HIGHS & LOWS
Today, you’ll be getting an even better taste of DEATH VALLEY’s extremes, from its mountain viewpoints to the salt flats that sit below sea level. Make an early start for ZABRISKIE POINT, five miles southeast of Furnace Creek along Highway 190. A short, paved trail from the parking area here leads up to brilliant outlook of rippled, banoffee-coloured badlands. It’s a fairly long round-trip (70 miles in total) to head on from here to DANTE’S VIEW, but you’ve got all morning and the breathtaking views from 5000ft up above the valley floor are more than worth it, an otherworldly landscape of arid salt pans and desolate-looking mountain slopes stretching away before you.
Backtrack to FURNACE CREEK to sit out the heat of the day in the spring-fed pool at the Ranch at Death Valley [$5 for a 24hr visitor pass]. In the afternoon, set off for the sights that lie along Badwater Road to the southwest of town. In summer, the jagged clumps of wind-eroded rock salt that make up the DEVIL’S GOLF COURSE, ten miles from Furnace Creek, emit an eerie pinging sound as the salt crystals expand and contract. Another ten miles further down the main road, you’ll come to the low point of your trip. Literally. At 282ft below sea level, the salt flats at BADWATER BASIN are officially the lowest point in the western hemisphere, nearly 200 square miles of crunchy crystals shaped into polygonal patterns. Heading back up to Furnace Creek, it’s worth timing your arrival at nine-mile ARTISTS’ DRIVE loop road for late afternoon, when the colourfully eroded hills here are at their most dramatic. The pinks, greens and purples at Artist’s Palette, half way along, are caused by oxidised metals and make a striking sight in the sinking sun.
WHERE TO STAY
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From beachfront hotels to Downtown B&Bs – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in California
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of California’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety, and how to get around
MORE AMAZING TRIPS
Inside glaciers, under waterfalls and out into the Atlantic to watch whales
Two weeks exploring the most family-friendly country in Southeast Asia