Death Valley, California
Everything the RV Renter Needs to Know
Everything the RV Renter Needs to Know
You’ve probably heard about Death Valley before. It’s one of the most notorious places in the United States, if not the entire world. That’s because it is one of the hottest places on earth! It’s also the driest and lowest national park in the country and the largest in the contiguous United States.
And, despite its far from inviting name, it’s a lively location full of wildlife conditioned to thrive in the harsh conditions, as well as breathtaking views and a natural environment prime for a visit in your rented RV. Here’s everything you need to know in order to plan an unforgettable camping getaway that promises plenty to do in Death Valley.
As mentioned above, Death Valley is the largest national park in the contiguous United States, which means there is much to explore. So, lace up your boots and go on an awe-inspiring hike – or several. Death Valley offers more than 20 hiking trails – ranging from easy to difficult and from just under half a mile to just more than eight! The National Park Service offers a complete list of these trails on its website.
If hiking is at the top of your list, make sure to visit from November through March when temperatures are safest for physical activity. However, if you do happen to pass through during the summer, the high peak trails offer a great escape from the heat of the summer and aren’t accessible during the winter and spring because they’re covered with snow – yes, it snows in the hottest place on earth!
For a place with “death” in the title, there is surprisingly a lot of wildlife to watch, namely birds. The unique and wide diversity of habitats in the area leads to a similar diversity in bird species. One such bird common in the area is the road runner. You may never have seen a real one but you’ve no doubt seen the animated one tormenting Wile E. Coyote in Looney Tunes.
If you plan to visit in the fall or spring, you’ll get a front-seat view of the migratory season of many birds as well. And a visit in mid-February will give you a peek into nesting season. Certain locations in the park are most primed for birdwatching. Saratoga Spring at an elevation of just 60 feet is a low desert oasis perfect for settling in to study some birds. And, for a complete list of bird-watching locations, feel free to contact the park. They’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
Backcountry driving while in Death Valley is a must. Death Valley has more miles of roads than any other national park – nearly one thousand to be exact. And, if you don’t have a towable vehicle with you, no sweat. You can rent a Jeep from the park for your adventure!
Pick up a map from the park and plan your excursion. Just make sure to follow all the rules and regulations for backcountry driving and be sure to bring along ample water and emergency supplies. You are in Death Valley after all! Find a remote spot on your route and camp for the night under the stars. You’ll enjoy a night sky unmarred from even the slimmest hint of light pollution.
Need a break from the heat or simply interested in learning more about this one-of-a-kind location? Head to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. You’ll get to speak with park rangers and view a variety of exhibits that highlight the history of the park, including from when it was inhabited by Native Americans to how it got its name (some European explorers who got lost while trying to find a route to the gold-rich area of California) to its current role in environmentalism.
Plus, if you have kids along for the trip, they can become junior rangers simply by completing some activities and earning badges! The visitor center also has a bookstore where you can purchase reading material about the park and enjoy some snacks, including sandwiches and drinks.
Want to experience Death Valley but a little unsure of venturing off alone? Well then, a guided tour is perfect for you! Several ranger-led programs are offered from December through March focusing on different areas of the park. Choose from exploring a canyon to rediscovering the night sky to traveling back in time to the origins of the valley and get all your questions about this mystery location answered!
The park also offers special paleontology hikes in remote areas of the park otherwise closed to the public. Get a spot on one of these tours and you’ll get to view fossilized tracks of bird, horse, camel, and mastodon-like creatures long before they became extinct. This tour involves a seven-mile round-trip hike, so if you have kiddos under 10 or some more senior members of your party, it’s better to skip this one and stick to one of the other guided tours.
As a National Park, Death Valley provides several campgrounds on-site. Furnace Creek is the main campground. Furnace Creek has an elevation of -196’ so you’ll actually be below sea level! Reservations are required from October 15 to April 15.
Reservations are not taken in the summer. The campground has 136 sites with 18 hook-ups, so definitely reserve your spot as soon as possible. Water is available as are toilets, a dump station, and firepits. Sunset, Texas Springs, and Stovepipe Wells are three other campgrounds within Death Valley National Park. They follow the same reservation protocol as Furnace Creek.
Located in nearby Shoshone, California, Shoshone RV Park is a convenient place to stay before venturing into Death Valley or on your way out as it’s one mile from the entrance to the Park. There are 25 full hook-up sites available including pull-through and back-in. The facilities include a laundromat, restrooms, showers, a library, a community room, and a fire pit.
Just on the western edge of Death Valley National Park is Panamint Springs, home to Panamint Springs Resort. Call to reserve one of six full-hookup sites or one of 26 dry sites. All sites have fire pits and picnic tables. And, the resort provides showers, a general store, and a restaurant. Plus, pets are more than welcome.
A little more than an hour west of Death Valley is Boulder Creek RV Resort, located in Lone Pine, California. This Good Sam Park is a great option during your trek through the desert. The Resort offers pull-through, drive-through, and back-in spots with beautiful views. There’s a dog park, horse corral, swimming pool, and complimentary Wi-Fi, and you’ll also be in the town home to the Museum of Western Film History, so check that out too!
Despite being the largest National Park in the contiguous United States, Death Valley doesn’t have the food selection to match. However, you won’t go hungry during your visit to Death Valley.
Furnace Creek, as mentioned in the campground section above, will be your home base for dining. The Inn Restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner during scheduled times. The nearby Panamint Springs Resort, also located in the Park, serves all three meals year-round. Choose from standard fare including burgers, steak, and even patty melts! Plus, they also have a general store on site with snacks, firewood, camping supplies, and gifts. Plus, if you can stand the heat, you can eat al fresco on their patio!
Leaving Death Valley doesn’t bring you any closer to civilization. You’ll still be in a largely desert climate with little in the way of food or dining. However, if you’re up for some adventure, swing by Shoshone, California located just southeast of Death Valley National Park and take in a meal at Crowbar Café and Saloon.
You’ll enjoy an ambiance that pays tribute to vintage western life while serving up American and Mexican dishes. Death Valley Junction, located just east of the Park, has a café to rest at, that is if you visit during the winter season when they’re exclusively open. Aside from that, you have the open horizon and the desert to feed your inner adventurer 24/7.