I've visited Death Valley National Park several times, both in winter and in summer, and I've never been disappointed! There are those that love the desert, and those that don't! My family and I love it! It's beautiful, tranquil, and there's an element of mystery, because it can be so desolate! I recently was staying in Vegas and decided that my wife, 2 teen kids, and I would visit Death Valley, on a day trip. It was late June 2014, and of course it was hot! I decided to take the slightly longer way and drive via Beatty and the old Rhyolite Ghost Town. There's not much to see there, but I like it! The Goldwell Open Air Art museum is eerily cool! And those attractions are free and they only take up about 30 minutes of your time. From there we continued into Death Valley. I know that a lot of you are looking for some advice, especially for summertime visits, so I'll give you my thoughts......It's hot! It's beyond hot! On the day that I visited last, the official Furnace Creek weather station temperature was 117 degrees Fahrenheit, in the shade, and that was early afternoon. As the afternoon progressed, and I was at lower elevations such as Badwater, I was getting temperatures in the mid-120s on a personal weather device that I purchased. Either way, it was hot, and shade and the hot breezes provide little relief from a sun that is never clouded over. If you'd like to know the feeling from the comforts of your home, wait until the hottest day of the year, close your house windows and turn on your furnace for heat. Then plug in your hair/blow dryer and blow it in your face! Actually, it's probably hotter than that. My family and I laughed about it later, but I'm actually being serious. The heat will kill you if you're not smart and careful. Here's my recommendations.
1. It's a huge park. Do some online research and some research with the park service before you go. Know what you want to see, and if the driving distances between attractions are doable in one day. It may be 20, 30, 50 miles between attractions, and when you start to factor in multiple attractions and stops, your time is eaten up very quickly. Also, make sure that the attractions that you've chosen have paved roads or are accessible using your auto. Many of the roads are unpaved, but are drivable in most cars, if you don't mind beating the heck out of your car. Other roads, like the road to Racetrack Playa, area only accessible by a 4 wheel drive vehicle. So know before you go. Pick the attractions, pick a route, and make sure that your vehicle can make it.
2. Make sure that your vehicle is in top notch shape. You don't want to break down in Death Valley. Make sure that you're tires are in good shape, and just as importantly, make sure that your spare tire is in good shape. Check the air pressure, and make sure that you have a jack, and lug wrench. So common, but it happens, even in urban areas. Also check your oil, and water coolant levels. Check your belts and hoses. Just don't venture out there, in a junker. I'm going to address the need for personal water, but it would be very wise of you to take an extra few gallons of cheap grocery store water just for your car. I stopped to help a couple that had an overheating car, and they were smart. They had extra water and they were able to make the repair and move on very quickly. It's only a few dollars purchase and if you need it, it's very well worth it. Also monitor your fuel level. Fill up your tank completely, every time that it's available to you. Gas stations are few and far between. Trying to stretch out a quarter tank of gas to the next station is deadly, and not too smart. Gas is more expensive in the park, but Beatty, NV, has economical gas and convenient stores. Fill up!
3. Don't rely on technology. My family have very modern smart phones with a reliable service provider. We did not have any cell phone service our entire time in the park. My vehicle had a GPS unit and I had a mobile dashboard unit of my own, and neither GPS unit worked reliably, and they did not distinguish between paved roads and dirt roads. Do yourself a favor and spend $10 on a park map! It'll also show you valuable things like restroom and gas locations as well, because they are few and far between.
4. Water! Water! Water! They say one gallon, per person, per day.....I say they're right, but my family and I drank more than that. Yes it was very hot. And although you don't accumulate sweat on your face and body, your body is losing tons of moisture by the minute. You are sweating but in the driest of desert air, it evaporates before it can do it's job at cooling you off. You even lose a large percentage of your body's moister just by exhaling! And losing that moisture drains you quickly. First you fatigued, then you're flush with fever and sunburn type symptoms, then you cramp up, get a massive headache, get nauseated, and that's just the beginning of deadly dehydration. So heed my warnings and the warnings of everyone else on here. They recommend not hiking during lower elevations during summer heat. Yes we took brief hikes, at lower elevations, but we did it smart. Our longest walk was 2 miles round trip. We purchased a cheap throw away cooler at Walmart before we left Vegas. We hit a grocer market and we filled it with bottled water, Gatorade, and then the gallon jugs of water for the car. And of course ice. We also purchased calorie/protein bars, and some beef jerky. Things that can give you calories, protein and salts, all things that you lose quickly while walking in that dry heat. We also stopped at a Subway and purchased cold cut sandwiches that we could keep in the cooler and eat later. Finally, on the way we replenished the ice in Beatty while we purchased more gas. We also used wide brim fishing/beach style hats and sun screen. There NOTHING that filters that hot sun! You need to keep it off of you and especially off of your face and head. Also the hats help hold in some of the moisture that your body is losing. We purchased a cheap backpack. Actually, it was a cheep bookbag. We filled it with water and stacks before we left out on our walks. And we stuck to the trails, so that it we ran into trouble, we could be found. In the end, we needed everything that we took! We had a lot of water and Gatorade, and to be very honest, you just can't get enough of it. Even the kids drank like there was no tomorrow. So think ahead, and bring water and whatever else you need!
If you're smart and prepared, and if you're open to listening to people's suggestions, you can make this trip during summertime, and you can have a safe and fun time, in this beautiful desert landscape. I will definitely return again!
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