death valley with kids

The Best Death Valley National Park Itinerary

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Heading to Death Valley National Park with or without kids and wondering what to do in Death Valley with kids? You’ve come to the right place! From kid-friendly hikes and activities in Death Valley to family-friendly hotels around Death Valley, we’ve got you covered! There are also many Death Valley photo spots you will pass, so be sure to stop and take some amazing shots! With over 3 million acres, Death Valley is the largest National Park in the contiguous United States. With sand dunes, salt flats and volcanic craters, Death Valley is home to many different landscapes. Here’s our guide to visiting Death Valley National Park with kids.

death valley with kids

How to get to Death Valley National Park

Wondering how to get to Death Valley National Park? Located just 120 miles from Las Vegas, the most logical airport to fly into will be LAS if you are flying in. From there, rent a car and make the 2 hour drive to the park.

If you live in Southern California, getting to Death Valley from Los Angeles is just a few hours away by car. Death Valley is a 4 hour road trip from the Los Angeles area. Keep in mind that you will not have cell reception inside of the park, it’s important to have a map and know where you are going at all times. The driving distances between the points of interest are far! You will be driving a lot. There is a gas station (at a premium) inside of the park in case you need fuel and if you’re staying more than 2 days, chances are you will.

what to do in Death Valley with kids
Road inside the park.

Tips for Visiting Death Valley National Park with Kids

  1. Visit during the right season: Avoid the scorching summer months when temperatures can soar well above 100°F (38°C). Spring and fall are more comfortable times to visit with milder temperatures.
  2. Stay hydrated: Bring plenty of water and encourage your kids to drink regularly, especially during hikes and outdoor activities. Dehydration can occur quickly in the desert, so it’s essential to stay hydrated.
  3. Choose family-friendly activities: Death Valley offers various family-friendly activities like short hikes, ranger-led programs, and visits to visitor centers. Check the park’s website for scheduled family programs and activities during your visit.
  4. Short hikes: Opt for short and easy hikes suitable for children, such as the Badwater Salt Flats, Salt Creek Boardwalk, or Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Always carry enough water and wear appropriate sun protection.
  5. Wildlife viewing: Kids can enjoy spotting wildlife in the park, including roadrunners, desert tortoises, and bighorn sheep. Remind them to observe from a safe distance and not to disturb the animals.
  6. Junior Ranger Program: Death Valley has a Junior Ranger Program where kids can participate in activities, learn about the park, and earn a badge. It’s an excellent way to engage them in educational experiences.
  7. Safety first: Take necessary safety precautions, such as staying on marked trails, wearing appropriate footwear, and using sunscreen and hats to protect from the sun.
  8. Plan for the heat: If you venture outdoors, plan your activities early in the morning or late afternoon when temperatures are cooler. Take breaks in shaded areas or air-conditioned buildings to escape the heat.
  9. Pack snacks and food: Have plenty of snacks and food available, as you might not find many dining options within the park. Pack nutritious and easy-to-carry items.
  10. Stay in a family-friendly accommodation: Consider staying at lodges or campgrounds with amenities suitable for families.

By being well-prepared, your trip to Death Valley National Park will be filled with some great family memories.

How many days do you need for Death Valley National Park?

The number of days you need to fully experience Death Valley National Park depends on your interests, the activities you want to engage in, and the level of exploration you desire. We feel like 2 nights/3 days was perfect so this is our 3 day Death Valley National Park itinerary.

If you have more time and are interested in hiking, photography, stargazing, or exploring the park’s remote areas, consider staying for 4 to 7 days or more. This will allow you to venture further into the backcountry, visit lesser-known attractions, and truly immerse yourself in the unique and otherworldly landscapes of Death Valley.

Best time to visit Death Valley National Park

Unlike other National Parks, there is a best and worst time to visit Death Valley National Park. Death Valley is the hottest National Park in the United States, with temperatures routinely reaching 120 degrees in the summer months. This means you are going to want to plan your trip carefully to avoid the hottest months! The extreme summer temperatures make for a miserable time in the park. The hottest temperatures on Earth have been recorded in Death Valley as it is after all the hottest place on earth! Spring is the most popular time to visit Death Valley. With mild temperatures and blooming wildflowers, spring is one of the most crowded seasons in the park.

While winter can be chilly in the desert, visiting Death Valley in the winter is great because of the cooler temperatures and low crowds. There are many Death Valley things to do in the winter. Daytime temperatures are in the 60s and sometimes even 70s with cooler desert nights. In the fall, expect warm but pleasant temperatures. Summer starts pretty early in Death Valley. By May, it is already too hot to visit for those who are hoping to spend lots of time outdoors. These hot temperatures tend to stick around until at least the end of October, so be cautious when planning a trip to this hot desert, especially when traveling to Death Valley with kids!

We visited the park in late January/early February and the weather was perfect. Cool mornings and warm afternoons without the awful heat. We were able to be outdoors for hours without feeling like we’d pass out from heat exhaustion. It was also not crowded at all, we passed maybe one car every 20-30 minutes and barely saw any people on the trails. It’s like we had the entire park to ourselves. We came on a weekend and expected crowds however when we checked out on a Tuesday, that is when the hotel was completely booked so maybe weekends are the time to be here without any crowds!

Where to stay when visiting Death Valley National Park

Camping in Death Valley National Park

There are several campgrounds near Death Valley National Park, one of the most popular ones being Furnace Creek Campground. They fill up fast during peak season, so be sure to make reservations early! There are only a small number of campgrounds with full hookups, so if you plan on bringing your RV, be sure to plan ahead!

Best Family-Friendly Hotel near Death Valley National Park

Looking for the best family-friendly hotel near Death Valley National Park? Well look no further than the Oasis at Death Valley! We stayed in one of their ranch rooms and had an excellent experience. This resort is located within Death Valley National Park and a great place to stay when visiting Death Valley with kids. Their outdoor pool is naturally heated year round, meaning you can swim in the winter. There are multiple restaurants on site (though expensive and not the best), a playground and lots of other activities, making this the best hotel for families in Death Valley. Our room opened up to some patio chairs and a large grassy area, perfect for kids to run around.

best hotel in death valley national park
Our room at The Ranch
best death valley hotel for families
Playground at our hotel

AirBnB near Death Valley National Park

Prefer to have your own space while visiting Death Valley? There are several different accommodations near Death Valley on AirBnB. If you are new to using the site, you can save by using our referral link.

Things to bring when visiting Death Valley National Park with kids

Because of the harsh environment, it’s important to go into the park prepared. Here are some things to bring when visiting Death Valley National Park with kids.

If you are staying at one of the hotels inside of the park, pack lots of snacks, fresh fruit, water, etc. There are small fridges in the room too so you can bring some refrigerated items as well. While there are restaurants and a market inside of the park, it’s super expensive so bring in as much as you can if you are staying multiple days.

Snacks: Kids get hungry and there aren’t many places to stop for snacks in the area. Bring some snacks that pack easily, we love the RX Bars and the Made Good granola minis.
Water: And lots of it! The desert is hot and you will be drinking a lot!
Binoculars: Milana recently got her own kid-sized pair of binoculars and brings them on every nature trip. They’re lightweight and easy to use, perfect for National Parks.
Hiking bachpack: I love my Osprey Daylite backpack for our day hikes! It’s not too massive where you feel like a pack mule and perfect for day hikes. It’s a great size and fits quite a bit making it the perfect backpack for exploring Death Valley.
Appropriate footwear: You’re going to be hiking a lot, make sure you have the right footwear! Milana wore her PLAE Charlie waterproof shoes, which were perfect for the terrain. I love my Merrell Hiking shoes and have hiked many trails in them!
Sunscreen: The sun is hot and strong in the desert, even in the winter months. You’re going to want to bring some sunscreen since there aren’t many shaded places within the park. We love the Coola Organic spray sunscreen. Many natural sunscreens don’t work too well in spray form but this one does and it’s one we use all the time in sunny SoCal and it’s great!

Books and games about National Parks

Things to do in Death Valley National Park With Kids

Wondering what there is to do in Death Valley National Park with kids? Tons! One of the most popular things to do is go on a hike. There are many different hiking opportunities throughout the park, some easy and perfect for toddlers and others a bit longer.

Best kid friendly hiking trails in Death Valley National Park

There are many kid friendly hiking trails in Death Valley National Park, offering different landscapes. Here are some of our favorite and best hiking trails for families visiting Death Valley:

  • Salt Creek Interpretive Trail: This is a 0.9 mile loop trail where you can spot fish inside Death Valley! Yes you read that right, there are several species of fish that live within the park and you can spot them while walking on this kid-friendly trail in Death Valley.
  • Ubehebe Crater Trail: Another loop trail, this one a bit longer at 2.2 miles. If your kids like volcanoes, this is the trail for you! You will be hiking on the rim of the volcano, with some amazing views of the crater.
  • Mosaic Canyon Trail: This 3.5 miles out and back trail is great for kids who love to climb rocks. There are many opportunities for rock climbing here and you don’t have to do the full 3.5 miles to enjoy the scenery. This is one of the best kid friendly hiking trails in Death Valley.
  • Dante’s View Trail: This is a 1 mile out and back trail, perfect for kids of all ages. The views here are amazing and definitely worth the stop!
  • Badwater Basin Salt Flats Trail: This is quite possibly the most popular hiking trail inside of Death Valley! You can walk on the salt flats as far as you want, making the one of the best hiking trails for toddlers and kids. At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America.
  • Artist’s Palette: This was one of our favorite areas to explore! It’s considered a drive, but stop and get out to explore. While driving, you’ll see some parking spots on the right. Keep going to the actual overlook and then hike from there. You’ll stumble upon rocks and sand of many colors, it was definitely one of our favorite parts of the park.
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes Trail: Have Star Wars fan in your group? Then this is a must stop! The Tatooine scene from episode IV was filmed here. Even if you aren’t a Star Wars fan, this is a must see. Keep in mind that this gets insanely crowded during peak travel times so you may have to wait for a parking spot to open. This is one of the best Death Valley landmarks and one of the best things to do in Death Valley with kids.
  • Zabriskie Point: Short (0.4 miles) but steep hike to some amazing views of Death Valley! Worth the short stop.
  • Devil’s Golf Course: This is marked as a trail on the All Trails up but it’s really not. You drive onto the dirt road, take it to the end and you have arrived at your destination. Explore the salt crystal formations and watch where you walk, since they are pretty hard and sharp!
what to do in Death Valley with kids
Salt Creek trail, you can spot fish in the water!
what to do in Death Valley with kids
You can hike around this massive crater!
what to do in Death Valley with kids
Mosaic Canyon, our favorite trail!
what to do in Death Valley with kids
Your kids will love climbing the rocks at Mosaic Canyon.
what to do in Death Valley with kids
Dante’s View. It’s a long drive up a windy road so be prepared!
death valley with kids
Badwater Basin
death valley with kids
Salt from Badwater Basin
best hiking trails with kids death valley
Artist’s Palette
death valley with kids
Artist’s Palette
what to do in Death Valley with kids
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
what to do in death valley with kids
View from Zabriskie Point
what to do in Death Valley with kids

Junior Ranger Program

Just like all the other National Parks we visited with kids, Death Valley has a Junior Ranger program. Be sure to stop by the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center to grab a Junior Ranger booklet and badge! Your kids can learn about the history of the park, what animals live within the park and all about the landscape that makes Death Valley unique. The Death Valley Junior Ranger booklet will teach your kids about the park and the unique landscape and they will earn a badge once they complete the book.

Death valley junior ranger

Horseback riding inside Death Valley National Park

One of the best things to do in Death Valley National Park is go horseback riding. In the cooler months, you can go on a horse ride through the park! The Furnace Creek Stables were right outside our hotel building. There are several times to choose from and we chose the sunset ride. Because the park was practically deserted during our stay, we were the only ones on the ride. It was a great, easy ride and one of the best things to do in Death Valley with kids. Our guide told us that by April, the horses get moved to cooler areas outside of the park so come during cooler months if you want to do this.

death valley horseback riding
Charlie was a very calm horse!
death valley horseback riding
Sunset ride

Go stargazing

Death Valley is designated as the largest Dark Sky National Park. The night sky here is amazing, definitely a sight to see! From our hotel, we left around 7pm and drove towards Badwater Basin Road. Many people go to the Devil’s Golf Course and park, but you don’t have to go very far. It’s pitch black and you won’t be able to see anything, just pull over on the side of the road and look up. You’ll never see a sky like this again!

what to do in Death Valley with kids
what to do in Death Valley with kids

Where to eat near Death Valley with kids

Unlike other National Parks we visited, there weren’t as many restaurants near Death Valley. You are going to be very limited inside of the actual park and unless you want to drive over an hour for dinner, eating inside the park is your best bet if you are staying at one of the hotels in the park.

At The Ranch, we ate at The Last Kind Words Saloon for dinner one night (takeout). It wasn’t the best and super expensive ($30 + for most adult entrees and generic kid meals for $14+), but without any other options, we had to do with what they had.

restaurants in death valley national park
Pesto pasta and kids burger from the Last Kind Words Saloon

There’s also a market on the hotel grounds that is very well stocked, though super expensive!

death valley with kids
General Store inside of Death Valley

As you can see, Death Valley National Park is one of the best National Parks to visit with kids. There are a ton of things to see and do, just be sure to plan your trip during the cooler months! Have you been to Death Valley with kids? Comment below and let us know what your favorite activities were!

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