Death Valley travel tips.


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Trying to prompt some writing about Death Valley, here are a few travel tips for those of you planning a desert sojourn.

Do:

  • If you want a motel, stay at the Panamint Springs Resort. It’s cheaper than the others and independently owned (and it has free wifi).
  • Try to find some backcountry camping opportunities – possible even with a standard car no matter what the park rangers tell you. Message me if you want to know where we had the best luck.
  • Rent a high-clearance vehicle at least. We didn’t and there were many cool places we could not go because of rutting in the roads.
  • Go in the winter months. January to March are the most bearable months in the park. January is not hot at all.
  • Go during the week. The weekends find the park really busy, mid-week we had many days of seeing few people.
  • Check out the pass to Panamint Valley and also the Wildrose-Trona pass – gorgeous, scary and narrow passes through the mountains on the western edge of the park.
  • Go look at the Wildrose Kilns. They are over 100 years old and just a weird piece of history.
  • Take a polarizing filter for your camera or you can’t really take photos during the day at all.
  • Pick up a park guidebook. The park interpretation itself is not very good, but the “Explorer’s Guide to Death Valley” written by a couple of park naturalists helped us with lots of history, geology, and driving info we couldn’t find elsewhere.
  • Choose spots to hike that aren’t on the official park maps. Less people, equally stunning.
  • Drink lots of water. Even when it’s not warm out it’s really dry and dusty.

Don’t:

  • Expect to use a cel phone anywhere near the park borders.
  • Expect to find many working payphones.
  • Bother with any of the Park Service campgrounds except perhaps Wildrose and above. Emigrant is nothing more than a gravel lot with some picnic tables right by the highway. Furnace Creek is right by the air strip etc.
  • Assume there is nothing living in Death Valley. Training the eye to micro-life is key to understanding the desert ecosystem.
  • Expect to find anything resembling decent food inside the park – restaurants or groceries. Bring your own groceries if you want to eat nutritiously.
  • Expect to see the whole park in a week at any kindof relaxing pace. It’s huge.

Also:

Watch out for abandoned mine shafts if you go off the trails. Really, there are holes everywhere in the hills and they aren’t marked in any way.

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