This post contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission when you purchase through these links at no additional cost to you.
Death Valley National Park is one of the most unique US national parks I have visited. I didn’t expect to stumble across salt flats, sand dunes, dried lakes, and colorful mountains all in one place. With so much to see in one place, make sure you’re prepared! I quickly learned a few important tips for visiting Death Valley National Park to pass along that I wish had known.
Plan your visit when you can see the stars
Death Valley is ideal if you’re looking to get away from civilization for a few days. One of the top tips for visiting Death Valley National Park is to plan to visit when the moon is small — you’ll see more stars than you could ever imagine. We visited when the Geminid meteor shower and a clear night sky almost perfectly aligned. The Geminid meteors lit up the sky with their bright yellow-green tails every minute! The spectacular sky was like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life. The sky will open up for you even if a meteor shower isn’t in the near future, a new moon or small moon on a clear night.
Select the best location for your campsite
Death Valley National Park offers a few campsites options and others sit just outside the park to provide more options. It’s important to know the differences in location while you plan. Staying inside
the valley at Furnace Creek Campground is much warmer than the first privately-owned campsite, Panamint Spring Resort, that you’ll find if you’re driving from the Fresno, California area. The valley is protected by the mountains and you can feel the decrease in the wind if you were to spend a night in either location. Also, if you’re looking for a hiking & camping list — check out the gear
I don’t leave home without!
The type of campsite you reserve matters
Some campsites have existing canvas tents with cots inside that you can sleep on with your sleeping bag. This sounded like a convenient idea for us, but the open space in the tent and concrete floor made it very difficult to stay warm. The night I slept in the canvas tent was one of the coldest nights I’ve ever experienced. We moved to Furnace Creek Campground inside the valley and it made all the difference. Our small tent didn’t leave much open space so we stayed warm and cozy all night — it was a world of a difference from the Panamint Springs campsite that’s technically located outside the valley.
Plan ahead visiting the Racetrack Playa
The Racetrack Playa is a must-visit in Death Valley, but it’s difficult to get there. The road is very rocky; it’s recommended to drive the road with a 4-wheel-drive car so the undercarriage of your car doesn’t get damaged. Even if you have a 4WD car, you might want to rent one at Farabee’s Jeep Rentals
for $265 (two-door Jeep), the only Jeep rental location in Death Valley. Renting isn’t cheap but it’s worth it for the peace of mind knowing that your car won’t be destroyed during the drive. The upside of renting a Jeep is that it comes with a GPS locator. If the Jeep breaks down or you need assistance along the way, you can turn on the distress signal and help will come (though you might have to wait a while!)
Keep an eye on your gas tank
Death Valley National Park only has a few gas stations, you don’t want to get stranded! Take note of the roundtrip distance as you explore and the gas in your tank, especially when driving to the Racetrack Playa, and keep a paper map handy so you know where the gas stations are when you’re in need of fuel.
Death Valley not completely desolate
Death Valley isn’t completely desolate. If eating MREs at your campsite or camping, in general, isn’t for you, consider The Ranch at Death Valley and The Oasis at Death Valley as luxury options. These hotels also have nice restaurants for you to enjoy a meal or a drink if you still want to camp. You’ll also find a few general stores in the area at Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells in case you forgot any cooking essentials. No need to worry about packing enough food!
Whether or not you visit during a meteor shower or decide to drive to the Racetrack Playa, these tips for visiting Death Valley National Park will prime you for an unforgettable road trip.