National Parks Tour – Death Valley

Death Valley National Park

Ussie at Badwater BasinSince it’s so close, we decided to make our first big “National Parks Family Trip” venture to Death Valley in a single day. January and February are the prime visiting times for this park, and it still wasn’t very crowded. Maybe people have the idea that there isn’t anything to see here, but that’s not the case at all. As soon as we arrived at the visitors’ center and saw the campground, we wished we made it a two day trip. This place is absolutely amazing. There’s a ton of cool stuff to see in Death Valley, even with little kids, and we’ll definitely be making another trip when the weather cools off again in the late fall.

Death Valley Stamp

At the Furnace Creek Visitors’ Center we bought each of the kids a National Parks Passport book to collect cancellations–we plan on hitting a lot of parks, and wanted them to have something they could use for their rest of their lives. I hope they’ll try to see as many of the Parks as possible. And hopefully, this is the first stamp of many we’ll collect in 2015!

Pupfish at Salt Creek Interpretive Trail

Our first stop was at the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail. We love to see stuff that you can only see at one (or at least only a few) places in the world. Believe it or not, there are fish in Death Valley. This trail is a boardwalk that crosses Salt Creek several times, and it gave the kids a chance to get a close up look at the Death Valley Pupfish. They were stranded in Death Valley at the end of the last ice age and have adapted to this environment. Pretty cool!

Death Valley Pupfish

Sand Dunes

Hiking the Death Valley Sand Dunes

The first time I ever came to the Mojave Desert, I was surprised that weren’t at least some sand dunes to see. I was just looking in the wrong place. For our next stop, we visited Death Valley’s Sand Dunes. This was definitely one of the highlights of our visit. You go for a couple of miles on these dunes, and when we come back we’ll definitely come armed with more water and some snacks. The kids had a great time running down these–almost as good as playing in snow. Almost.

Death Valley Sand Dunes

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park

This was the stop I was most excited about personally. Being here in January, I can’t imagine getting out of the car here in July, much less running 135 miles from here to Mt. Whitney. Temperatures were in the upper 70s for us, but it felt much hotter, even with a little bit of an overcast sky. The girls had fun pretending the salt flats we were walking on was snow–any chance they get to play “Elsa and Anna”. It was a little tough keeping them off the untouched cracked sections. I’m sure that was very tempting to them. What kid wouldn’t love to feel that crunch under their feet?

Salt Flats at Death Valley National Park
DSC_0476Because of its proximity to Las Vegas, Death Valley was the first on our long list of National Parks we want to visit while we’re living out West. One of the best things about living in Las Vegas so far has been the proximity to so many amazing things we never had access to on the East Coast, and we’re taking full advantage.

If you’re ever in Vegas on a cold day and want to see something cool, I’d definitely recommend a quick road trip to Death Valley. Much closer than the Grand Canyon, and you can enjoy the warm sunshine on a cold winter day.

We’re also enjoying the Ken Burns documentary on the United States National Parks (my second time watching) and found this great companion to the show.

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We can’t to return to Death Valley this November or December. It’s such an easy drive from Las Vegas, and stopping in Pahrump for dinner on the way back was a treat as well!

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