Where to Camp in Death Valley National Park
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In the land of extremes, you may experience a steady drought or a rare rainstorm bringing wildflowers. You may experience record summer heat or see mountains with winter snow. You can even find rare fish in an oasis here in the lowest point in the US, 282 feet below sea level, and just 85 miles east-southeast of the highest point in the contiguous US, Mt. Whitney, 14,505 feet above sea level.
Since Death Valley desert is the hottest spot in the entire world you’ll want to limit your camping trip to the cooler months, October-April. There are all sorts of different options for camping, from bringing your RV to backcountry camping, so there’ll be something for you, but below we’ll go over where to camp in Death Valley.
First off, know the park’s camping rules and regulations:
Campfires are prohibited except in established campgrounds with provided metal fire rings.
Camp stoves and propane grills are allowed in all areas.
No burning wood in the backcountry.
Off-Road driving is prohibited. Vehicles damage the fragile desert environment and it’s slow to recover.
If car camping, only pull off the road onto places that have already been disturbed.
Pets are permitted only on park roads and in developed areas. They must be leashed and at all times. Owners are responsible for cleaning up any waste. Pets are not allowed off roads, on trails, or in the wilderness areas of the park.
Backcountry campsites must be more than 100 yards from any water source to protect these fragile areas for wildlife use.
The park has a limit of 30 days allowed for people to camp there each year.
RV and Trailers
Now into Death Valley National Park camping, we’ll start with the most luxurious, RV camping. There is only one National Park Service campground with hookups, and it only has 18 of those, so be sure to make your reservation in advance! They’ve been filling up earlier and earlier, and this is the most popular campground, so even if you’re staying in a tent, reservations are recommended. There are other campgrounds without hookups that allow RVs and trailers, and other hookup sites available at the concession-run Stovepipe Wells RV Park and the privately owned Panamint Springs Resort.
If you want to sleep off of the ground but don’t have an RV or a trailer, you can sleep in your car! Car camping can be comfortable and easy, and it gets you off of the earth! There are just a few restrictions for car camping. You can only car camp:
On dirt roads (on the shoulder).
Immediately next to the roadway to minimize your impact on the environment.
In previously disturbed areas.
One mile or more away from “day use only” or paved roads.
One mile or more away from standing mining structures.
More than 100 yards away from water sources.
If you’re unable to make a campground reservation in time, car camping is a great option.
Finally, you’ve got options for tent camping! Stay in a campground, or head out into the backcountry for your adventure. It’s suggested that you get a permit if you’re backcountry camping, but it’s not required. Permit info.
There are a few restrictions for backcountry camping too. Your campsite must be more than 100 yards from water sources and away from standing mining structures. If you’re not in a campground, you need to know where it’s okay for you to camp, and the NPS’ Backcountry Camping page and Backcountry & Wilderness Access Map are great planning tools!
However, if you want to be in a campground, you’ve got a few options. Not many of the campgrounds are open between May-September (midnight temps can still be over 100 degrees!), so between the closures and the heat, your best bet is to visit in the fall, winter, and early spring.
Reservations are recommended for Furnace Creek, as it’s the most popular place to camp, but if you branch out to one of the nine other NPS campsites, none of them require reservations. There are also three privately owned campgrounds in the park that are open year-round and do accept reservations: Stovepipe Wells RV Park, The Ranch at Death Valley, and Panamint Springs Resort.
Many water sources can be dried up or contaminated so you may need to bring your own. Check with a ranger ahead of time to see if the water near where you’re going is seasonal or not and be sure to filter everything you collect!
All vegetation in Death Valley National Park is protected. Firewood is available for sale at Furnace Creek and at the Stovepipe Wells General Stores, or you can bring your own supply.
Charcoal-producing fires may only be made in NPS metal fire pits.
All grills and stoves must be gas burning.
Fires are prohibited between June 15-September 15 and other periods of high fire danger at Mahogany Flat, Thorndike, and Wildrose Campgrounds.
There aren’t any established campsites out here, but be sure to camp and hike where you’ll have the least amount of impact. Avoid crushing fragile soil crusts, vegetation, habitats, and burrows and avoid walking in water if possible. More about backpacking regulations here.
Be sure to bring lots of water and be prepared for your Death Valley camping! If you’d rather we plan your camping or accommodations for this adventure, check out our Death Valley trip! Our destination experts will book your accommodations, and plan a personalized itinerary based on your needs and wants. If you get to go and explore this area, whether we’re helping plan or not, we love to see your photos, so tag us on social media with any photos you take!