F-18s, Marble Slides and a Castle. A National Park?


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Surprises await at Death Valley National Park.  We were amazed by the varied scenery and the huge amount of history found in this wonderful desert landscape.  Never expecting life in Death Valley, we were shocked by the many thriving towns that had sprung up in this area due to mining in the 1800’s.  The most successful mine was for Borax.

The Badwater Basin is a huge pool of primarily subterranean water but is terribly salty and in the drier seasons is covered by three feet of salt that we walked on.  Way above on the rocks is the sign for “sea level”.



The Ranger told us if we saw a puddle not to step in it because we might fall through.  Why is that not posted on a sign there?!  Interesting enough there is a huge aquifer with millions of gallons of pure clean water under acres of this park and of course Nevada and California want the water!  Never would have guessed there was so much drinkable water here but it explains the springs.


Another surprise greeted us very early in our visit …F-18s flying overhead.  Oops, I missed it!  It was like watching an air show!  Awesome!  That inspired us to launch our own rockets.


If this has not convinced you yet that this is a kid paradise then add in the fact that the kids can hike and climb anywhere.  It is an “open park”.  So many parks ask that you “stay on the trails”, which my children do not appreciate.  This park is also an international dark skies location which means it is so dark at night (no ambient city lights) you can see the stars in an amazing way.  The Milky Way was clearly visible along with millions of stars and we enjoyed just lying on the ground at the camp staring up at the night sky.  Death Valley has risen to my children’s top four favorite national parks list.




They loved hiking in Mosaic Canyon where the walls have sections of marble worn so smooth that they could slide on them.  We hiked, climbed and slid this trail twice they loved it so much!




We also hiked the Natural Bridge trail and the kids again pretended to be mountain goats.


Artists Palette was a beautiful drive and the pictures do not convey the dramatic colorful layers of rock.  The geology of the park was fascinating and so varied!


We expected a boring, dry, sandy park.  We did find sand and really  enjoyed the dunes but most of the park was dry and rocky and in every direction were beautiful mountains.  Are we slow?  That is the description of a valley but somehow our expectations were that this would be a boring flat piece of desert.  Boy, were we wrong!


To add to the adults’ interest we visited Scotty’s Castle which is more of a spanish mansion than a castle, but the story and history are again so very intriguing.  A whole story in itself but I’ll leave something for you to discover yourself when you come to visit!


While waiting to take the tour, we had our first up close and personal time with some local coyotes.  We saw more back at our campsite as several casually walked through camp just a few feet away.



We really enjoyed this unexpectedly beautiful park.  The camping is plentiful.   Our first night we camped at Panamint Springs, a private (not owned by the National Park) campground, motel, gas, gift shop and a restaurant.  They offer full hookups for camping and a nice restaurant and bar.  Furnace Creek Campground has 16 sites with water, sewer & electric sites (reservations required);  we dry camped there and at Stovepipe Wells.  Both campgrounds had water and a dump station available.    We preferred Stovepipe Wells campground due to the scenery and it was less busy.  For those not interested in camping, the Furnace Creek Inn is a beautiful facility and there are other lodging options as well as restaurants and bars in this area.  We highly recommend this national park and if you have any questions feel free to contact us for more information.