Death Valley National Park Things To Do for Families

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If you’re dreaming of a family adventure, Death Valley National Park is the perfect destination. Tucked away on the California-Nevada border in the Mojave Desert, this park is a natural wonderland waiting to be explored.

Picture vast salt flats, towering sand dunes, and colorful canyons – Death Valley is more than just a desert; it’s a unique landscape that promises unforgettable moments for you and your little explorers.

The largest national park in the United States, Death Valley offers everything from family-friendly hikes to educational opportunities at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, so there’s something for everyone.

And when it comes to scenic drives, Death Valley doesn’t disappoint. Explore routes like Artist’s Drive, Dante’s View Road, and Badwater Road, each with panoramic views of incredible landscapes.

Beyond the dunes, discover charming towns like Beatty and Pahrump, providing a cozy base camp for your family adventure with accommodations, dining options, and a chance to explore life beyond the desert.

Get ready to unwrap the magic of Death Valley National Park. Let’s dive in!

NPS welcome sign, Death Valley National Park, CaliforniaPin

Best Time to Visit Death Valley National Park

Choosing the right season can make your adventure even more enjoyable, ensuring a comfortable and memorable experience for the whole family.

Death Valley National Park, California rocky landscapePin
beautiful, harsh landscape of Death Valley at golden hour


As the temperatures begin to rise from the winter chill, spring unveils Death Valley’s wildflower bloom – a spectacular burst of colors across the desert landscape.

March to May is an ideal time for families to explore the park. The weather is pleasantly warm, making it perfect for hiking.


September through November brings another fantastic window for a family getaway. The scorching summer heat starts to wane, giving way to milder temperatures.

Fall is an excellent time for outdoor activities like hiking and scenic drives, and you’ll see fewer crowds compared to the busier summer months.


While the temperatures can drop, winter, from December to February, brings cooler temperatures for exploration.

It’s an ideal time for families because the park is less crowded during the winter months, providing a peaceful environment for families to enjoy the stunning landscapes and engage in outdoor activities.

Avoiding the Summer Heat

Death Valley is known for its extreme summer temperatures, often exceeding 100°F (38°C) and sometimes soaring well above that.

For families with young children, it’s advisable to avoid the peak summer months (June to August) due to the intense heat.

If you do plan a summer visit, opt for early morning or late evening activities to stay cool.

Best Hikes in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park offers a variety of hikes suitable for families with different age groups. Here are some of the most popular hikes, along with recommendations and tips for each:

Golden Canyon Trail

The Golden Canyon hike provides an exciting journey through colorful canyon walls.

  • Location: Golden Canyon is easily accessible from Furnace Creek. To get there, take Highway 190 south and turn onto Badwater Road. The trailhead is well-marked.
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate.
  • Length: 2-3 miles (round trip).
  • Recommendation: Suitable for all ages, including younger kids.
  • Tips: It’s a great hike for families, with younger kids able to enjoy a shorter portion of the trail. Ensure you have enough water, especially during warmer months. Start early in the day to avoid the heat. Be sure to share with the kids that this was a filming location for Star Wars!
Golden Canyon Trail, Death Valley, CAPin
Golden Canyon Trail

Mosaic Canyon Trail

Mosaic Canyon’s smooth marble walls make it a unique hiking experience.

  • Location: Mosaic Canyon is located west of Stovepipe Wells. Take Highway 190 west, then turn onto Mosaic Canyon Road. The trailhead is reached via a short drive from the main road.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Length: 1-2 miles (round trip).
  • Recommendation: Suitable for all ages, including younger kids.
  • Tips: The trail includes some narrow sections, so families with younger kids may choose to explore the initial part. Wear sturdy shoes and be cautious of slippery spots. The trailhead is accessible by car.
Mosaic Canyon Trail, Death Valley, CAPin
Mosaic Canyon Trail

Badwater Salt Flats

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, and families of all ages can enjoy a stroll onto the salt flats.

  • Location: Badwater Basin is easily accessible from Furnace Creek. Drive south on Badwater Road, and you’ll reach the parking lot at the basin.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Length: Varies (can be a short walk or longer if desired).
  • Recommendation: Suitable for all ages.
  • Tips: Older kids might appreciate the vast landscape. Watch for uneven ground and bring hats and sunscreen, as the sun can be intense.
sign for Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, CaliforniaPin

Natural Bridge Trail

The Natural Bridge Trail leads to a stunning natural rock arch.

  • Location: Natural Bridge is located off Badwater Road, about a 20-minute drive south of Furnace Creek. Look for the trailhead sign.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Length: 1 mile (round trip).
  • Recommendation: Suitable for all ages.
  • Tips: It’s a short and relatively easy hike, perfect for all ages. Make sure to bring water, wear comfortable shoes, and enjoy the unique rock formations along the way.
Natural Bridge Trail, Death Valley CAPin
Natural Bridge, Death Valley

Dante’s View Trail

This short hike leads to an overlook with stunning panoramic views of Death Valley and the Panamint Range.

  • Location: Dante’s View is accessible via Dante’s View Road, off of Furnace Creek.
  • Difficulty: Moderate.
  • Length: 0.5 miles (round trip).
  • Recommendation: Suitable for older kids and adults.
  • Tips: It’s a great spot for older kids who can appreciate the expansive vistas. The trailhead is reachable by car.
Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, CAPin
Dante’s View

Zabriskie Point

While not a traditional hike, the short walk to Zabriskie Point rewards visitors with breathtaking views of the Badlands and Amargosa Range.

  • Location: Zabriskie Point is easily accessible from Furnace Creek, located on Highway 190.
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Length: 0.5 miles (round trip).
  • Recommendation: Suitable for all ages.
  • Tips: It’s an excellent spot for families to enjoy a sunset, so aim for late afternoon for your hike. The viewpoint is just a short walk from the parking area.
Zabriskie Point, Death Valley CAPin
view from Zabriskie Point

The next two recommendations are popular, but honestly I don’t think they are a great fit for most families because of length and terrain. But you know your family best, so I wanted to at least give them a mention and description.

Desolation Canyon Trail

This trail takes you through a narrow canyon with unique rock formations.

  • Location: Desolation Canyon can be reached from the Scotty’s Castle area.
  • Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult.
  • Length: Approximately 4 miles (round trip).
  • Recommendation: Suitable for older kids and adults.
  • Tips: It’s a longer hike, so consider the fitness levels of your family members. Ensure you have enough water and check trail conditions at the visitor center. This was another filming location for Star Wars!

Telescope Peak Trail

For families (with older kids/teens) looking for a challenge, the Telescope Peak Trail offers stunning views at higher elevations.

  • Location: The trailhead is located at Mahogany Flat Campground, accessible via Emigrant Canyon Road.
  • Difficulty: Strenuous/Steep terrain.
  • Length: Approximately 7 miles (round trip).
  • Recommendation: Suitable for experienced hikers.
  • Tips: It’s a strenuous hike, so only attempt it with (much) older kids/teens who are comfortable with longer, uphill treks. Be prepared with proper hiking gear and plenty of water.
person hiking Telescope Peak trail, Death Valley, CAPin
person hiking the steep terrain on the Telescope Peak trail

Scenic Drives in Death Valley National Park

Let’s hit the road and explore the scenic drives in and near Death Valley National Park.

These drives offer a fantastic way for families to soak in the breathtaking landscapes, discover unique landmarks, and perhaps catch a glimpse of the park’s wildlife, including desert bighorn sheep, coyotes, and various bird species.

Artist’s Drive

  • Location: Accessible from Badwater Road, south of Furnace Creek.
  • Length: About 9 miles (one-way).

Artist’s Drive is a winding road that meanders through brightly colored rock formations. The colors are a result of various mineral deposits in the rocks, creating a painter’s palette of hues.

Keep an eye out for the Artists Palette viewpoint, a prime spot to capture the striking colors.

Artists Palette, Death Valley National Park, CAPin
from Artists Palette viewpoint

Dante’s View Road

  • Location: Begins off Furnace Creek Road, leading to Dante’s View.
  • Length: Approximately 13 miles (one-way).

This scenic drive takes you to Dante’s View, an elevated overlook providing breathtaking panoramic views of Death Valley and the Panamint Range.

Keep your camera ready to capture the vast expanse and unique geological features.

On the drive up, you’ll see the unique desert vegetation and, if you’re lucky, some wildlife.

Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, CAPin
Dante’s View

Badwater Road

  • Location: Starts near Furnace Creek and leads to Badwater Basin.
  • Length: About 17 miles (one-way).

Badwater Road is your route to the lowest point in North America – Badwater Basin.

Along the way, you’ll witness the vastness of the salt flats and the surreal landscape. Keep an eye out for the Badwater Salt Flats, where the ground seems to stretch on forever.

Wildlife enthusiasts may spot some desert-dwelling creatures along the road.

Badwater Road, Death Valley NP, CaliforniaPin
Badwater Road

Twenty Mule Team Canyon

  • Location: Accessible from Highway 190, near Furnace Creek.
  • Length: A short (2.5 miles) loop drive.

This scenic drive/dirt road takes you through the unique landscape of Twenty Mule Team Canyon. The loop provides a close-up view of eroded badlands and colorful rock formations.

It’s a relatively short drive, making it suitable for families with younger kids. Keep your eyes peeled for desert plant life and perhaps some birds…AND familiar sights if you have Star Wars fans in your clan! This area was filmed for Star Wars Episode VI!

Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road in Death Valley NP, CAPin
Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road – a 2.5 mile loop dirt road scenic drive…do you feel like you’re in Star Wars? You should!

Titus Canyon Road

  • Location: Begins near Rhyolite Ghost Town, outside the eastern boundary of the park.
  • Length: Approximately 27 miles (one-way).

Titus Canyon Road is an adventure into the rugged landscapes of Death Valley. This one-way, dirt road takes you through Titus Canyon, surrounded by towering canyon walls.

Keep an eye out for petroglyphs along the way!

Death Valley National Park Things to Do: drive the Titus Canyon RoadPin
Titus Canyon Road: another scenic drive…keep in mind its lengthy, a dirt road, and one-way! Make sure your family and car is ready for this trek ahead of time if you go!

Best Places to Explore in Death Valley

Ubehebe Crater

Located in the northern part of the park, Ubehebe Crater is a fascinating geological formation.

The massive crater, created by a volcanic explosion, offers breathtaking views.

Families can hike around the rim and check out the unique landscape.

Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley National Park, CaliforniaPin
Ubehebe Crater

Devil’s Golf Course

Be sure to check out the otherworldly terrain of Devil’s Golf Course. Located near Badwater Basin, this salt pan features rugged salt formations, creating a surreal landscape.

It’s a short drive from Furnace Creek, and the late afternoon sunlight accentuates its beauty.

Death Valley National Park Things to Do: See Devils Golf CoursePin
Whoever named this area “Devil’s Golf Course” definitely had a great sense of humor! Can you imagine finding a ball out here?

Racetrack Playa

For a mysterious experience, venture to Racetrack Playa. Known for its moving rocks, this dry lake bed is a natural wonder.

The rocks seem to glide across the playa, leaving trails behind them. It’s a remote location, so plan accordingly for a day trip.

a rock with a trail behind it at Racetrack Playa, Death Valley NP, CAPin
a “traveling” rock at Racetrack Playa…fascinating, right?

Salt Creek

A hidden gem within the park, Salt Creek is an oasis with a unique species of fish found nowhere else in the world, the pupfish.

Salt Creek, Death Valley National Park, CAPin
Salt Creek

Take a stroll on the boardwalk and witness the desert’s unexpected aquatic life. It’s an ideal spot for a family nature walk.

female walking on a boardwalk at Salt Creek, Death Valley National Park, CAPin
boardwalk trail at Salt Creek

Harmony Borax Works

While not in the park, you should definitely consider a day trip to Harmony Borax Works, an intriguing site that played a pivotal role in Death Valley’s mining history.

The remains of the borax processing plant stand as a testament to the challenges faced by early settlers in this harsh environment.

mule teams hauled borax from this area of Death Valley for the Harmony Borax Works in the 1880s - the remnants of wagons and tanks remain there todayPin
teams of 20 mules would haul the borax from this area for the Harmony Borax Works company in the 1880s – the wagons and machinery can still be seen there today

Educational Opportunities in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park offers fantastic educational opportunities for families. The Furnace Creek Visitor Center is a hub of knowledge, providing an engaging experience for both parents and kids.

Here’s a breakdown of the educational offerings:

Junior Ranger Program

The park’s Junior Ranger program is tailor-made for young explorers. Kids can pick up Junior Ranger booklets at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

These booklets are packed with fun activities that teach them about the park’s geology, wildlife, and history.

Completing the activities earns them a Junior Ranger badge – a tangible and exciting reward for their newfound knowledge.

taking the pledge and earning junior ranger badges at Yellowstone National ParkPin
getting sworn in as Junior Rangers is a great experience in EVERY national park – here our kids are sworn in after completing their Junior Ranger activities/requirements in Yellowstone NP

Ranger-Led Programs

The park regularly hosts ranger-led programs suitable for all ages. These programs cover a variety of topics, from desert ecology to the cultural history of the area.

Rangers use simple language and interactive methods to make the learning experience enjoyable for kids.

Check the visitor center for the schedule and join in on these informative sessions.

exterior of the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Death Valley NPPin
Furnace Creek Visitor Center (dconvertini, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Exhibits and Displays

Inside the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, you’ll find exhibits and displays that bring the park’s natural and cultural history to life.

Visual aids, models, and easy-to-understand information panels make it an immersive learning environment.

Kids can get hands-on with exhibits, enhancing their understanding of the unique features of Death Valley.

Night Sky Programs

Death Valley is designated as an International Dark Sky Park, making it an ideal spot for stargazing.

The park occasionally hosts night sky programs where families can learn about constellations, planets, and the importance of preserving dark skies.

stars above Death Valley NPPin

Towns to Explore near Death Valley National Park

Now, let’s dive into the details of each nearby town, some of which would be a great jumping off point for your Death Valley adventure!

Furnace Creek

Location: Centrally located within Death Valley National Park, approximately 30 miles south of Stovepipe Wells.

Furnace Creek sits at the heart of Death Valley, offering a central base for exploration.

Surrounded by rugged mountains and expansive desert landscapes, this oasis-like setting is approximately 30 miles south of Stovepipe Wells.

Furnace Creek is more than just a central location for the park. It houses a general store providing essential supplies and unique souvenirs. It’s a convenient stop for families looking to stock up before heading out for their Death Valley adventures.

Accommodation options include The Oasis at Death Valley, offering a range of lodging choices from upscale to more casual, making it a convenient stay for families exploring the park.

Furnace Creek road sign, Death Valley National Park, CAPin

Stovepipe Wells

Location: Positioned in the northern part of Death Valley, near the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Approximately 25 miles north of Furnace Creek.

Stovepipe Wells, located about 25 miles north of Furnace Creek, offers a quintessential desert experience.

Surrounded by sand dunes, it provides a classic desert setting. Stovepipe Wells Village serves as a hub for amenities, and the iconic Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes are a must-visit landmark.

For those seeking accommodation close to the park, the Stovepipe Wells Hotel provides a comfortable stay with easy access to the mesmerizing sand dunes.

stovepipe wells sign, CaliforniaPin

Beatty, Nevada

Location: Just outside the park’s eastern boundary, accessible from Death Valley Junction.

Beatty, situated to the east of Death Valley, is a quieter town set against the backdrop of Nevada’s desert landscape.

The town is known for the historic Rhyolite Ghost Town (more about that below) and the Goldwell Open Air Museum.

road in Beatty, NevadaPin
landscape in Beatty, Nevada

Pahrump, Nevada

Location: Positioned between Death Valley and Las Vegas, to the east of Death Valley.

Nestled between mountains and desert expanses, Pahrump offers scenic beauty and serves as a convenient base for families exploring the region.

The town hosts the Pahrump Valley Winery and events like the Pahrump Balloon Festival.

Accommodations in Pahrump range from hotels to bed-and-breakfast options, providing a comfortable stay for families.

Mojave desert mountain range, Pahrump, NevadaPin
landscape surrounding Pahrump, Nevada

Shoshone, California

Location: To the southeast of Death Valley, near the park’s boundary.

Shoshone, located in the southeastern part of the park, provides a peaceful setting surrounded by desert landscapes and mountains.

The town features the Shoshone Museum and nearby Dublin Gulch with historic miner dwellings.

Accommodations in Shoshone include a few cozy inns and lodges, offering a peaceful stay for families exploring this part of Death Valley.

Dublin Gulch, CaliforniaPin
Dublin Gulch

Tecopa, California

Location: South of Death Valley, near the Amargosa River.

Tecopa, known for its natural hot springs, offers a unique blend of desert scenery.

The town is home to the Tecopa Hot Springs and the China Ranch Date Farm.

hot springs in Tecopa, CaliforniaPin
hot springs in Tecopa, CA

Accommodations in Tecopa include hot spring resorts and RV parks, providing a relaxed stay for families looking for a closer connection to the natural geothermal features.

night sky in Tecopa, CaliforniaPin
camping under the stars in Tecopa, CA

Las Vegas, Nevada

Location: Southeast of Death Valley, approximately 2 to 2.5 hours from Furnace Creek.

While not a town directly bordering Death Valley, Las Vegas is a major city to the southeast and offers a vibrant city atmosphere.

Surrounded by the Mojave Desert and mountains, Las Vegas is a hub of entertainment and attractions.

Las Vegas provides an array of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hotels to luxurious resorts, making it a convenient base for those who prefer city amenities.

three kids getting a taste of the Las Vegas vibe with slot machines inside the LAS airportPin
while not necessarily the most family-friendly of places, Las Vegas is a great airport hub, and there are certainly fun shows & restaurants for families to enjoy…as you dodge some sights you may *not* necessarily be excited for your kiddos to encounter 😉

Ghost Towns

There are also several ghost towns near Death Valley National Park that offer a glimpse into the region’s mining and pioneer history. Here are a couple of notable ghost towns worth exploring:

Rhyolite, Nevada: Just outside the eastern boundary of Death Valley, accessible from Death Valley Junction. Rhyolite is one of the most famous ghost towns in the area. It flourished for a brief period during the early 20th century due to gold mining. Today, visitors can explore the remnants of buildings, including the iconic Bottle House and the Cook Bank Building.

ruins in the ghost town of Rhyolite, NevadaPin
ruins in Rhyolite, Nevada

Ballarat, California: South of Panamint Springs, near the Panamint Range. Ballarat was a mining town that served the nearby mines in the Panamint Range. While not as well-preserved as some other ghost towns, it has a few remaining structures, including a jail and a few houses. The town is known for its association with Charles Manson, who briefly lived in the area.

Ballarat, California ghost town - prison from the old mining townPin
prison from the gold mining town of Ballarat, California

Death Valley National Park Things to Do Summary

In wrapping up our exploration of Death Valley National Park, we’ve uncovered a desert wonderland filled with exciting activities for all ages. From the colorful hikes of Golden Canyon to the mesmerizing views at Dante’s View, this unique landscape offers unforgettable experiences.

Picture your family discovering the secrets of Mosaic Canyon’s smooth marble walls or strolling on the vast salt flats at Badwater Basin – the lowest point in North America.

Imagine the joy on your kids’ faces as they earn Junior Ranger badges or gaze at the stars in the designated Dark Sky Park.

But our journey doesn’t end within the park boundaries. Nearby towns like Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells provide cozy bases, with accommodations like The Oasis at Death Valley offering a mix of comfort and convenience. Don’t miss the chance to explore the charm of Beatty, the tranquility of Shoshone, or the unique hot springs of Tecopa.

Whether you choose to stay within the park or venture to nearby towns, Death Valley promises a family trip filled with educational opportunities, scenic drives, and memorable moments.

So, pack your bags, grab your water bottles, and get ready for an adventure that will leave your family with stories to tell and memories to cherish.

Pin this Death Valley National Park things to do for families information for later! And if you found this article helpful, leave a comment on the pin. That helps others decide whether to use this information, too!

Death Valley National Park: BEST things to do for familiesPin
happy trails, heatherPin
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About Heather Thibodeau

Heather Thibodeau is the founder and mom behind

She and her husband Dave (AKA Tib) are on a mission to travel to as many US national parks with their three kids in tow as they possibly can, doing their best to keep the little ones out in nature and off of screens in an increasingly digital world.

Heather has earned degrees in biology & chemistry from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies), and holds master's and doctorate degrees in physical therapy from Duke University (Go Blue Devils).

Heather is also the creative force behind The Heathered Nest where she shares her love of all things DIY and home decor.

Her work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, This Old House,, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, and more.

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