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    Death Valley

    National Park CA,NV

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  • EXTREME SUMMER HEAT

    Expect high temperatures of 100 to 120 degrees F on your summer visit to Death Valley. Heat related illness is a real possibility. Drink plenty of water and carry extra. Avoid activity in the heat. Travel prepared to survive. Watch for signs of trouble. More »

  • Zabriskie Point to close for repairs

    Starting October 1, 2014 through March 31, 2015, all access to Zabriskie Point and surrounding area will be closed for major rehabilitation work to repair unstable support walls and improve conditions.

Backcountry Camping

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Courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Death Valley National Park's backcountry has a variety of rugged mountain and desert terrain. More than 3 million acres of wilderness and almost 700 miles of backcountry dirt roads are open to camping under the following regulations.
 

Where is dispersed backcountry roadside camping allowed?

  • More than one miles away from any developed area, paved road, or "day use only" area.
  • Camp only in previously disturbed areas and park your vehicle close to the roadway to minimize impact.

Where is backcountry camping NOT allowed?

Camping is NOT allowed on the valley floor from Ashford Mill in the south to 2 miles north of Stovepipe Wells.

Backcountry campsites must be more than 100 yards from any water source to protect these fragile areas for wildlife use.

Camping is NOT allowed on the following "day use only" dirt roads:

  • Titus Canyon Road
  • Mosaic Canyon Road
  • West Side Road
  • Wildrose Road
  • Skidoo Road
  • Aguereberry Point Road
  • Cottonwood Canyon Road (first 8 miles only)
  • Racetrack Road (from Teakettle Junction to Homestake Dry Camp)

Camping is NOT allowed at the following historic mining areas:

  • Keane Wonder Mine
  • Lost Burro Mine
  • Ubehebe Lead Mine
  • Camping should be avoided near all mining areas for personal safety.

If in doubt whether an area is open to camping please check at the nearest Ranger Station or the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.


Free voluntary permits for backcountry camping may be obtained at the visitor center or any ranger station. Solo hikers may want to provide additional information about plans and emergency contacts.

Overnight group size is limited to 12 people and no more than 4 vehicles. Larger groups will need to split up and camp at least 1 mile apart.

Campfires are prohibited, except in fire pits in developed campgrounds. Gathering wood is unlawful and burning of wood is not allowed in the backcountry. Campstoves and barbeque grills are allowed. Charcoal ashes must be packed out.


Valuable Backcountry Suggestions

Water
Since many springs may be dry or contaminated, plan to carry your own water or stash it ahead of time. During hot spring, summer and fall months, one gallon of water or more per person per day is needed. Heat and very low humidity create extreme dehydration potential during summer. We do not suggest low elevation hiking in Death Valley National Park between May and October.

Hazards
In winter, the higher elevations are cold enough that snow and ice conditions may require special safety equipment. Do not enter mine shafts, tunnels, or buildings. Watch for rattlesnakes, especially near old structures and vegetated areas near water. Do not camp in dry washes or drainages due to potential flash flood danger.

Backpacking
Death Valley National Park has few maintained trails and no established campsites in the wilderness. Since most hiking here is cross-country, it is important to hike on areas where your footsteps will have the least impact. Trampling of vegetation, fragile soil crusts, aquatic habitats and animal burrows should be avoided.

Maps
Detailed maps are necessary for many hikes in Death Valley National Park. Topographic maps are available online, at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center or by phone from the Death Valley Natural History Association (760) 786-2146.


Backcountry Ethics - Walking softly in the Desert

The desert is as fragile as any other natural area. Here are some tips that can help you be an ethical hiker and camper.

Learn about the region before you go
Talk to a ranger or read publications before your trip. When you familiarize yourself with a certain area, you will know what equipment you need for a safe trip and to leave the area as pristine as you found it.

Walk on durable surfaces
Since most hiking in Death Valley National Park is cross-country, it's important to hike on areas where your footsteps will have the least impact. Trampling of vegetation, fragile soil crusts, and animal burrows should be avoided. Walking in canyons with flowing water can have damaging effects on riparian habitats. Avoid walking in the water if possible. If there is an established trail, stay on it. Other low impact areas include desert pavement and dry, gravelly washes. When hiking in large groups cross-country, disperse into smaller groups of 3 or 4 and do not walk single file as this creates trails that can last for years.

Choose resistant campsites
Avoid areas with organic ground cover. Instead, choose areas on rock, sand or gravel. Cooking areas should be located away from sleeping areas. This "spreading out" will reduce impact in a concentrated area. Disperse large groups to reduce impacts.

Human waste disposal
To prevent pollution of water or spread of disease, you must dispose of solid waste properly. Dig a "cat-hole" with a small trowel 4-6 inches deep and at least 200 yards from any water source or campsite. After use, the cat-hole should be covered with soil and disguised with natural material.

The more popular backcountry use becomes, the more important backcountry ethics become.

Did You Know?

The Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley National Park

In 1929, no rain was recorded in Death Valley, California. From 1931 through 1934, a 40 month period, only 0.64 inches of rain fell. More...