Backcountry Camping


Interested in backcountry (dispersed) camping? It is a great opportunity to explore the park's rugged Wilderness. Check out the information on this page to learn where camping is allowed, what regulations apply, and how to obtain a free permit.


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Regulations and Information

  • Campfires are prohibited. Fire can only be made in established campgrounds with provided metal fire rings. Gathering wood is unlawful and burning of wood is not allowed in the backcountry. Campstoves and propane grills are allowed in all areas.
  • Group size is limited to 12 people and no more than 4 vehicles. Larger groups must split up and camp at least 1/2 mile apart.
  • Off-Road Driving is prohibited. The desert environment is extremely fragile and slow to recover from vehicle damage. If pulling off a road to camp, choose a place that has already been disturbed.
  • Pets are permitted ONLY in developed areas and on park roads. They must be leashed and restrained at all times. Owners are responsible for clean-up of pet feces. Pets are NOT allowed off roads, on trails, or in the wilderness areas of the park.
  • Know where you can go! While vast areas of the park are open for backcountry camping, there are many areas (such as trailheads, overlooks, dunes, salt flats, etc.) that are closed to camping. Take a look at the Backcountry & Wilderness Access Map prior to your trip to know where camping is allowed.

Where is backcountry roadside camping allowed?

  • Along dirt roads at least one mile away from any paved road or "day use only" dirt road.
  • Camp only in previously disturbed areas and park your vehicle immediately adjacent to the roadway to minimize impact. The wilderness boundary is 50 feet from the center of most dirt roads.
  • Download the Backcountry & Wilderness Access Map to take with you.

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, on the Eureka Dunes or in Greenwater Canyon.

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)
  • Grotto Canyon Road
  • Racetrack Road (from Teakettle Junction to Homestake Dry Camp)
  • Natural Bridge Canyon
  • Desolation Canyon
  • Pinion Mesa Road
  • Big Pine Road (22 miles inside of Death Valley National Park)

Camping is NOT allowed at the following historic mining areas:

  • Keane Wonder Mine
  • Lost Burro Mine
  • Ubehebe Lead Mine
  • Skidoo Mill
  • One mile from all standing mining structures. Generally camping should be avoided in mining districts for personal and resource safety.

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

Valuable Backcountry Suggestions

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. If using backcountry water sources, check with a ranger for water availability, as many springs are seasonal. Always filter water from sources, most springs are heavily used by burros, horses and bighorn sheep.

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.

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.

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

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.

Backcountry/Wilderness Permits

Free voluntary permits for backcountry camping may be obtained online, or in person at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center or Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station during business hours. Solo hikers may want to provide additional information about plans and emergency contacts.

Last updated: July 12, 2022

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P.O. Box 579
Death Valley , CA 92328


760 786-3200

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