Looking for information regarding backcountry travel and camping in Death Valley

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Richard H 3 weeks, 1 day ago.

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  • #198774

    Richard H
    Participant
    Basic Member

     

    I’ve read everything on the NPS sight and I’ve followed TAP for some years and have all their stuff. We plan on spending 5 – 7 nights in Death Valley and we want to spend as many of them off grid as possible. I understand that backcountry camping is allowed with a permit but the locations are restricted but I have the Park Service map.

    So I was hoping there might be people on here that had GPS or descriptions of exact spots they had camped outside of designated camp grounds in the past. I would like to collect some information that I could then plot out to my map. I could then better plan the trip as I would have confirmed places to stay. I don’t mind “winging it” on BLM, but in a NP where the restrictions are so much greater, I’d rather have a very good idea where I’m staying each night.

    Also, I can’t find any information on potable water or dump stations outside of the designated camp grounds. Are there any spots where we can fill up our water tank where we don’t have to stay the night in a camp ground? How about dumping our porta-potty? Do any of the visitor centers have these facilities?

    If we have to camp in a camp ground once or twice on the trip, then I guess that’s what I’ll need to do. But if there is potable water available somewhere, then I’d just as soon pull up to it and fill up.

    #198778

    Larrie Easterly
    Participant
    Basic Member

    First of all DV is a great place to visit. We were then last March. You can read about our trip at our blog.

    We stayed at the  at Stovepipe Wells campground. It is basically a gravel parking lot with no hookups. I believe the campground in Furnace Creek has them but it is expensive to stay there. I also stayed at the Mesquite Springs campground at the north end of the park. It is much nicer than Stovepipe Wells. There are showers but no hookups. Not sure if they have a dump station. We were there for ten days and camped designated camping areas or in the  surrounding BLM lands.

    Bottled water is very expensive. If I remember correctly we we saw prices ranging from $4 to $5 in the stores. You can get a shower card at the Stovepipe Wells hotel desk for $5. This allows you to use the pool and the showers. This came in very handy.

    What vehicle will you be driving? Will you be towing a trailer? The back roads are very rough. One of the guys on our trip broke his trailer hitch. Another blew a tire. A third went home early because his rig could not handle the roads.

    Is your porta potty a cassette type? If so you may be able to dump it in a restroom toilet.

    #198779

    Richard H
    Participant
    Basic Member

    Thank you for all that.  Great info!

    We just upgraded to a new Tundra.  I’m putting ARB lockers on it next month (front and rear) and a 3″ lift.  The truck should be good.

    We are pulling a tear drop trailer, a Moby 1.  It has handled the Magruder/Lolo and Mojave this past summer, so we shall see.

    The trailer carries 22 gallons of water and I plan on bringing an additional 25, unless I get new info on water.

    I don’t mind spending a night in a “real” campsite to refit if necessary.

    Our toilet is a cassette.  It’s just two of us, and it lasted 8 days in Moab.

    Do you have any info on your BLM sites?  Even if it’s just a screen shot of Google Maps?

    Again, great tips.  I really appreciate you taking the time to respond.  I was looking at Mesquite as well.  It’s location looks promising for our time line.

    #198785

    Larrie Easterly
    Participant
    Basic Member

    Sounds like you are good to go with the Tundra. Many of th erodes have heavy washboard. Make sure your trailer suspension and tires are up to the task and take a spare for the trailer. One advantage of staying at a campground is that you can drop your trailer so you do not beat it up on the roads. We basically used Stovepipe Wells as a base camp for three days of day trips to nearby areas.

    Waterm: I had carried about eight gallons of water with me and only used five for the ten days. We were there in late March when the temperatures were in the 70s or low 80s during the day. Unless you are taking showers or going after March you may not have to resupply.

    Fuel in the park is expensive. The cheapest is in Stovepipe Wells. We actually went out of the park to get fuel and supplies.

    Will have to go through my notes to find where we boondocked. Will take a couple of days.

    What areas are you planning on seeing in the park? It works best if you can group them. It can take several hours to get from one place to another.

    #198792

    Craig Wainscott
    Participant
    Premium Member

    I’m watching this thread with interest. We are planning a very similar trip at the end of February. We are driving to Phoenix to pick up our Turtleback trailer, and then heading to Mojave, Death Valley, Alabama Hills and then work our way home. We prefer to avoid improved campgrounds if at all possible.

    #198797

    Defenders NW
    Participant
    Vendor

    DV camping is almost all maintained and hike-in campgrounds – even one or two nights of use for an inexperienced camper can alter an area for decades due to the slow change cycle of the desert. If you want to camp in the park use the smaller campgrounds, and ones that are further from the park center will be less frequented by the “tourist” types. If you want to bush-camp, BLM lands just outside the park boundaries work best. Easy to exit the park and camp and then on a new trail back into the park the next day.

    As much as I love DV, I think Mojave is a better park for back-country travel and camping. Trona Pinnacles is a good out of park camp area as well i you hit it off of a weekend there are not too many people out there.

    I’ll likely be camping in DV next week on the way to/from SEMA and the AZLRO rally.

    #198798

    Richard H
    Participant
    Basic Member

    One advantage of staying at a campground is that you can drop your trailer so you do not beat it up on the roads.  We basically used Stovepipe Wells as a base camp for three days of day trips to nearby areas.  Water: I had carried about eight gallons of water with me and only used five for the ten days.  We were there in late March when the temperatures were in the 70s or low 80s during the day.  Unless you are taking showers or going after March you may not have to resupply.  Fuel in the park is expensive.  The cheapest is in Stovepipe Wells.  We actually went out of the park to get fuel and supplies.  Will have to go through my notes to find where we boondocked.  Will take a couple of days.  What areas are you planning on seeing in the park?  It works best if you can group them.  It can take several hours to get from one place to another.

    More good info, thanks.  Whatever other notes you have time to share would be huge help.  The more resources I can identify before going, the better I can plot out where to stay/go.

    I may have to consider basing at a campsite, like you mention.  I know some of the routes we want to see forbid trailers on them.  That may be a good way to see them and not spend the time having to set up/tear down.

    We are going to be in the park for 5 – 7 nights….probably 6 or 7….in late April.  Not the greatest time, but our vacation schedule had to be bid and that’s what it is.  It may be hot, but it’s still “in season.”

    I’m hoping with the 38-gallon Tundra and 20 gallons of extra fuel, we should be able to see the park without refueling…especially if I’m not dragging the trailer around.

    We were in Moab last September and without making any attempts at conserving water, we used less than 50 gallons and still took 6 showers (3 each) over an 8-day visit.  I’ll have 47 gallons on this trip and we can forgo additional showers if necessary or at least take more conservative showers when we need to.

    #198799

    Richard H
    Participant
    Basic Member

    DV camping is almost all maintained and hike in campgrounds – even one or two nights of use for an inexperienced camper can alter an area for decades due to the slow change cycle of the desert.  If you want to camp in the park use the smaller campgrounds, and ones that are further from the park center will be less frequented by the “tourist” types.  If you want to bush-camp, BLM lands just outside the park boundaries work best.  Easy to exit the park and camp and then on a new trail back into the park the next day. As much as I love DV, I think Mojave is a better park for back-country travel and camping.  Trona Pinnacles is a good out of park camp area as well i you hit it off of a weekend there are not too many people out there.  I’ll likely be camping in DV next week on the way to/from SEMA and the AZLRO rally.

    Thanks for this info.

    This trip we are making to DV is the first stop on a two week trip to DV/Mojave.  We spent 4 nights in the Mojave this past May after Overland West.  We plan on leaving DV and heading into the Mojave to spend 6 nights in the Mojave.

    I’ll collect as much info from users such as you folks here before calling down to talk to a Ranger about primitive camping in DV.  My wife and I are very familiar with Leave No Trace principles but want to get word from the ‘officials’ down there about where the allowable areas are.

    #198801

    Defenders NW
    Participant
    Vendor

    DV camping is almost all maintained and hike in campgrounds – even one or two nights of use for an inexperienced camper can alter an area for decades due to the slow change cycle of the desert. If you want to camp in the park use the smaller campgrounds, and ones that are further from the park center will be less frequented by the “tourist” types. If you want to bush-camp, BLM lands just outside the park boundaries work best. Easy to exit the park and camp and then on a new trail back into the park the next day. As much as I love DV, I think Mojave is a better park for back-country travel and camping. Trona Pinnacles is a good out of park camp area as well i you hit it off of a weekend there are not too many people out there. I’ll likely be camping in DV next week on the way to/from SEMA and the AZLRO rally.

    Thanks for this info.

    This trip we are making to DV is the first stop on a two week trip to DV/Mojave. We spent 4 nights in the Mojave this past May after Overland West. We plan on leaving DV and heading into the Mojave to spend 6 nights in the Mojave.

    I’ll collect as much info from users such as you folks here before calling down to talk to a Ranger about primitive camping in DV. My wife and I are very familiar with Leave No Trace principles but want to get word from the ‘officials’ down there about where the allowable areas are.

    DV in April is fantastic – I try to get over there at least every other year on the way to or from Expo. The days can be a little warm in the afternoon, but if you are at elevation or in a canyon the temperature is workable. Nights are perfect and the fragile fair-weather campers are all long gone as the park is in “summer” mode.

    Watch who you talk to when you call, DV is a first posting for a lot of junior rangers fresh out of school so the knowledge base on anything out of the norm is sequestered with a few old salts. Ask for the backcountry desk and senior ranger – let them know that you are an experience desert camper and are setup for self sufficient back country travel – otherwise you will get the “does not compute – can’t do that” answer that all new rangers are programed to provide.

    Can also give you location stuff for Mojave too – have to do a desert southwest OATS round table at some point this winter.

    #198802

    Larrie Easterly
    Participant
    Basic Member

    Here is the description of where we camped.

    First night the group gathered and spent in the Alabama Hills just west of Lone Pine. Then Saline Valley Hot Springs – dispersed camping with pit toilets. Next was the abandoned mine workings outside the park at the north end – dispersed camping. Then Stovepipe Wells for two nights with day trips. The next camp was at the abandoned Warm Springs mine. From there we headed west over the mountains past Striped Butte over Mengel Pass and out Goler Wash to a spot on BLM land.

    To get to Saline Valley Hot Springs we went down Steel Pass. This route is very tight in spots and spotters are necessary. Am not sure if your Tundra and trailer will be able to make the tight turns. Several people in our group were pulling trailers behind Jeeps and FJ Cruisers. They had a tough time. Take a look at some of the videos on YouTube.

    The route up Mengel Pass is tight in spots and full of boulders. Again spotters are required. I had to be towed out after breaking a valve stem on a rock.

    #198803

    Richard H
    Participant
    Basic Member

    DV in April is fantastic……….but if you are at elevation or in a canyon the temperature is workable.  Nights are perfect and the fragile fair-weather campers are all long gone as the park is in “summer” mode.  Watch who you talk to when you call, DV is a first posting for a lot of junior rangers fresh out of school so the knowledge base on anything out of the norm is sequestered with a few old salts.  Ask for the backcountry desk and senior ranger – let them know that you are an experience desert camper and are setup for self sufficient back country travel – otherwise you will get the “does not compute – can’t do that” answer that all new rangers are programed to provide.  Can also give you location stuff for Mojave too – have to do a desert southwest OATS round table at some point this winter.

    Ha!  Yeah, sometimes their answers are geared to the “lowest common denominator.”  I get that, but it’s frustrating sometimes.

    Good to hear on the weather.

    We spent all our time in Mojave this past May east of Kelso-Cima Rd.  We plan on going in Afton Canyon from Barstow/I-15 this time and working eastbound.  We’ll hit the areas west of Kelso-Cima this time and then recreate some of the stops we made in May east of Kelso-Cima.

    One unknown for us is camping east of the Mojave Bus camp.  Somewhere like Laser Ray Mine or Fort Paiute itself, somewhere in those hills.  We stopped at Laser Ray Mine and it would probably work, but we bypassed Fort Paiute last time and didn’t get a look at it.  We would have two truck/trailer combos on this trip, maybe more by the time April rolls around.  Google satellite images seem to indicate there’s enough room, but first hand confirmation would be helpful.

    #198805

    Richard H
    Participant
    Basic Member

    Here is the description of where we camped. First night the group gathered and spent in the Alabama Hills just west of Lone Pine. Then Saline Valley Hot Springs – dispersed camping with pit toilets. Next was the abandoned mine workings outside the park at the north end – dispersed camping. Then Stovepipe Wells for two nights with day trips. The next camp was at the abandoned Warm Springs mine. From there we headed west over the mountains past Striped Butte over Mengel Pass and out Goler Wash to a spot on BLM land. To get to Saline Valley Hot Springs we went down Steel Pass. This route is very tight in spots and spotters are necessary. Am not sure if your Tundra and trailer will be able to make the tight turns. Several people in our group were pulling trailers behind Jeeps and FJ Cruisers. They had a tough time. Take a look at some of the videos on YouTube. The route up Mengel Pass is tight in spots and full of boulders. Again spotters are required. I had to be towed out after breaking a valve stem on a rock.

    Lots of good stuff here to research!  Perfect!

    Thanks a bunch!

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