10 Things to Do as a Family at Death Valley National Park

I love Death Valley. Especially in November. While temps can easily rise into the 100s (even 110s) in the summer, it was a balmy 69 degrees when I was there in late-fall, at least according to the thermometer display set up just outside the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

I stayed in Beatty, NV and entered the park from the east side where there is a lot to see, like the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Artists Palette, which is one reason Death Valley is tops among Las Vegas day trips with kids. If you plan a visit to Death Valley National Park, here are 10 things to do in Death Valley. Have fun. 🙂

1. Stay Near the Park Entrance. I stayed in nearby Beatty at the Stagecoach Hotel & Casino. It’s about 45 minutes to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. It can get very dark after sunset, so it’s best to stay close, if you can. Stop at the Goldwell Open Air Museum on your way into the park. It’s very cool.

2. Go Sledding at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. Bring along a snow saucer to sled down the sand dunes at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (though I’m sure a flat cardboard box would work too). While I didn’t get a chance to sled here, I did go sledding at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico and can attest that it is so much fun, so do add this one to your own list of things to do in Death Valley.

3. Walk Across Badwater Basin. At Badwater Basin, you’re 282 feet below sea level, the lowest point in North America. You can even see a sign marking sea level way up high on the cliffs. Walk across the salt flats. It’s a vast expanse and you’ll want to get out far enough to see the salt crystals across the flats. This alone is reason enough to consider Death Valley among the best vacation spots in the U.S.

4. Cruise Along Artists Drive. Go early to drive the one-way route along Artists Drive. The colorful rocky landscape is worth the drive, and if you get there early enough (especially in the off-season), you may have the road to yourself. That way it’s easy to hop out and take photos without causing a back-up.

5. Take in the Views from Zabriskie Point. One of my favorite things to do in Death Valley is to make a stop at Zabriskie Point. These badlands are just incredible. I could have taken a dozen photos. If you have time, hike along the Badlands Loop, a 2.5 mile trail that goes down, in and around the badlands.

6. Become a Junior Ranger. My kids love earning badges and patches at various national parks through the Junior Ranger program so this is an easy add to my list of things to do in Death Valley when visiting with kids. You can pick up a free activity booklet at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.  There’s both a summer booklet and a winter booklet. Earn a badge upon completion of the activities. 

7. Take a Photo with the Thermometer. Outside the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, look for the thermometer display (it’s not hard to find). It was just 69 degrees when I was there. Not especially impressive, but I think it would be fun to snap a pic there when temps are in the 100s.

8. Attend a Ranger-Led Program. As always, attending a ranger program is a must. You and your kids can learn about wildlife safety, geology, history and native animals. Pick up the park newspaper when you arrive or go online ahead of time. The morning Golden Canyon Walk with a ranger is a must-do.

9. Listen to the Silence. When I arrived at Death Valley, it was around 6:30 am. No one else was around and it was completely silent. No car noises. No wind rustling. No wildlife moving. Total silence. It was almost eerie, but the sun was getting ready to rise and it was beautiful.

10. Stamp Your Passport. Getting stamps in my Passport to Your National Parks is always my favorite part of a national park visit. Keep your eye open for cancellation stamps at every visitor center. You’ll also want to buy the official park sticker to add to your passport. An easy must-do for any list of things to do in Death Valley.