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