West of Las Vegas, in the well-known Death Valley, the Funeral Mountains Wilderness Area is anything but boring. Its namesake, the Funeral Mountains, contain colorful limestone bands and tower above the arid desert below. The highest peak in the area is Bat Mountain, and in nearby Death Valley National Park, Pyramid Peak reaches 7,000 feet.
Managed by the Bureau of Land Management, this otherworldly location is not for everyone. Extreme heat and dry conditions suggest that it's best to avoid the area in the summer, and even in the fall, winter, and spring, precautions are necessary. Water is your lifeline here, and the lack of services of any kind means you're on your own. The perk of this desolate location is that it is remote and uncrowded. You can explore without seeing another human most days.The wildlife roams free in their natural habitat with little interference from us.
Dispersed camping is the only option on the BLM land. No vehicles are allowed to enter the area. Within an hour of the boundary of the Funeral Mountain Wilderness Area, you can be camping in the RV-friendly and world-famous Death Valley National Park. To round out the perfect desert road trip, the bright lights of Las Vegas are about 100 miles east, and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is on the way if you plan it right.
The closest major city to this BLM land is Las Vegas. To reach the area you'll travel about two hours west and most of the journey is on the I-95, which is RV-friendly. Once at Armagosa Valley, head north and follow the signs with a right and a slight left. Once the road ends, park your vehicle and walk, cycle, or ride your horse into the wilderness area.
When driving through the desolate Death Valley Area, make sure your vehicle is in good condition and can handle elevation gain and drop. Vehicles should have excellent brakes not be prone to overheating in extremely hot conditions.
Parking is not a problem for any size of rig at the Funeral Mountains Wilderness Area. All vehicles must be parked at the boundary to the area so as not to interfere with the natural wilderness. Obey signs if you see any and park respectfully, as out of the way as possible.
The Furnace Creek Campground has paved roads and parking pads as well as several large parking lots for use by registered campers.
Since there are no official BLM campgrounds at the Funeral Mountains Wilderness Area, visitors can benefit from the proximity to the excellent camping at Death Valley National Park. The most popular campground, Furnace Creek, is the only one that accepts reservations. In addition to Furnace Creek, there are eight first-come, first-served campgrounds at the national park. They are generally only open during the peak season: late fall to early spring.
Furnace Creek is open year-round, although only accepts reservations during the peak season. Due to the extremely high temperatures, even overnight, most campers prefer to avoid the summer. The location of the campground is 196 feet below sea level.
The area is flat, sandy, and open. Campsites have paved parking pads and there are 18 sites with full hookups. In total there are 130 campsites, 79 o,f which are suitable for RVs. The largest sites accommodate rigs up to 107 feet in length.
The amenities at Furnace Creek Campground include flush toilets, a dump station, and taps for drinking water. Each campsite also has the standard fire pit with a grill and picnic table.
Without official campgrounds, the BLM land at the Funeral Mountains Wilderness Area is open to hike-in, tent-only camping for everyone. As long as you leave no trace, you can camp in any location you choose. Dry camping is free here and very peaceful. Camping in the desert has challenges, but one nice feature is the Funeral Mountains Wilderness availability of soft, sandy surfaces for your tent.
Death Valley gets so hot in the summer that most visitors avoid the time from the late spring to the early fall. At their peak, overnight temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are no services whatsoever here, prepare to bring all your supplies, especially water. Only the most experienced backcountry campers should set up camp far from the boundaries from the park due to the extreme weather conditions.
The absence of designated trails within the Funeral Mountains Wilderness Area means that you are free to explore. Hiking here should only be undertaken by experienced hikers who have prepared for the conditions. The elevation gain in the wilderness area is from 2,200 feet up to the summit of Bat Mountain, which looms at 4,950 feet.
For hikers looking for an easy hike, cross over into Death Valley National Park, and you'll have your pick. The Natural Bridge and Badwater Salt Flat trails are rated easy at one mile each. For a moderate hike, check out the Darwin Falls Trail, which is two miles or head to Golden Canyon on the three-mile trail.
No matter which hike you choose, or the time of year, make sure you carry at least two liters of water per person.
This area of California is one of the driest places in the world. This, coupled with the extremely hot conditions, might have you thinking that there is no wildlife at the Funeral Mountains Wilderness Area. On the contrary, it just means that the wildlife here is well-suited and well-adapted to these harsh conditions.
The best time to see active wildlife at this BLM property is when the weather isn't so extreme. The peak season from late fall to early spring is your best bet. Some of the desert wildlife you can encounter during your travels are the jackrabbit, kangaroo rat, desert tortoise, and bighorn sheep.
For adventurous travelers, nearby Death Valley National Park provides a challenging opportunity to climb Pyramid Peak. While it may not be an official rock climbing route, the trail is hard to find at times. Some sections require scrambling to traverse and the last two miles are the hardest. Prepare to gain approximately 3,700 feet in the last section of the climb.
If you make it to the top you will be rewarded panoramic views of Death Valley and Telescope Peak. Pack sufficient water and allow a full day from sun up to sunset to complete this excursion.
Once you've spent some time traveling around the BLM property, regardless of the time of year, you're going to need a break. Finding shade is a problem at the Funeral Mountains Wilderness Area, so consider traveling with your own umbrella or pop up shelter. The hotter the weather, the higher you need to go to find bearable temperatures.
If you can make it to the summit of Bat Mountain, you can enjoy a lovely lunch here with a stunning view over the barren land below. If this is too extreme for you, just travel to the highest elevation you can manage.
If you are traveling to the Funeral Mountains Wilderness during the off-season, when the temperatures are extreme, avoid the heat by planning some indoor activities.
The BLM land contains no structures of any kind, but at Death Valley National Park, you can take shelter at a few places. Head inside at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, where kids can participate in a junior ranger program. They also display exhibits here and play a short film.
For some additional time indoors, check out the Borax Museum in Furnace Creek. It has a small collection of borax products and mining artifacts. Explore the local history in one of the oldest buildings in the entire national park.
When temperatures are high in the off-season, finding things to do at night, when the weather is a little cooler, can be a challenge. Devote some time on your trip to stargazing in at the Funeral Mountains Wilderness Area. The absence of crowds and light of any kind lead to a fantastic star-filled experience.
Bring your star maps and other celestial guides to understand more of what you're seeing. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.