Why go to Death Valley in the winter when you can go in the summer? Well, it seemed like a good idea to visit the hottest, lowest, and driest National Park in July since it was kind of on our way home!
After all, it does seem like the best time to experience the awesome extreme’s of nature! And look, 706 degrees, who wouldn’t want to experience this? In all fairness, we spent about 24 hours in Death Valley. It was a planned stop on our return trip from Yosemite back to Arizona. Well worth it!
Depending on when you are here, are a ton of things to see and do in Death Valley! If you go in the summer, you need to be an early riser as your day outside ends for sure by noon at the latest. Temperatures vary from a high of 120-ish in the shade with lows of 90’s in the summer. Thus, if you want to spend more time in Death Valley, winter might be a better time. With the summer temperatures, the ground can reach temperatures of 201 degrees F. Yes, 201 degrees Fahrenheit. Dress accordingly, including shoes. Flip flops might seem like a good idea, but you will feel the heat come through the bottom of your shoes at 10 am.
If you have a short time, let me suggest the following. Go to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. It is a great educational experience for all, and you can get the NPS Junior Ranger badges here. It’s a really great NPS visitor center.
You can camp, but this time of the year I have to say no with kids. There are several hotels in Death Valley and the town of Furnace Creek and Panamint Springs. As odd as it may seem, summer is still a busy time of the year, so make sure you get reservations. Death Valley is quite remote! There is a small store, gas station, and a few places/restaurants to eat at in Death Valley.
During this trip, we then headed to the Badwater Basin. Who doesn’t want to say they were standing in the lowest point in North America!
Badwater Basin is an amazing landscape. These pictures do not do justice to the vast salt flats. The basin is at an elevation of 282 feet below sea level. A temporary lake can form after heavy rains (rainfall averages 2 inches a year!). You can walk out quite a distance, and go off the trail. However, it can be hazardous…as some areas only have a thin white crust covering mud. Do not walk out onto the flats during hot weather (remember my note above about ground temps of 201 F.). From the Furnace Creek visitor center, it is about a 30 minute drive south to get there. There is primitive bathroom at the parking lot. The parking lot is large and can accommodate large RVs and buses.
Even in the end of July, there was a few small pools of water close to the parking area right off the boardwalk. This area is fed from a small spring. There is some wildlife in this area such as the Badwater Snail and aquatic insects.
Note: the water is not drinkable. Again, bring plenty of water with you! At 10 am, the sun was already beating down on us and the other visitors.
Depending on which way you enter the park, do go to the Father Crowley Vista Point. This point at the northern end of Panamint Valley in Death Valley is named after Father John Crowley, Padre of the Desert (1891-1940). The view-point is especially beautiful at sunset or sunrise! It is about 5 miles from Panamint Springs and 36 miles from Furnace Creek.
If we had more time, and in a future trip, I want to drive to Artist’s Drive and then hike around Artist’s Palette, drive to Zabriskie Point, and hike to Natural Bridge Canyon as well as to Darwin Falls. More points of interest are the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Devil’s Golf Course, 20 Mule Team, and Dante’s View among others!
Despite the short time here, we can at least say we have been to Death Valley in July, almost a badge of honor! Many think of Death Valley or any desert area as ugly, but as this quote says it all:
There is beauty in everything, just not everybody sees