Death Valley, CA
First Stop: Furnace Creek Visitors CenterFirst Stop: Furnace Creek Visitors Center
Death Valley Chamber
Take a half-hour to get oriented and see the exhibits on Death Valley's wildlife, world-renowned climate, and natural history. Or watch a 12-minute slide presentation. From November through April, ranger-led talks, walks, and tours leave from here. The schedule changes weekly, so grab one before you head out.
Also pick up Junior Ranger workbooks for the kids, available at the park's three visitor centers. They contain graphics, dot-to-dots, and information geared to your child's age (5-8 years, 8-12 years, and 12 years and up). Upon completion of the workbooks, young visitors get a Death Valley Junior Ranger badge--a replica of the real thing.Stop #2: Badwater
This will be the "low point" of your vacation. Not that you won't enjoy it. It's just that Badwater is the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere, at 282 feet below sea level. To see just how low you've sunk, look up and east to a tiny white sign on the cliffs of Black Mountains. That's the sea level mark.
For a real mind-blower, look up and west. You'll see Telescope Peak -- the highest point in Death Valley at 11,049 feet above the sea. Chances are, it'll look familiar; its cone-shaped peak has appeared in many car commercials and films. Look down, and you'll see a permanent spring in Badwater. Don't drink from it. The water's bad (tasting, that is, not poisonous). Badwater is located 18 miles south of Furnace Creek on Badwater Rd., off Hwy 190.Stop #3: Salt Flats
copyright Death Valley Chamber of
Put on really dark shades and follow the Badwater parking lot to the salt flats that stretch across the valley floor. You can hike along the crunchy ground as far as you want.Stop #4: Artists Palette
This nine-mile loop takes you though rainbow-colored badlands -- layers of volcanic rock decked out in bright fuschia, gold, green, blue, and maroon. You can only drive it one way, from south to north, so go to Badwater and Salt Flats first, then catch this must-see on the way out. The drive starts on Badwater Rd., 10 miles south of Furnace Creek.