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Death Valley is one of the most biodiverse national parks in the United States. Covering more than three million acres – most of it designated wilderness – it’s the largest national park in the contiguous United States. Death Valley is located in Southern California on the border with Nevada, roughly three hours north of Los Angeles and two hours west of Las Vegas.
Driving through Death Valley will also take you to the lowest point in the United States at 282 feet below sea level, not too far from mountains towering past 11,000 feet. Death Valley presents its visitors with fascinating geology, a hardy ecosystem of plants and wildlife, and interesting history.
The park earned its name after countless prospecting parties took ill-advised shortcuts through this barren, unforgiving landscape. Death Valley earned National Monument status in 1933 and wasn’t declared a national park until 1994. Motorhome camping is a much safer alternative to the wagon trains of days past and is a great way to see the park today.
Visitors to Death Valley will enjoy numerous trails and viewpoints. These trails, suitable for everything from driving to hiking and horseback riding, will take you through sand dunes, salt flats, and rainbow-colored canyons. There’s almost too much to see in one visit, but that's not a bad problem to have. Be sure to visit the visitors’ center at Furnace Creek at some point during your trip, where you can watch informational films about the park, talk to rangers, and view displays about the exciting history and wildlife in the park.
Death Valley is a hiker’s heaven, but be sure to bring plenty of water and sun protection, especially in the summer. Every visit to Death Valley should include a visit to the salt flats at Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the United States. Golden Canyon is another great hiking location in Death Valley, where you can choose from hiking trails that will take you only a few minutes or half a day. Similar hiking options exist at the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, which will make you feel as if you were visiting a remote African desert.
You should also take your RV rental on a scenic drive through Death Valley. Zabriskie Point is probably the most popular viewpoint, especially at sunrise and sunset. Another celebrated viewpoint, perhaps the best view in Death Valley, is Dante’s View. Here, you’ll get great views of both Badwater Basin and the snow-capped eastern Sierras. In addition to sand dunes, salt flats, and mountains, you’ll also be able to drive to the volcanic Ubehebe Crater and lava fields at Rainbow Canyon. Photographers and painters will want to take Artist’s Drive, aptly named for the beautifully-colored geologic features that make it a favorite for artists. If you want to add some history to your drive, the Keane Wonder Mine and Charcoal Kilns will take you back to the mining days.
There's no shortage of sites for RV camping in Death Valley National Park, though there are limited RV rentals in Inyo County. The immense park has six RV campgrounds administered by the National Park Service and three RV parks within Death Valley run by concessionaires. You should always check on the RV camping status before visiting Death Valley. The severe weather has a tendency to wash out roads and close campgrounds due to flooding; other campgrounds are routinely closed on a seasonal basis. Pets are allowed in campgrounds at Death Valley National Park with a few rules. You may not bring more than four pets, they should never be left unattended, and they must be on leashes no more than six feet long.
Sunset Creek Campground is the largest in Death Valley National Park. It has 270 sites, a dump station, and flush toilets, but no hookups. The campground is located 196 feet below sea level, and there also aren’t limits to RV length. Check out Furnace Creek if you need hookups. This campground has 136 sites, but only 18 have hookups, including 50-amp electricity. Furnace Creek is considered the "hub" of Death Valley, where you'll find a gas station, multiple dump stations, a general store, and a post office. There are no official RV length limitations at Furnace Creek, but longer RVs aren't recommended due to tight spaces.
Between Stovepipe Wells, Texas Springs, and Mesquite Spring, you’ll find another 312 campsites with flush toilets and dump stations, but no hookups. Longer RVs aren’t recommended at Mesquite Spring and Texas Springs, but big rigs are welcome at Stovepipe Wells. Wildrose Campground can't accommodate RVs longer than 25 feet, but you'll find 23 isolated sites.
If you want a few more amenities, you can still camp in Death Valley National Park at concessionaire campgrounds. Stovepipe Wells Village has 14 sites with full hookups, a swimming pool, and Wi-Fi available through their hotel. The Ranch at Death Valley Fiddler's Campground also has a swimming pool and offers showers, laundry facilities, sports courts, and a golf course, but no hookups. The final option for RV hookups is at Panamint Springs Resort, where you'll find six sites with full hookups, picnic tables, showers, and 26 additional sites with no hookups.
Death Valley may be isolated, but that doesn’t mean you’re far from civilization. You’ll find plenty of recreational opportunities nearby, as well as ghost towns and other historic sites to explore. The Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway is close to the west and is a beautiful drive year-round. You’re not far from exploring Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States, the town of Bishop, and the Japanese internment camp at Manzanar National Historic Site.
The infamous Strip of Las Vegas is a couple of hours to the east. The shows, nightlife, casinos, and endless restaurant options are a sharp contrast to Death Valley. If you prefer to head south, Los Angeles is only a few hours away. Enjoy the city’s excellent Mexican food, pleasant weather, beautiful beaches, and endless shopping opportunities. No matter where you go next, be sure to fill up your gas tank every chance you get. You never know when you'll find the next one, and you certainly won't want to be stranded out here in your rental RV.