventure (and have a high clearance vehicle), the slow-going 27-mile drive through rugged Titus Canyon takes you back through a dramatic chasm of towering cliffs. Along the way, you’ll also pass the ghost town of Leadfield and may spot desert bighorn sheep at Klare Spring
Sip a Sarsaparilla
A close relative of root beer, sarsaparilla was a popular soft drink in the Old West. You’ll find sarsaparilla over at The Last Kind Words Saloon at The Ranch at Death Valley. With its historic photos, wagon-wheel chandeliers, and Navajo rugs, the saloon brings alive the world of the Wild West. And while the kids can enjoy their sarsaparilla, parents can savor it in craft cocktails like The Last Kind Word (High West Prairie Bourbon, sweet vermouth, lemon juice, sarsaparilla, and bitters).
Or Enjoy the Ice Cream Parlor
The sweetest addition to the historic Ranch at Death Valley’s Town Square, the Ice Cream Parlor brings the old-timey soda fountain and ice cream parlor of your youth to Death Valley. Harkening back to a simpler time, the Ice Cream Parlor’s retro interior complete with stained glass windows, classic counter, and mirrored ice cream bar conjures up memories of milkshakes from those idyllic childhood memories you thought you had forgotten. Invite the kids to experience old time favorites, like a banana split, with a touch of good old-fashioned Americana.
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