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National Parks Tour: Stop 4- Death Valley National Park

The last stop on our Spring Break National Parks tour was Death Valley.  This was not on the list of places I was dying 😉 to visit. However, it has been on my son’s bucket list for quite some time.  Like his dad, he collects random facts for fun. He was determined we needed to go to the lowest point in North America.  The fact that it was one of the hottest points in the world might have appealed to him a little as well. 😊 

Death Valley Day 1

We cleaned up the AirBnb in Utah and set out early on Friday morning.  We looked for places to stop along the way, but decided to forego the Valley of Fire Slot Canyon and head straight for Death Valley.  The kids were excited that we drove past “Area 51” enroute.

We made it to Death Valley a little after lunchtime.  Everyone was hungry and in need of bathrooms, but it was too early to check in to our hotel.  So we stopped at The Inn at Death Valley for restrooms and lunch.  The inn is gorgeous. At the time we visited California still was not allowing indoor dining. So we ate on the veranda that wrapped around the side of the building.  Lunch was pricey, but it was delicious.  We all enjoyed the chance to get out of the car and stretch our legs.

The Inn at Death Valley view

While we sat around eating we let the kids decide what we wanted to see over the next two days of our visit.  We decided to drive out to Badwater Basin first. The plan was to see how many places on Badwater Rd. we could visit before we needed to check into our hotel.

Badwater Basin

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America.  And even for mid-March it was incredibly hot.  We walked out on the salt flats and took some pictures and the kids took in the surrounding area.  We were not prepared for the wind and had to chase down a few hats that blew off.  The sand and salt blowing around kept us from staying outside of the car very long.

Devil’s Golf Course

From there we made the long trek back towards our hotel. We stopped at the Devil’s Golf Course so my dad could pretend to play golf 😉. We read that you can hear the salt bubbling beneath the surface of the ground here. So the kids put their ears to the ground to listen. The ground here is very hard and seems very rocky. It is also quite sharp if you fall so they did not venture out very far here either!

Listening to the ground…

Artist’s Palette

Our last stop before the hotel was Artist’s Palette.  We did get out to walk some here. E and I even climbed out into the center of the sand dunes in order to see the colors in all directions at the same time!

Artists Palette
The view back to parking from our hike over the hills!

The Ranch at Death Valley & Living History Museum

We stayed right in the National Park at the Ranch for this trip. Since Death Valley is so big we figured that it was worth the extra cost in order to be able to see a little bit more. After we checked into our rooms, we walked to the front of the property. The Ranch did not have outdoor tables, so we picnicked on a couple benches in front of the restaurant. The Ranch sprawls over quite a bit of land. All of our rooms were at the back right on the golf course. In the middle of the property is an outdoor living history museum. So we took our time walking through looking at old wagons, tools, and trains. Then made our way back to our rooms to end our evening!

Living History Museum at our hotel

Death Valley Day 2

It was too hot the first afternoon to hike the Natural Bridge hike, so we decided to start our day there first thing on Saturday. We hoped to get the hike in before it got to be too warm.  My dad was up early and grabbed us breakfast from the restaurant where we had eaten the night before.  He brought them back for us to eat in the room so we could eat as we got ready.   The breakfast burritos and waffles were amazing!

Natural Bridge Hike
When we pulled into the parking lot for the Natural Bridge there were only a couple of cars.  So we set out looking forward to having the trail to ourselves!  It was warm in the sun, but once we made our way into the canyon like part of the trail it was cooler.  We got a few pictures of the natural bridge and continued a little further past there before turning around to head back.

The Natural Bridge and some shade!

Golden Canyon Hike

The Golden Canyon is one of the places most well-known in Death Valley. Scenes from Star Wars were shot there and my dad wanted to venture on this hike. The morning warmed up fast so we did not do the entire hike, but enough of it for the kids to explore. They hid in some caves and climbed up the sides of the canyon.

Golden Canyon

Zabriskie Point Trail

From there we made our way to Zabriskie. This is a viewpoint that overlooks the far side of the Golden Canyon. While my parents took the kids to look out from the top, E and I decided to climb up another “hill” to see the view. We found ourselves heading down a trail towards the Golden Canyon and before we knew it were almost a mile down below the overlook. We never found the trail up to the top we were expecting (probably because you are not supposed to go that way 😉) but we enjoyed the hike down and back up anyways.

The view from Zabriskie
The sign we read after we hiked 😂

Stovepipe Wells Village

We drove to Stovepipe Wells Village and had a picnic lunch and did some souvenir shopping with the kids.  They picked out shirts and hats and then we made our way back towards our hotel once again!

Borax Interpretive Trail

Our final stop on the way back was the borax interpretative trail. We shared with the kids a little about the history of Death Valley and the Borax that was found there!

Borax Interpretive Trail

We decided to have a low-key afternoon and made our way to the ice cream shop at the front of the resort grounds. Then we played charades on the golf course outside our room with the kids and my parents until dinner time. My youngest even spotted a fox running across the golf course in the middle of the game! It was definitely eventful.

The view from our patio

Death Valley Day 3

We got up on our last morning early enough to pack up and get breakfast before we got on the road.

We knew we wanted to see Dante’s View on our way out of the park.  My dad grabbed another expensive breakfast from the onsite restaurant.  He delivered it to our rooms so we wouldn’t have to eat outside again.  After we finished breakfast, we loaded up the rental car to set out for the airport.  Our last stop in Death Valley was Dante’s View.  It was a brisk, chilly morning so we did not spend too much time at the viewpoint before heading back to the car.

Dante’s view

We made our way to Vegas with some extra time to kill before we needed to drop off the rental car.  So we drove around letting E and B see the hotels and resorts before we made our way back to the airport.  The Vegas airport was packed so we just grabbed a few snacks to share and waited to eat lunch on the flight home.  Our trip was over faster than we expected once again!

My Key Takeaways:

  • It was hot!  Mornings were the best for hiking and sightseeing not just for the temps, but because the wind blew the sand everywhere in the afternoons while we were there.
  • Stay in the park if you can.  Death Valley is huge and covers a lot of land.  Trying to sightsee from outside the park would require a lot of extra driving, and gas stations are few and far between!
  • There is so much we didn’t see, but I do not know that it is a trip we would go back to do again.  At least not in the spring!  If we go back we might try for a winter trip in hopes to see a different view of the park!
  • If you can bring a cooler with food DO! Food is expensive within Death Valley and heading out of the park for meals is quite a trek. Bring lots of snacks and easy meals if you want to save a little cash!

Fun Notes:

  • Our trip through Nevada and California marked states 38 & 39 for the kids and I to visit together!  It also marked the 32nd state that we have visited with E & B!  And we are planning to cross a few more off this summer since we had to change our international travel plans again!
  • This was the fourth National park that we visited this year AND we have about a half dozen more on our plans before the end of 2021!

What is on your travel bucket list?  Do you hope to hit every state or have you already?  Are national parks your speed or do you prefer theme parks and museums? 

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I'm Tricia, widow and mom to 3. I enjoy writing about parenting, traveling, and all that God is teaching about choosing joy in the moment, even when all I want to do is hide in the closet with a frozen Reese's and a bowl of ice cream!

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