Pit Stops for Kids’ series celebrating our nation’s parks (in honor of National Parks Week) continues with stunning and desolate Death Valley, CA, and specifically, The Furnace Creek Ranch.
Much more than just your average motel, The Furnace Creek Ranch is a desert oasis centrally located on the eastern side of Death Valley National Park. Recent improvements to Furnace Creek Ranch include an updated pool patio area with new chairs, tables, and gardens, a new sport court for basketball and volleyball, bocce ball and shuffleboard areas, and free sport recreation rentals.
Why it’s worth the drive: Located 2.5 hours from Las Vegas, Death Valley is a considerable distance from most other sightseeing venues in southern Nevada, but the moment you drive over the mountains to the vast valley floor, you’ll understand why it’s recommended time and again. Even very young children can handle the moderate hikes through stunning canyons and/or ride in an all-terrain jeep through bumpy washes and across cracked desert floors. While this national park can be done in a day trip, our family highly recommends at least a two-night stay to see all the valley has to offer.
Why we Recommend Staying at the Ranch: Death Valley NP offers several accommodations within its borders, ranging from the 5-star Inn at Furnace Creek to campgrounds. We always choose the Furnace Creek Ranch for its welcoming atmosphere and accommodation of families with young children. The Ranch consists of an entire complex of motel units (the deluxe rooms, which open out directly onto the green across from the pool are worth the extra $$), restaurants, playgrounds, stables, and more. There’s a general store (convenient when we needed Tylenol, ice for the cooler, and after-dinner ice creams) bike-rental booth, and museum. The spring-fed, constant-80-degree pool is the highlight.
What to see: Death Valley offers desert hikes, off-road excusions, horseback riding, and tours. For our family’s top picks, check out our article, Visiting Death Valley with Kids.
Date last visited: March 2010
Hours and Admission Prices: Keep in mind that whether you’re staying at the Ranch or not, the national park charges $20 per vehicle (per stay).
Rates: Options at the Ranch include cabins (one room), standard rooms, deluxe rooms (ideal location), and RV camping (does not include pool pass). Rates in peak season (winter and spring) range from $126 to $213 per night.
Food Services: Several restaurants are available onsite. Our favorite was the family diner, ’49er Cafe, serving general family fare like burgers, pasta, and kid meals. The Wrangler Steakhouse is spendier, but does have an extensive breakfast buffet. (Browse menus.)
In addition to the restaurants, the Ranch General Store is well-stocked with items to make your own picnics and light breakfasts, like milk, cereal, bread, lunchmeats, etc. Be prepared to pay dearly for this convenience, however! (We stock up on groceries before entering the park.)
Directions: From Las Vegas: take I-15 N, then take exit 42A to merge onto US-95 N toward Reno. Turn left at NV-373 S. Continue onto CA-127 S, entering CA. Turn right at CA-190 W into the park.
This post featured on Spotlight Thursday during Trekaroo’s spotlight on National Parks!