Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

Way cool: Death Valley National Park charms families

May 14, 2008, 11:18 am

About 300 miles northeast of Los Angeles, vast Death Valley National Park is a place of extremes: hottest, driest, lowest. Amid its timeless quietude, visitors may hear the wind traveling across the desert floor or the echo of a raven's caw off a distant mountain. Families might enjoy visiting a few of the ghost towns throughout the park, seeing the unparalleled springtime wildflowers, exploring the otherworldly sand dunes or spotting desert coyotes.

Age appropriate : The heat and long drives (as the crow flies, the park is more than 100 miles north to south) might prove too much for little ones, but tweens and teens will likely enjoy the edginess of it all.

Strange -- but fun: Rhyolite, which boomed with the Bullfrog gold mine, was once a town of about 10,000, but now it's just for tourists and ghosts. There's an open-air museum along the road, where Modernist sculptures -- among them, a ghost climbing on a bike -- are scattered in the creosote, bizarrely juxtaposed with the moldering shells of Rhyolite's banks, stores and homes. These include the handsome Spanish mission-style Las Vegas & Tonopah Railroad Station and an odd house made of bottles. Good-natured volunteer guides provide tours.