Autumn is here, so I’d like to share with you one of my family’s favorite Thanksgiving tradition to one of my all time favorite parks, Death Valley National Park. Death Valley is located on the eastern border of south central California and borders a small area of Nevada. It’s 3.4 million acres and is considered the largest national park in the contigious U.S.
While the name isn’t inviting and most people think of Death Valley as just a scorching hot desert. Let me just say, they’re right…but only some of the time. From Fall until Spring, Death Valley can get quite cool and while the name is not inviting, this unique desert is beyond beautiful.
Let me start by sharing with you some reasons why Death Valley should be on your bucket list…
- You can stand at the lowest point of the continent, called Badwater. It’s 282 feet below sea level.
- Death Valley Racetrack . Home to moving boulders and has left scientists baffled by this crazy, unexplained phenomenon.
- Canyons, sand dunes, salt flats, dry lake beds, craters..a geological amazement!
- Ghost towns and abandoned mines scattered throughout Death Valley, for you to explore.
- Scotty’s Castle, a villa from the 1900’s. Built by a Chicago millionaire & conman Walter E. Scott. You can take an extensive tour of this impressive castle.
- Telescope Peak, a summit in Death Valley that reaches 11,000 ft. which can be seen from the lowest spot at Badwater.
- Darkest skies in the United States provides the best stargazing ever!
- 9 campgrounds and 4 lodging areas inside of the park, as well as others, outside of the park. Plenty places to sleep!
- There are over 1,000 types of plants living in the park, including Joshua Trees, creosote bushes, desert hollies and gorgeous wildflowers blooming in the Spring.
- The wildlife in Death Valley, so cool, including bighorn sheep (yes, we’ve seen them!) roadrunners, coyotes, lizards, ravens and so much more!
- Golfing and Horseback riding! Yes you can do this in Death Valley!
- and that’s just the beginning…
When I was a kid, my family went on a trip to Death Valley for Thanksgiving. I wasn’t all that excited about going. I didn’t know what Death Valley was all about. But, guess what, I ended up fallIng in love with this national park.
I remembered camping, hiking and touring Scotty’s Castle, in the middle of the desert. I found Scotty’s castle to be most interesting! I also remember hiking down a big hole in the ground, called Ubehebe Crater. I also remembered that it snowed on that trip. It doesn’t happen all too often in Death Valley, it turns out. It sure did that time! I also remember saying “I’m going to bring my own family here, when I grow up!” And so I did…
Today, my husband, daughter and I go to Death Valley, every few years, for our Thanksgiving vacation. We usually stay at the Furnace Creek Inn or Furnace Creek Ranch. The Inn is a more upscale hotel. The Ranch is more modest and family friendly.
The historic Furnace Creek Inn first opened in 1927. The 66 upscale room Inn, which consists of rooms, suites and a bungalow, sprawls across a low hill, at the mouth of the Furnace Creek Wash. Impressive views can be found throughout the 4-diamond Inn. The Inn has a beautiful, naturally fed, warm spring pool. The Furnace Creek Inn dining room is where you’ll find us for Thanksgiving Dinner! Located at 328 Greenland Blvd, Death Valley, CA 92328
At the rustic Furnace Creek Ranch, you’ll find casual rooms. It’s a bit more of a motel, but with a great western personality! This 44 acre property has several restaurants. There’s also a huge natural spring water pool, tennis courts, a playground and a Borax Museum. There are huge green lawns between the rooms, where you can kick around a ball or stargaze on, at night.
You’ll also find the world’s lowest elevation golf course and the Furnace Creek Horse Stables, on the the grounds at The Furnace Creek Ranch. While we’re not golfers, we certainly are horse back riders. It’s one of our favorite things to do, when we’re in Death Valley!
We always like to plan a hike ahead of time. There are so many great hikes in the park. We have done some hikes more than once, because we enjoyed them so much. Some of our favorites hikes are Fall Canyon, Titus Canyon Narrows, Desolation Canyon, Golden Canyon, Grotto Canyon, The Grandstand. **I will do another post to detail our favorite hikes in Death Valley. Some of them are hidden gems, so stay tuned!
One of my favorite places on this planet is the ever majestic, Eureka Dunes. Located in the enclosed Eureka Valley, northwest of Death Valley. Some say that Eureka Dunes are the tallest dunes in the United States. It takes about 2 hours to get to on a dirt road. Not an easy drive, but it’s well worth it!
Some people camp here, but we’ll spend the whole day exploring and picnicking, then head back, before it gets dark. You wont’ find many tourists at Eureka Dunes, like you’ll find at the more popular, Death Valley Dunes. Each time we’ve gone to Eureka Dunes, there has been less than 10 cars there. It’s a magical place and if you decide to take the trek here, I promise, it’ll be something to remember.
We love walking the lowest point in the U.S. at -282 feet, called Badwater. Also known as The Salt Flats. We’ll always walk further than everyone else, on this low salty, dried out, pool. We’ll walk miles out, until we there’s no one in sight. It’s so quiet and peaceful out there.
Another really cool spot is The Artists Palette. On the way back from Badwater, we’ll take a nice 9 mile loop drive on Artists Drive. This road takes you passed gorgeous multi-hued volcanic and sedimentary hills. You can park, walk up to them and get amazing pictures. Be sure to go in the late afternoon, when the sun hits the spectacular colored hills.
Other truly amazing wonders of Death Valley include Devil’s Cornfield, Devil’s Golf Course and the astonishing Devil’s Racetrack. The racetrack is such a mystery! Located on a lake bed, in northeastern Death Valley, these rocks appear to move by themselves and have scientists mystified. How do those rocks move? There are many theories. One being, that when it’s windy and raining, the rocks will slide. It’s the most logical..what do you think?
The other two “devils” are interesting, as well! The Devil’s Cornfield isn’t corn at all, it’s actually arrow weed. They can get quite huge and they’re scattered everywhere!
The Devil’s Golf Course is a large salt pan, where Immense rock salt has been eroded by wind and rain. It’s surface is rough and jagged, so much so, that only a devil would play golf here! It’s no golf course, though! Both are so cool to visit!
Ubehebe Crater may be the most popular attraction in Death Valley and rightfully so! Located in the north end of Death Valley. This large volcanic crater is 2,000 to 7,000 years old! Ubehebe Crater is a half mile wide and 777 feet deep. There’s also a much smaller crater next to Ubehebe, called Little Hebe. You can spend the afternoon exploring both craters.
There are 3 trails you can hike to explore these craters. One will take you down, inside of Ubehebe Crater, one will take you around the massive hole and the last one will take you to the little crater, Little Hebe. You can do all three in a 2 mile loop. They’re Considered to be fairly easy for the whole family to do, with the hike down the crater being a moderate hike. Visiting Ubehebe Crater is a must do in Death Valley!
So, there you have my summary of Death Valley, a Thanksgiving Tradition! As I say that, I’m looking at a bunch of other pictures, that I haven’t shared with you! There’s so much more to talk about still. So, I’m going to do a few more posts. I’ll post on our favorite hikes and go in detail. I’ll do another post on lodging and where to eat…I still have so much to share about Death Valley!
I hope you enjoyed this blog, with my pictures of my family’s Death Valley trips from the past 10 years! Please stay tuned for more about this phenomenal place! Thanks!