What is Death Valley Camping, Really?
To put it lightly, Death Valley camping is an intense experience. This eastern California desert ranks among the hottest places in the world – comparable to the Arabian Desert in the Middle East. The valley also marks the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level.
Despite its harsh climate & terrain, if you plan your trip appropriately, you’ll be able to discover all the hidden wonders of this epic National Park.
In this article we’ll discuss ideal travel months, the best Death Valley campgrounds, a camping checklist, and awesome activities to do in the area.
Why is it called Death Valley?
Death Valley was aptly named by a group of pioneers in the 1800s. After hiking into the valley, the group thought they might never get out. The National Park Service website sums it up like this:
Death Valley was given its forbidding name by a group of pioneers lost here in the winter of 1849-1850…They were rescued by two of their young men, William Lewis Manly and John Rogers, who had learned to be scouts. As the party climbed out of the valley over the Panamint Mountains, one of the men turned, looked back, and said “goodbye, Death Valley.” – NPS Website
When is the ideal time for Death Valley Camping?
We don’t recommend visiting Death Valley in the heat of the summer. Yes, there are crazy events that take place in the summer months like the Badwater Marathon (a 135 mile race in July). However, those extreme activities are for a special breed of adrenaline junkies!
Based on the temp chart below, we think January, February, March, April, November & December are ideal months to visit Death Valley.
If you visit in the spring (Feb-Apr), there’s a good chance you see a desert wildflower bloom. Depending on the winter rainfall, you may get to see a “super bloom”.
Best Campgrounds in Death Valley
The Death Valley area offers many great camping options. From tenting in the National Park to RV resorts with natural hot springs, there’s a campground that fits your needs.
We’re featuring the 5 best campgrounds. We’ll include amenity, location and camper experience info. Additionally, each site is rated on a unique “Death Valley Camping Vibes” scale for easy head-to-head comparison.
1: Furnace Creek Campground
Location: 36.4639, -116.8691
Why You’ll Love It: This National Park campground puts you in the center of the action. You’ll have great mountain views, and even a few shade trees. There are a limited amount of RV sites with hookups…most sites are dry camping.
There’s water available to all onsite, as well as toilets, fire pits and a bathroom sink. This is typical for Death Valley Camping.
From October to April, you can reserve a site in advance. During the summer months its first come first served.
What’s The Word: Mad Dog on Campendium says, “There is a dump station and water fill station. This is next door to “The Ranch” resort that has a restaurant, bar and laundry. There is a pool and showers that can be accessed for $5/pp. We had AT&T cell signal, but were on a “out-of-network data connection” that limited out at 400mg.”
Death Valley Camping Vibes: 8.4/10 Great location inside National Park & good price!
2: The Pads
Location: 36.3391, -116.5996
Why You’ll Love It: First of all, the price is great! The site is an old mining property that provided “pads” for its employees to live. These pads are now great camping spots! There are “longer term” resident campers. However, we hear they’re kind and even pick up trash!
The location gives you easy access to the National Park.
We do recommend a solid shelter (RV, car, van) when camping here. It could be pretty uncomfortable to tent camp at The Pads.
What’s The Word: A. Christensen on Campendium says, “After three days in busy Texas Spring campground in Furnace Creek, it was great to be someplace quiet and private. There were only two others there, one of whom is sort of the host/caretaker. I found a spot way at the end. I used my pad like a patio. It was great.”
Death Valley Camping Vibes: 8.9/10 Free & unique camping experience
3: Texas Springs Campground
Location: 36.459, -116.853
Why You’ll Love It: This is another National Park campground that puts you close to the key features of Death Valley. The campground is closed during the summer and reopens in late October or early November depending on the weather.
While the location is great, the campground will have you packed pretty close together. No RV hookups are available, but onsite you’ll find water, flush toilets, fire pits and a dump station.
What’s The Word: Brain on Campendium says, “QUIET! HEHE because generators are not permitted Yea!!!! Bathrooms with flushing toilets Gravel pads. No privacy between spaces but there was lots of availability in February”
Death Valley Camping Vibes: 7.5/10 Prime location with less camping-vibes.
4: Wild Rose Campground
Location: 36.266, -117.185
Why You’ll Love It: Well, its free and we love that…but better still, this campground is on the mountain overlooking the valley. That means (slightly) cooler temps! You’ll be above 4000′ elevation as opposed to -200′.
The campground has two access roads – one is half paved but can accommodate larger RVs. The other is paved but restricts units over 24′.
Even though its free, this Death Valley Camping option has a few amenities provided like: water, restrooms, picnic area, and fire rings.
What’s The Word: Nora, who gave the campground five stars, says, “This campground is near the Trona enterance but it’s a trek from the rest of the park. In comparison to Emigrant, Stovepipe Wells, and Texas Springs campgrounds it was by far the best. All the campgrounds near visitor centers were like parking lots with no privacy”
Death Valley Camping Vibes: 8.2/10 Free, unique and cooler temps!
5: Tecopa Hot Springs Campground
Location: 35.8734, -116.2323
Why You’ll Love It: If you love soaking in natural hot springs, this is the spot for you! In fact, this was the most mineral rich water we’ve ever soaked in!
The sites are basic, but do include water and electricity. The surrounding mountain landscape creates a wonderful camping-vibe. The campground also hosts live music on busy weekends and special events throughout the year.
Soaker beware – if you don’t like bathing nude you may want to go elsewhere. No clothes while soaking is mandatory.
What’s The Word: B&V on Campendium says, “Facilities are simple but clean. The price includes access to the hot springs which is a great deal since there is no water or sewage hookup.
Bring lots of drinking water since there is none in town.”
Death Valley Camping Vibes: 8.6/10 Love the hot springs!
Death Valley Camping Checklist
Most of the Death Valley camping options will include limited or no hook ups. This means you’ll need to be extra-prepared on your adventure!
- Water: At the very least, bring multiple jugs of drinking water. If you’re in an RV, fill up the fresh tank before setting up camp. Potable water can be challenging to access inside the National Park.
- Electricity: There are a few options for staying charged while camping at Death Valley. For tents & vans, having a portable battery station (like a Goal Zero) will keep your electronics charged without draining your vehicle battery. For RVers, carrying a small inverter generator is your best bet.
- Food: Stock up before you make the trip to Death Valley. There aren’t a lot of great grocery options in the area.
- Gas: For good measure, fill your tank before entering Death Valley. There is gas available in and near the park…but its usually double the price!
- Trash Bags: Bring a couple trash bags with you. If you have extra bags, pick up the campsite and leave it better than you found it!
- Bathroom: While some campsites have a vault toilet, always come prepared with another option. For tent & van campers, we recommend bringing a small cassette toilet. RVers – make sure your black tank is empty before arrival.
- Camping Stove: You’ll need a way to cook your dinner. We recommend one of these top propane camping stoves for your culinary arts!
- Camping Chair: It may seem obvious, but you won’t want to forget a quality camping chair. You and you pets won’t want to sit on the rough terrain. Here are 11 camping chairs we love.
- Additional Comforts: Sunglasses, sun block, bug spray, maps, hammock, pocket knife, binoculars, umbrellas, first aid kit.
Trip Planning for Death Valley Camping
Let’s start with the good…Death Valley National Park can accommodate almost all size RVs. However, you’ll want to plan your trip before heading out.
Don’t drive mid-day in the peak of summer. Your vehicle could easily overheat.
We use RV Trip Wizard to plan our routes. It allows us to enter our RV specs, ideal travel style and budget. With that info RV Trip Wizard helps us create the ideal plan.
For those of you in large RVs, this tool will help you avoid low hanging bridges, steep mountain passes and tunnels.
The Best Free Camping in the Entire USA
We love camping across this amazing country. And, we really love it when its free. Here’s our list of the 20 Best Free Campsites in the USA.
If you haven’t tried free camping before, also known as boondocking, take a look at our beginners guide to boondocking filled with everything you need to know to get started.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site! Simply enter your email below.
Thanks for including our video on Furnace Creek Campground! The Bennett-Arcane party (the pioneers who were stuck on the valley floor in 1849) included Asabel & Sarah Bennett who were my great-great-great grandparents. The story we were told was either Sarah or the other lady in the party turned around and said “Goodbye Death Valley” so if the story is true, it’s a 50/50 chance my relative named it! I feel pretty honored to have a video included on your website.
Heather at Travel Small Live Big