A good first stop on any trip to Death Valley National Park is the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Not only can you get the most up-to-date information from the friendly National Park rangers, but the building itself is also worth a visit as it has won design awards for the preservation of a mid-century modern building.
Right behind the visitor center is Furnace Creek Campground, a great place to park your RV. It is the only campground in the park with hookups. It is also the only one that accepts reservations from October 15 through April 15. Sites can be reserved up to 6 months in advance on recreation.gov
Death Valley is a BIG National Park, equal in size to the state of Connecticut. So if you’re arriving with your RV, there are a few things to consider. Several roads within the park have length limits. If your RV is longer than 25 feet you’ll want to have a passenger vehicle for getting out to explore the whole park. Also, if you’re interested in camping at Mahogany Flat, Wildrose, or Thorndike campgrounds, they have a 25’ vehicle limit and require high clearance.
Ok, on to the good stuff! Our top 10 things to do in Death Valley National Park:
Hike Golden Canyon
The Golden Canyon to Red Cathedral hike is one of the most popular in Death Valley. You’ll enjoy many scenic views and points of interest, from small slot canyons to colorful rock formations. It’s a 3 mile out and back, moderate hike best enjoyed from October to March. There’s no shade along the trail, so bring plenty of water and start early especially in hotter months.
RV Note: Trailhead has a paved parking lot with plenty of room for RVs.
Go Below Sea Level at Badwater Basin
Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America, sitting at 282 feet BELOW sea level! This unique (and a bit bizarre) area is a vast salt flat more than 5 miles long. Its fun to see whether you want to claim bragging rights for walking below sea level, or just wander into the salt flats, it’s worth a stop.
Visit Devils Golf Course
This Death Valley spot gets its name from a 1930s guidebook that stated: “Only the devil could play golf on such a surface.” And you’ll see why when you get there the terrain is all jagged pieces of salt.
RV Note: Small dirt parking lot, off a short dirt road.
Take Pictures at Artists Drive
This 9-mile drive on a one-way road offers views of the salt flats, and most notably a mountainside covered in a rainbow of colored soil called Artists Palette. The afternoon is the best time of day for photo opportunities.
Grab a Bite to Eat at Furnace Creek
The old-west style Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resort offer many low-key dining experiences from a steakhouse to a diner and a sports bar.
Climb to Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point is one of the most famous viewing areas in the park, offering 360-degree views of many well-known summits. There’s a short paved path from the parking lot to the overlook. For the more adventurous, the point can be accessed by a 2.5-mile one-way hike from Golden Canyon.
Learn the History of Death Valley at Harmony Borax Works
Attend the Ranger talk to learn about borax and the mining history of the area. The original Harmony plant was only in operation in the late 1880s but still stands today and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Explore the Eccentricity of Scotty’s Castle
Scotty’s Castle was damaged by a flash flood in 2015 but the park service still offers walking tours of the castle grounds. Tours are typically only offered on Sundays from mid-December to mid-April.
Think You’re on Mars at Ubehebe Crater
Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley is a massive volcanic crater 600 feet deep and half a mile across with lots of options for exploring. There’s a parking area on the rim where you can take in the view, you can walk the 1.5-mile loop around the rim, or you can even walk to the bottom of the crater!
Get Sand in Your Shoes at Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes
These dunes are the best known and easiest to visit in the park. The more adventurous can Sandboard the dunes, while the rest of us may just like to photograph the dunes and surrounding mountain ranges.
If you’re currently planning your next RV road trip, add Death Valley National Park to your list! Though the park is technically in California, it’s most easily accessed from Las Vegas. Death Valley Junction is the last town before you enter the park. If you’re into history it’s worth a stop for the Railroad Museum or the Opera House. Happy Trails!