Beating the heat in Death Valley

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of March 27-April 3, 1996
Laid-back river trips in Utah
Backpacking routes in New Mexico
How to make camp life more comfy
Mountain biking on Maui
Beating the heat in Death Valley
Mellow canoe trips in the Northwest

Beating the heat in Death Valley
Q: We are planning a trip to Death Valley on the first weekend in May. Is this a good time of the year to go or are we going to roast like potatoes?

Peter Gould
[email protected]

March is the optimal month to visit this scorching stretch of desert
A: If you don't mind sweating it out in 100-degree daytime temperatures, then May's not a bad time to go to Death Valley National Park in Southern California. Don't look for much relief at night, though, since average nighttime lows only dip down to a balmy 71 degrees.

Unless you can bump your trip up to early or mid-April, when temps usually max out at 90, stick with early May. But you'll need to bring obscene amounts of sunscreen and water, plus a wide-brimmed hat and lots of loose, light clothing to protect you from the unforgiving sun. Whatever you do, avoid hiking at midday, when you're most susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Instead, find a patch of shade or, better yet, an air-conditioned room and settle in for a relaxing siesta.

Although it's probably too late for this year, keep in mind that the best time to visit this scorching stretch of desert is March, when the daytime high generally hits a reasonable 80 degrees. For more information, call the Death Valley Visitor Center (619-786-2331).

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