Death Valley National Park is a place everyone must experience at least once in their life. It’s one of the most unique places in the world. Traveling by RV to Death Valley is not only an adventure of a lifetime, but it’s also affordable. While Death Valley seems very isolated and remote, it’s actually close to both Los Angeles and Las Vegas. However, it is only appropriate to travel here in the late fall through very early spring. Late spring, summer and early fall brings deadly, high temperatures.
Death Valley is designated among the International Dark Sky Parks, allowing you to see the night sky in all its splendor. There is camping in many areas around Death Valley, but please check to see if the area you are interested in is appropriate for your rig.
No matter what time of year you visit, be sure to fill your tanks with plenty of water. Make sure your motorhome, van, or truck is in good repair, and keep your gas tank topped off.
Places to Go In Death Valley
Once you get to the park, play it safe, and only drive on the main roads; GPS is not always accurate in Death Valley. Many visitors have become lost, desperately wandering down unmarked dirt roads, following the directions of Google maps. Furthermore, you may not have cell service here, so you won’t be able to call for help.
If you took the route from Amargosa Valley to Highway 190, the first stop on your journey will be Zabriskie Point. Be sure to stop at the lookout point for an amazing view of the colorful, undulating landscape. The short hike to the viewing area does have a pretty steep incline, so if you have mobility issues, be careful. Once there, you can read about the history of this amazing badlands, as well as the minerals creating this vivid landscape.
The next stop on Highway 190 is the Furnace Creek visitor center, where you pay the entrance fee. You can ask the rangers any questions you may have, as well as pick up free maps. This is the largest community within the park, with a general store, gas stations, a few restaurants, and a campground.
The Borax Museum at Furnace Creek has a lot of fascinating artifacts from the borax mining days. The Death Valley History Association is here, offering guided tours of the park during the winter months. Further down the road, you can see the old Harmony Borax plant, with a real 20 mule team wagon in front.
The Salt Creek Interpretive Trail
Keep going on Highway 190, until you see the sign for the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail; it’s a boardwalk that’s easily accessible for anyone. The Salt Creek Trail winds through a surprising small wetlands area. Most of Salt Creek dries up in the summer, however, the end of the trail always has water. There are signs all along the trail telling you all about the unusual wetlands here in the middle of the hottest desert in the world. Once you get to the headwaters, look the rare, endangered Salt Creek Pupfish, a tiny fish that only live here.
Mesquite Sand Dunes
While not the only sand dunes here, these are the most accessible. Mesquite Sand Dunes is one of the places where the original Star Wars was filmed; it’s the planet of Tatooine, the home of Luke Skywalker.
There is a place to gas up your RV, a general store, a bar, and a ranger station here. Stovepipe Wells is a good place to stop to fill up the gas tank and get some snacks.
If you are an aficionado of slot canyons, this one is easy. The polished rock walls of Mosaic Canyon are caused by flash floods, so it’s important to never enter any slot canyon if it looks like rain.
The world-renowned Artist’s Palette covers 9-miles, and parts of the road are very twisty and narrow. It may not be appropriate if you have a big-rig. This is also a popular drive, so be prepared for traffic.
The first viewing area has a pretty big parking lot, but climbing up to the viewing area can be a challenge. If you make it, the views of the undulating, painted hills are jaw-dropping. The second viewing area has a smaller parking lot and a shorter climb, and the colors of the hills from here are much more vivid. This is definitely the place to take some pictures.
Devil’s Golf Course
If you take a turn onto Salt Pool Road, you’ll discover an otherworldly landscape of mounds encrusted with a fragile layer of sand. If you walk over the mounds, they make strange popping sounds, however, be careful; sometimes the ground opens up to the salt pools beneath the surface.
The Natural Bridge Canyon Trail takes you on a 1-mile hike to Death Valley’s most popular natural bridge. Half a mile from the entrance, the red sandstone canyon walls form a 50-foot tall natural bridge across the canyon.
This is the park’s most famous location; it is the lowest point inNorth America, as well as the hottest and driest place on earth. Among the first things, you’ll see is the small pool of very concentrated saltwater that never dries out. Beyond that, gleaming salt flats stretch as far as the eye can see, to the based of the distant, snow-capped mountains. Walking onto the surreal, white salt flats is an otherworldly experience you won’t forget.
The last stop on this journey is Ashford Mill. This place is the ruins of a once a thriving gold mining town. Ashford Mill was built by the Ashford brothers way back in 1914. This is where gold ore from the Golden Treasure Mine, 5-miles to the east, was processed. Sadly, all that remains of Ashford Mill today are a handful of crumbling ruins.
Death Valley is a place filled with both history and mystery; from the miners of the early 20th century, to the eons of geologic history it took to form this strange place, Death Valley should be on the bucket list of every RVer.