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Old 10-19-2012, 10:28 AM   #1
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Death Valley NP

I am thinking about a trip to DV for about a week around Christmas and New Year's. Meeting my grandkids there so will need to also set up a tent.
What are your campground recommendations and advice?
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Old 10-19-2012, 12:00 PM   #2
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We'll be following your down there in February! We can't report yet from experience, but we made a reservation at the Furnace Creek CG via the on-line link at the Death Valley nps.gov site, because they take reservations. According to the NPS website, Death Valley is a winter park, in terms of their high season.

We also made a reservation at the RV park in nearby Shoshone, CA figuring we'd want a few days for laundry and wi-fi before heading over to Nevada. The staff person there warned me that it is a very small place, with few services. So we're planning to stock up on food and water before we get to DV.

I also searched this site, and found a few threads with Death Valley info.

Hoping to learn something from the more experienced Death Valley campers on this thread.
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Old 10-19-2012, 12:14 PM   #3
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I was thinking of going there next month, but it just won't fit in. On the west side, up the grade, is a private CG with more services than Furnace Creek at Panamint Springs Resort.

DV is cool (except in the summer) and well worth the visit. We haven't been there with the trailer, so I'll be interested to see what is recommended.

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Old 10-19-2012, 12:18 PM   #4
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To fine tune my post a bit, I guess I am interested mainly in 2 things:
1;Will I need reservations for Furnace Creek for Christmas/ New Years or maybe Easter week for a site I can also set up a tent on a surface other than rocks.
2. Recommendations for staying at more off the beaten track sites with my Airstream, especially near the Racetrack.

PS I have a 25 foot Tradewind and a 2wd F250
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Old 10-19-2012, 12:22 PM   #5
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We went in April of 2011 and stayed in Furnace Creek because we could get a reserved spot. We picked one (site 122) at the edge of the campground so that we'd have views of mountains and not other campers.

Details here: Tin Pickle Adventures: Death Valley 2011
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Old 10-19-2012, 12:26 PM   #6
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Lumatic,

It's been a few years since I've been there, but of the two sites at Furnace Creek, I prefer the one on the west side of the highway. The other site is up higher, so the view is better, but on the west side you can find a few spots amid the creosote bushes that feel more welcoming.

In the second photo I've tried to point out that there are sites that might be more private and more amenable to a tent. Check with the Park to see if an RV and tent are allowed together.

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There are other RV locations. In the north end of DV at the other airport (cottonwood, I believe) it's pretty bleak, but if you're there for photography that's where the best dunes are.

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There's also Panamint Springs, which is in the next valley to the west, but still part of the Park. However, it's over a fairly high pass and really outside of the park experience.

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Going further west, I always visit Darwin, a semi-ghost town where most of the inhabitants have underground homes. There is a 1947 Airstream in town that always fascinates me. If you go from Darwin to Panmint Springs on the Old Toll Road (not a good trailer road, but OK for a pickup), you will find an incredible mile long stretch of river that emerges from the ground, then disappears.

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Then, of course, there's the recently (like 20 years) added part of the Park, the Saline Valley. Getting from the south is risky (I broke a wheel on my Caravel) and the north road is washboard, but it's a fascinating, remote place. You wouldn't want to miss the nude hot springs, would you? Or for a history buff (no pun intended), the old salt tram still has some of the cables and buckets hanging between the towers. Salt went over the ridge to Owens Lake, then by steamer to the other side, then by rail to L.A. The north and south roads into the Saline Valley define the west edge of Death Valley National Park. If you only get to the "high camp" (this initial part of the south road is relatively passble) you will find a small miracle--a camping spot that overlooks the Panamint Valley from above 5,000 feet.

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And while you're there, why not get up to Mono Lake. You could go over the mountain west to Yosemite, or east to Tonopah and then across some pretty lonely but awesome volcanic areas to St George and home.

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Or even Bode ghost town? You may never get back to New Mexico!

Zep
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Old 10-19-2012, 12:54 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumatic View Post
...off the beaten track sites with my Airstream, especially near the Racetrack...
Whoa, the Racetrack? I've seen the road in from both ends (Saline and Ubehebe) and I don't think you're getting in there with the Airstream. Well, you could get in, but take two spare tires, a shovel, and a pick. I thnk the entry from Ubehebe Crater is the much better choice.

And let me know how it is.

As far as off the beaten path camping goes, many Parks allow "dispersed camping." Ask the Park if there are areas in the Park where this is allowed. I know it's allowed in Marble Canyon, which is off the road near the Cottonwood Station (on the road to Panamint). All the land east of highway 395 is essentially National Park, National Forest, or BLM, except on either side of 395 itself.

I'm a fan of remote camping, but what I found in Death Valley itself is you want to be at Furnace Creek.

I have some JPEG maps that show the land ownership. Send me your email (zep@airstreamdoctor.com) and I'll send you a copy.

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Old 10-19-2012, 12:57 PM   #8
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This looks like another cool place to check out, thanks for all the info.
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Old 10-19-2012, 01:06 PM   #9
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Lynn and I spent part of our honeymoon there.......in February 1969. We towed a small trailer. After 2 beautiful (weather) days it began to rain....and rain....and rain. Not a good place to be when it rains. Cars, trailers began sinking in wet sand. We escaped to Disneyland. Rained there too. We've had some 'rain' during our 43 years together. A little rain is good.
Before I met Lynn I visited DV every spring. Love the place. Saw all the spots already mentioned. February is a good time weather wise..not too cold...not too hot....sometimes it rains. After the rains the Valley bursts forth with more flowers than you can imagine.

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Old 10-19-2012, 11:01 PM   #10
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I love the image and thinking of you guys traveling in that rig, is it a '62 Bonneville? and what is the tailer? Must've been a fun way to spend a honeymoon, rain or no rain.
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Old 10-19-2012, 11:47 PM   #11
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Zep, thanks for all the cool pointers! 'been to DV several times in winter. We find furnace creek on the depressing side: crowded, expensive, noisy, ... Good when just sleeping there and spending the days away.

We've towed our AS from furnace creek to the eureka dunes, which was quite a trek but quite doable if going slowly. The dunes are awesome and so remote. We wished we had time to sleep there, but we had to move on. Dunno whether it's so much worse going to the racetrack. I'd check out where dispersed camping is allowed and where side roads leave the main road: you may not have to go that far to be able to get off the road for boondocking. Something best explored when on-site...

The park does allow dispersed camping but excludes very specific areas. It's well described on the park site if you search for dispersed camping. The area that has intrigued me is camping off the west road (the dirt road that goes along the west side of the valley). Dispersed camping is allowed along the roads that go from there into the canyons to the west starting at a specific distance from the west road (sorry, I forget the exact distance). I've been wanting to explore which of them allows me to tow the AS far enough to meet the distance. Perhaps this winter I'll get there...
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Old 10-20-2012, 12:27 AM   #12
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I love the image and thinking of you guys traveling in that rig, is it a '62 Bonneville? and what is the tailer? Must've been a fun way to spend a honeymoon, rain or no rain.
The car is a '62 Grand Prix. I loved that car but had to sell it 2 years later when our first (daughter) was on the way. The trailer was a '67 Scotsman.....a rental.

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Old 10-20-2012, 04:00 AM   #13
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Zep, thanks for all the cool pointers! 'been to DV several times in winter. We find furnace creek on the depressing side: crowded, expensive, noisy, ... Good when just sleeping there and spending the days away...
All good inputs, thanks. The only time I was in the park with an Airstream, it was the second week of December and not many visitors were there. You'd think that would be the time to go, but in previous trips in a tent I was surprised to find that many foreign tourists want to be there when it's 120+ in the shade (what shade, one asks). It's easy to get to dispersed camping when all you have is a tent.

It occurs to me to mention Cero Gordo, an old mine worth visiting. I've gone over the top from Keeler on Cero Gordo road and down the east side of that ridge in a Grand Am, but this is one road I wouldn't take a trailer on. As a matter of fact, getting up to the mine from Keeler is one of my favorite white knuckle trips, due to the steep dropoffs here and there.

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Old 10-20-2012, 08:28 AM   #14
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Love DV!
Gas prices there are out of this world even by CA prices tho...

Dont take your trailer to Racetrack!

Pic from my first trip to the Race Track... Teakettle Junction..


We went to Racetrack from the Crater end... My Suburban is only 2wd, and did fine... we slept in her overnight. You just need some ground clearance and tire sidewall for the cobbles... its pretty washboarded... we dropped the tires to 15psi which kept the fillings in our teeth!


Every time I camped there, it was super windy.... batton everything down!

We camped at Wildrose, which was quieter, but one time it rained there so hard it was like sleeping in a drum! We actually got so freaked out about a flash flood.., we packed up quickly about 2am and moved the Suburban... only so see others doing the same! 15 mins later water was gushing where we had been parked!

Bodie Ghost Town is a must see if you have time, but check it will be open... it was one of teh State Parks that was hit by funding closures I think.
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