Death Valley is hot. Believe what you read about the heat. It is oppressive and dangerous. It’s dangerous for adults, and it’s especially dangerous for little kids.
We visited Death Valley National Park with our 1 and 4 year old kids in May. By 9am, temperatures in the valley reached 90 degrees F. The hottest temperature we saw was 109 about 3pm, but the hottest part of the day was apparently still to come.
The best time of year to visit Death Valley is in the winter, but that’s not always possible, so here’s what I would recommend for anyone traveling to Death Valley with kids in the hotter seasons like spring and summer.
Start at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
Be at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at 8am before it starts to heat up. The dunes are an absolute blast for kids and parents alike. We had a lot of fun here, but we could only last an hour in the morning sun.
Devil’s Golf Course
As temps start to climb, get out of the dunes and take a long car ride to check out Devil’s Golf Course.
Use the car ride to cool down and drink lots of water.
You probably won’t spend much time visiting Devil’s Golf Course, as you’ll soon find out it’s full of razor sharp, serrated rocks, but it’s cool to check out since it’s distinctive to Death Valley. Most people drive down to them, look around, and then hop back in the car.
Continue past Artist’s drive and head to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.
Be prepared to walk a half mile out one way on the salt flats.
The flats of Badwater Basin are handicapped accessible, so you can roll a stroller onto them if you have one.
After Badwater, start making your way towards Furnace Creek.
Take a detour on the one-way Artist’s Drive through Artist’s Palette, full of blue, green, red, and yellow mountains and rock formations.
You can drive through without getting out of the car, or you can hop out here and there to explore for a bit.
Furnace Creek Visitor Center
If you visit all of the above, you’ll arrive at the Furnance Creek Visitor center in the early afternoon.
The air conditioning will be a welcome gift in a sweltering Death Valley.
Visit the interpretive center, watch the half-hour movie about Death Valley, and have your kids complete the Junior Ranger activity book to earn a Death Valley National Park badge.
Day Trip to Death Valley
The above would be a pretty solid day trip to Death Valley, and you would hit several of the park’s highlights without putting you or your kids through any strenuous trails or hikes.
Tips for Visiting Death Valley National Park
Take at least one gallon of water per person for a day trip. Carry more if you can.
You can fill up water at the Visitor Centers and the villages in the Valley, but it would be best to come into the Valley with water.
Bring sunscreen as well as hats for kids with a brim that covers their face and neck.
Even a short hike in a hot Death Valley can be strenuous and dangerous, so be careful how much you expose yourself and kids to the heat.
There are stores with limited food and supplies in Death Valley. There are even a few restaurants. If you forget something, you aren’t completely out of luck.
Enter the valley with a full tank of gas. There is gas in the valley, but it’s expensive.