RVing to Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is a wondrous area and truly a highlight of the beauty of America. The name is for good reason, it gets HOT and DESOLATE in the summer, reaching temps above 130. It also has an incredibly beautiful side. Nature is thriving out here, you just have to look a little harder to find it.
Driving out into the Desert
We often do long drives towards the end of the day so we can have the kids sleeping in their seats and we can cover a lot of ground. Driving the 5th wheel out in Death Valley is amazing. At times I felt like I was in the game Rad Racer from the 80’s. It was completely dark with a beautifully lit up paved road ahead of me. Cliffs and mountains would show themselves when the lighting would open up.
We stopped a few times for a variety of reasons and each time I found myself staring into the sky at the vastness of this place. To get the full effect of the night sky make sure you block any light that can be seen from your eyes for a minute or so. That will allow your eyes to adjust to get the full experience.
The Campground – Stovepipe Wells
We pulled in without knowing it was the last day of the season for the Stovepipe Wells Campground. We stayed one night, it was basically an open salt flat with hookups.
The next day when the ranger let us know it was closed for the season we moved less than an eighth of a mile to the RV Resort. Which was nice cause it had a pool and was still inexpensive. It’s a great base camp to explore this wonderful National Park.
The Night Sky
Want to be WOWed by the sky? Plan on spending some time outside after dark. I’ve been here both when the sky was completely dark other than the stars popping out and also when the moon is in full force. Both are incredible. I would highly recommend if there is a moon, utilizing its lighting and taking a night hike up on the dunes. Bucket list experience as they turn gray like the moon.
Ghost and Mining Towns
You can find ghost towns and old mining towns in a variety of areas in Death Valley National Park.
The Rhyolite Ghost Town in the Nevada section of Death Valley is one of the more famous ones. It’s also easily accessible from the main areas of the park. It has a lot of great things to explore and check out.
Some are right off the main road and some are way out off a rough road miles away from anything! Keep in mind if you find old mines DO NOT go in them. They are very dangerous and often unstable.
This is the lowest point in Elevation in the United States of America standing at 282 ft below sea level. Once we leave here we will be heading to the highest point in the continental United States (Mt Whitney 14,496ft).
The salt flats here are a must to walk out on.
If you’re lucky enough to be here in the rare event that it rains, it opens up to another world.
Hiking the Mesquite Dunes
This is a must do when you visit Death Valley. They are MASSIVE mounds of sand that stack up in the valley surrounded by large mountains in the distance. At Sunrise and Sunset the lighting becomes magical with the shadows bursting through the dunes.
If you get up for Sunrise there are good odds that you’ll be one of the very few people out exploring at that time of the day. This has been something I’ve taken serious when I visit National Parks, get in early and enjoy nature as it wakes up BEFORE more people wake up!
Another must stop is Zabriskie Point. It’s can be done as a quick stop to soak in the view OR what we recommend is you get down into the canyons and start hiking! It can be a little challenging to find your way back in this maze so make sure you have GPS or a drop pin on your phone before you start hiking.
Yet another wonder from this incredible place of nature. The Artist’s Palette is a place where the rocks are more colorful than a Crayola Crayons Box! You can hike and explore up in the different colored hills.
It’s located somewhat near Badwater Basin and if you’re going to visit one, make sure you visit both. You’ll enjoy a one way road through this area with many areas to pull over and go hiking.
Military Jets on the Dunes
If you’re lucky you’ll be able to experience some of the latest and greatest military jets taking practice flights out above Death Valley. It’s such a vast area that it’s fun to try to find the jet when the sound is trailing so far behind. I was on the top of the Mesquite Dunes when these two came roaring right above me. Very cool experience.
Don’t Feed the Wildlife
We’ve seen some pretty smart animals over the years who have figured out ways to get what they want in highly trafficked tourist spots. I was surprised when in the middle of the day a Coyote crossed the road directly in front of us, it seemed like it was doing it to grab our attention.
Turns out that’s exactly what it was doing. They get people to pull over and then know that a certain percentage of them will give them food. We saw someone with a rental RV feeding the coyotes;
I tried to tell them not to because it can cause the coyotes to get cross the roads and get hit but they didn’t speak any English. That coyote worked them hard for an entire loaf of bread, coming within inches of them handing it out.
Speaking of wildlife, most of the wildlife around here are going to be a little bit more challenging to find than in a forest. Often you just have to slow down your pace, stop and look for it to present itself.
Don’t Be Dumb – Fill Up
I’ve been dumb quite a few times. I looked at our fuel gauge the morning when I was packing up the RV and we had about 140 miles or so until E. I checked and the nearest gas station with Diesel was back the opposite way in Death Valley at Furnace Creek, we were headed west towards the Sierra’s.
The nearest gas station headed west was around 30 miles or so and I called them to make sure there wasn’t going to be some insane incline where I’d burn up all my fuel on the way there. The lady said there wasn’t…
Turns out there was. In fact that road is a 9% grade, which means within a few miles I burnt through almost all my fuel. What was worse is that there were NO turnoffs and it was on a curvy dangerous mountain road. Any turnoffs we found wouldn’t hardly fit our truck, let alone our 44ft 5th wheel.