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  • Writer's pictureJESSICA MCCORKLE



Death Valley National Park Entrance

Death Valley National Park is the largest National Park in the continental US. While we were visiting, we also had a few work meetings to attend in the mornings. From our research February seems to be the best time to visit due to the high temperatures inside the park, especially at lower elevations. We visited in early April and the temperatures at the Visitor Center were over 100 degrees. The elevation variance in the park does mean that temperatures will vary dramatically within the park. The name Death Valley derives from the extreme heat in the valley at low elevations.

Temperature at Vistor’s Center early April


While visiting this National Park, we parked at Lakeside Casino and RV Resort in Pahrump, Nevada. Our RV park was about an hour drive to the southern entrance to the park. We needed electrical connections to run the AC while we were gone for the hamster; as well as cell service to work while we were back at the camper. This was the closest campground to the National Park with the hook ups and cell signal we needed. This was one of the more expensive campgrounds we have stayed at with a fee of $45 per night with our Passport America Membership. The RV Park had a lot of great amenities, but with work meetings and wanting to maximize our time at Death Valley we didn’t spend much time at the campground enjoying them.

Another option is Saddle West Hotel Casino RV Resort in Pahrup, NV. We did not stay here because they were full when we called to make reservations. When we looked the cost was a bit cheaper, about $30 per night and about 5 miles closer to Death Valley.

If you do not need any hookups or cell signal while you are visiting, there is a campground inside of the park (for a fee). It is very close to the visitor’s center and would prevent so much driving.

There is also a free RV parking option about a 10 minute drive to the entrance of the park called “The Pads”. The Pads is an old trailer park for miners, and is privately owned land. The land owners allow RVers to park there for free, but there are no hook ups or cell signal. There are, as the name implies cement pads indicating the different parking spots for RVs. Note that if driving at night it is very dark and would be easy to miss the turn if you choose to park here.

Since we were working during the day and had at least a one hour drive each way into and out of the park, we broke our visit up into three days. This could all be done in one day, but with children would definitely be exhausting.

DAY 1: Dante's View

Hiking up Dante’s Ridge with TJ

This is a gorgeous viewpoint of Badwater Basin. At a higher elevation and beautiful view of the basin, this is an excellent spot to watch the sunset. There is also parking for a hike along Dante’s Ridge, a do not miss hike in the park. You can hike the entire summit, which is 8 miles to Mt Perry. We chose to only hike one mile in to the first peak. After the sunset we stayed in the parking lot to check out an amazing view of the stars. When the milky way is in alignment this would be an awesome view point. It did get very chilly after the sunset in April, I would recommend bringing a jacket or even a blanket if you decide to stay and stargaze.

The roads driving up to Dante’s View get pretty winding at the end, be sure to drive slow. We didn’t feel nervous, but we did need to drive much slower in our dually truck with the switchbacks and narrow roads.

View from first peak at Dante’s Ridge Hike

First peak at Dante’s Ridge, 1 mile in

DAY 2: Artist's Palate Drive AND Bad water Basin

Badwater Basin: Grace, Greg, TJ

On the second day when we arrived at the park we drove along Artist’s Palate. This is a scenic drive along a one way winding road with some low clearances and tight corners. Please do not attempt to take your rig on this road. We managed with our dually truck, but in spots it was tight. Be sure to get out along the drive to take pictures and soak in the scenery.

Jamie in the salt flats at Badwater Basin

When we finished the Artist’s Palate scenic drive, we headed over to Badwater Basin. This is the lowest elevation in North America. Be prepared for HEAT. There is a parking lot and a natural bridge to walk out on and explore the area. When you walk out be sure to turn around and look up, on the mountain behind you is a sign that indicates where sea level is to show in perspective how far below sea level you actually are, which is a pretty cool perspective.

The further out we walked the less flat the salt flats became. Here they are still pretty flat on the path.

The further out we walked the less flat the salt flats became. Here they are still pretty flat on the path.

It seemed while we were there that many people stayed around close to the parking lot, but you can walk out into the salt flats as far as you would like. The further we explored, the more defined the salt flats became. I definitely recommend walking out to really enjoy the flats. Be sure to take plenty of water, as it is very hot and dry. The kids ran along the salt path and fell a few times, the salt is rough and they cut their knees quite a few times. We had bandaids in our bags, so I would even recommend bringing a few bandaids just in case, especially if you are traveling with children. We visited with another family and 3 of the 4 children ended up with at least one cut on their knees.

The salt is very sharp

Gorgeous views of the salt flats the further out you go

Gorgeous views of the salt flats the further out you go.

DAY 3: Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe Crater is a volcanic crater located 73 miles from Badwater Basin. From our campground it was about a 2.5 hour drive one way to the crater. We did not know what to expect when we arrived, but immediately saw that there were two options for hiking the crater: a 1 mile trail around the rim of the crater or a steep trail down into the crater. We decided to take the trek into the crater. The hike down was very fun and steep, at times we felt as if we were walking at an angle. The hike down went pretty quick. It was a pretty cool experience being in the middle of a crater, but we knew we needed much more time to hike back up before the sun set. Be sure to bring plenty of water and rest a lot. At just over 600ft elevation gain, with pretty steep trails it was very strenuous. Be sure that if you choose to do this to bring plenty of water for the hike back up. This wasn’t the kids’ favorite hike, but definitely a cool experience. To hike the crater without the steep 600ft elevation change, the one mile hike around the rim of the crater allows for gorgeous views and a cool overall experience of the crater.

Grace at the top of the crater

Overall, we could have spent so much more time at Death Valley National Park, but these were a few of the highlights that our family enjoyed in our limited time at the park.

View from inside the crater, looking towards the path down. The dot on the path is a person

Overall, we could have spent so much more time at Death Valley National Park, but these were a few of the highlights that our family enjoyed in our limited time at the park.

For a complete guide to the national parks we love Your Guide to the National Parks, you can purchase it on Amazon here:


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