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The Complete Guide To Death Valley National Park Camping

Spanning over 3 million acres, Death Valley is the largest national park in the continental United States with many options for camping. There are so many great choices it can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. If you’re not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place!

We’ve organized all the information into a handy guide to make things easy for you! Keep reading to learn all about the different camping options and campgrounds, what amenities are available, and even some fun things to do while you’re camping in Death Valley National Park!

Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park

What to Expect While Camping at Death Valley National Park

Camping

There are several campgrounds operated by the National Parks system in Death Valley National Park. Furnace Creek Campground is the main campground and the only one to take reservations or offer full hookups.

If you’re planning on going in the summer, Mesquite Spring, Emigrant, Wildrose, and Furnace Creek campgrounds are open year-round.

Mahogany FlatStovepipe WellsSunsetTexas Springs, and Thorndike are open from late fall through spring, which is the most popular time for camping in Death Valley National Park.

Reservations and Fees

Reservations can be made for Furnace Creek from October 15-April 15 up to six months in advance by calling 877-444-6777 or on the campground’s website. No reservations are offered in the summer months.

Reservations at Furnace Creek can fill up quickly, especially during popular times such as holiday weekends, so book early if you want to camp there. If you’re looking for something more last-minute, don’t worry! The Sunset and Stovepipe Wells campgrounds rarely fill up, even on busy weekends, so you should definitely be able to find a spot.

Planning to use one of the first-come, first-served campsites? Simply find an empty spot, then pay the campground fee at one of the automated self-help kiosks using a credit or debit card. The kiosks are located near the entrance of each campground.

Fees vary from free at several campgrounds (Emigrant, Wildrose, Thorndike, and Mahogany Flat) to $36 for full hookup sites at Furnace Creek.

RV Camping at Death Valley National Park

RV Camping in Death Valley National Park

Furnace Creek has 18 full hookup RV sites. They offer 30/50 amp, sewer, and water, and multiple dump stations are available in the area. These sites often book up the full six months in advance. If the site you want isn’t available for the dates you’ve selected, try one of the private campgrounds below. If you don’t mind not having hookups, several of the other campgrounds mentioned above can accommodate RVs as well.

Some important things to note:

  • Mahogany Flats, Thorndike, and Wildrose campgrounds have a length restriction of 25 feet in total length (Thorndike doesn’t allow RVs at all).
  • Texas Springs, Mesquite Springs, and Furnace Creek campgrounds can be difficult to maneuver into with longer RVs.
  • Sunset and Stovepipe Wells campgrounds do not have limitations that would restrict RV length.
  • Emigrant campground is tent only.

ADA Accessible Sites

8 fully accessible sites are available at Furnace Creek, including sites with hookups. Additionally, most of Furnace Creek is ADA and wheelchair-friendly, with the exception of tent sites 116-146.

Amenities

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California.
Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California.

Potable water is available at most campgrounds, with the exception of Mahogany Flat, Thorndike, and Emigrant. Toilets are available at or near all campgrounds. Most campgrounds have flush toilets. Wildrose, Thorndike, and Mahogany Flat are more primitive and have pit toilets only.

Many campgrounds include tables and firepits. For a complete list of the amenities at each campground, use the links above to visit the webpage of the specific campground you’re interested in, or visit the National Park’s website.

Restaurants and Supplies

Want to take a break from cooking? There are several restaurants located throughout the park where you can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Need supplies? There are several general stores where you can buy essentials such as groceries, ice, firewood, personal items, and anything else you might need.

Private Camping in Death Valley

In addition to the other campgrounds mentioned above, there are several privately-run campgrounds located within Death Valley National Park that accept reservations year-round. You can check these out by using the links here:

Boondocking

Boondocking is welcomed at the park with some guidelines. In general, camping is allowed one mile away from any developed area, paved road, or “day use only” area. A complete list of places where camping is and is not allowed can be found on the park’s website.

If you’re thinking about boondocking, don’t miss this helpful brochure on the park’s website with maps, guidelines, and other useful information. The map will help you easily find spots to camp and it includes things like road definitions and vehicle definitions to help you know what conditions to expect on each road and whether you’ll need a low clearance or high clearance vehicle with 4-Wheel drive.

Things To Do While Camping at Death Valley National Park

Sand Dune Formations in Death Valley National Park, California
Sand Dune Formations in Death Valley National Park

Hiking

There are quite a few hiking trails you can traverse while camping in Death Valley National Park that range from easy to difficult. There are so many beautiful things to see including sand dunes, salt creek, willow canyon, and even a natural bridge. Visit the lowest place in North America on the Badwater salt flat trail or spend some time at Darwin Falls, the rare desert waterfall.

The best time for hiking in Death Valley is November-March. Summer can have extreme temperatures, even at night. Make sure to bring plenty of water; you’ll need more water in the dry desert climate than you would in other places, especially in the summer but also in the cooler months.

Biking

Biking in Death Valley National Park

Do you have a mountain bike? Your Death Valley National Park camping trip is a great opportunity to test it out! Bicycles are welcome on any park roads that are open to public vehicles, and designated bike paths. There are hundreds of miles of roads suitable for mountain bikes including easy, moderate, and difficult paved, dirt, and gravel roads. Bikes are not allowed on hiking trails, service roads, or off of roadways.

Birdwatching

Do you enjoy birdwatching? Hundreds of species of migratory birds pass through Death Valley every year, so this is a great place to see some interesting birds! The best time for birdwatching is during the migratory seasons of spring and fall. You’ll still see birds if you try camping in Death Valley National Park at other times of the year, just not as many.

Backcountry Driving

With nearly 1,000 miles of paved and unpaved roads, camping at Death Valley National Park is a great way to get off the beaten path and really explore. Remember to always stay on designated roads to protect the fragile desert environment. The backcountry can be very remote and cell phone service is basically non-existent so be prepared and make sure you have basic essentials like maps and plenty of water for your adventure.

Stargazing

Stargazing while camping at Death Valley National Park
Milky Way at Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park camping is one of the best opportunities in the United States for stargazing. The Park is certified as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association. This means that the park has made changes to reduce light pollution and is committed to sustaining it’s effort to protect night sky resources and provide education to visitors.

Take some time to gaze up at the stars and be amazed at the natural wonders of the night sky that you just can’t see in the city.

Junior Ranger Program

If you have kids, don’t miss the opportunity to let them become a junior ranger! Kids of all ages (even if you’re just a kid at heart) can become a junior ranger. First, pick up a junior ranger booklet at the Furnace Creek Visitors Center, complete your choice of activities from the booklet, then share what you’ve learned with a park ranger, take the pledge, and you’ll get your very own Death Valley National Park Junior Ranger Badge.

Life in Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is one of the driest places on earth. With an average of fewer than 2 inches of rain per year on the valley floor and temperatures that can climb to over 120 degrees this is certainly a harsh place to live. Many plants and animals have adapted to not only survive but thrive in this unique landscape.

The park isn’t just dry desert floor though, there are some mountain areas as well with the highest summit at 11,049 feet on Telescope Peak. These higher elevations can get over 15 inches of rain per year and are home to more plant and animal species.

Wildlife

Death Valley National Park, Desert Bighorn Sheep
Death Valley National Park, Desert Bighorn Sheep

There are many types of animals that make their home in Death Valley National Park including birds, reptiles, insects, and even fish. Many of these animals have developed ways to stay cool and survive long periods without water. While camping in Death Valley National Park, you may see animals such as jackrabbits, bighorn sheep, salamanders, and tortoises.

Vegetation

Joshua tree in Death Valley National Park
Joshua tree in Death Valley National Park

There is a wide variety of plant life in Death Valley as well, especially in higher elevation areas. You can see Joshua trees, many types of cacti and succulents, and wildflowers. If you like wildflowers, try to visit in spring when they’ll be blooming!

Wrapping Up Camping in Death Valley National Park

Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park
Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is a unique and beautiful place to visit. There are so many great things to see and do, you’re sure to have a great time!

There are so many great options when it comes to camping at Death Valley National Park. Whether you want a full hookup spot for your RV, primitive backcountry camping, or something in between, Death Valley has a campsite for you. Which campsite do you want to check out first?

Looking for more California camping adventures? We’ve got more recommendations for you right here:

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