So we went to Death Valley fully intent on camping at Furnace Creek campground for a night. I’m always up for a challenge, as is Monique, but sometimes you face decisions where you need to put kids first, and when we arrived we faced one.

Death Valley is hot like you’ve never felt…

I’ve been to the Sahara, Australian inland and north coast (along with other cooler bits), and many other hot places, but Death Valley just felt hot. When we arrived at the visitor center, it was already 100 degrees and rising and near zero humidity.

S took this photo of Monique at midday on day 2…

We spoke to the rangers and explained we were a family of four with a seven month old in tow and should we stay in the campground. The Ranger took in a deep breath and said if we found a tree with a lot of shade, that would possibly be ok, if we had air conditioning, which we don’t…

We drove to the campground which was empty, and found a spot with partial shade, got into Red and took the temperature. It read 102 degrees. Not a temperature you can put a baby down in a feel comfortable about.

So we made the choice to check into the Death Valley Ranch Hotel for the night and breath a little easier in an air conditioned room.

Checking into a hotel with a trailer is not as easy as you’d think

First, your trailer is setup for kids, a hotel room is not, especially one with two queen beds. So you need to transfer over all your safety gear and some toys.

Then there’s the fact you don’t have cases (or we don’t). Everything is in boxes, so you need to figure out exactly what you’ll need for a one night stay and transport it over to the hotel room. Fortunately we had an apartment style room on the ground floor, next to where we could park Red.

Monique and E getting settled in

Next decision was cooking, which we decided against given trailer cam was now recording a temperature of “H H F degrees” in bright red. Not sure what that means, but I nearly melted when I went to grab clothes, so not an option.

So we grabbed dinner at the hotel restaurant. It wasn’t fancy, a steak house but the waiter was lovely to S and made him feel super welcome, and we got to relax for dinner, and plan the next day.

Key to hot weather travel is an early start

So our plan was to get the kids up before sunrise and hit three locations in three to four hours. That meant getting up at 5.45 and putting the kids in the car and driving. S wakes up usually around 6, and E doesn’t sleep much after 4 am so it’s doable.

Except both decided to sleep. So we ended up trying to spirit them from beds whilst they were asleep. Worked with both by some miracle, but wow it was a close run thing to avoid a meltdown, and we had muffins waiting in the car for hungry kids just awake

Our three sites to visit

Badwater Saltflats

The huge salt flat is the lowest point in the US at 283 feet below sea level. It’s an incredible sight at dawn, with sun rising over the colorful mountains, a lot cooler (70s) and the lack of people is wonderful.

Monique marching back from the flats with E on her back (I carried S)

The walk out onto the flats is about a mile out and a mile back but it is totally worth it. The flats are incredible, and there are so many beautiful complex patterns in the salt to see.

On your return, you’ll see the small saltwater pools (stick to the boardwalks and save the natural salt stacks, unlike millions who think they can go anywhere they like). These pools were what Badwater was named for after the first surveyor to arrive tried to get his mule to drink the water and it refused, hence “Badwater”.

Natural Bridge

This natural rock formation is a short 0.7ish mile climb up a few hundred feet elevation for a great payoff.

The uninspiringly named Natural Bridge is stunning

The Arch has formed over millions of years and is a great window to the mountains behind, and great fun to walk up to, under/through. As everywhere in the early morning, the light is stunning on the strata of rocks, and the view over the valley behind you is incredible.

By the time we were walking back, the sun was well up and the temperatures were hitting 90 degrees, it was 8.40 in the morning…

Artists Drive

A short road trip through some beautiful winding road through the mountains with incredible colors of rock. Do not try and take a longer vehicle (or trailer) through here as the roads have a lot of biggish rocks, and some turns are very tight with little room to maneuver. Well worth the thirty minute drive and you’ll get some great photos of wonderful colors.

The sun washed colors out a little, but go at sunrise or sunset and this would be incredible

The sun was already well up when we went through so the colors were a little washed out, but this drive would be incredible at dawn or even better sunset when the warm evening light is shining onto the rocks.

Summary

Death Valley was incredible, so many amazing sights to see, but do it in the cooler parts of the day and take a lot of water. There’s a reason they advise you to not be out after 10am everywhere you go, it’s dangerous so put the kids early to bed when you arrive, and get them up to see an incredible sight with a short walk.

They’re setup for short hikes, not epic strenuous efforts, so do yourself a favor, enjoy some airconditioned driving, and see the top sights in short 15-30 minute bursts.

The key is to respect the heat, and you’ll do fine, oh and take an extra water bladder, you need to drink regularly.

Some selected photos

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