Death Valley Road Trips: Only For the Most Adventurous
We’ll freely admit it: Escape Campervans has a love/hate relationship with Death Valley National Park. It’s the lowest place in the contiguous United States, and the hottest place ever recorded in the world. And as the largest park in the lower 48, Death Valley makes just about every road trippers’ “Must See” list. That said, traveling to this destination during the summer months is brutally debilitating for campervans—or any rental vehicle for that matter. Very few rental agencies will cover you for roadside assistance during this time, Escape Campervans included.
That said, Death Valley is an incredible place that’s definitely worth checking out. Get there in just a couple hours from our Las Vegas depot.
Distance: 119 miles (192 km) from our Las Vegas Escape Depot and 271 miles (436 km) from our Los Angeles Escape Depot
Time: 2+ hours from our Las Vegas Escape depot and 4.5+ hours from our Los Angeles Escape depot
Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas, NV
Death Valley Fun Facts
- At 3,000 sq miles (7,800 sq km), Death Valley is the largest National Park in the contiguous United States.
- In 1913, a high temp of 134°F (57°C) was recorded, making it the hottest place ever recorded on earth
- Star Wars filmed dozens of scenes here
- Only 85 miles (137 km) separate the highest point in the US (Mount Whitney, 14,505 ft) from the lowest point in the US (Badwater Basin, -279 ft)
- The average highs in August are 113°F (45°C)
Best Time to Visit Death Valley
Death Valley has two seasons: Summer and Kill-You-Summer. The best time to check out this portion of the Mojave Desert is during the salad days between October and May. These days are warm and sunny, and nights are cool and brisk. This is when most people head into the valley to bike, hike and check out the sights. Between late May and September, it’s simply too hot to enjoy the place. No matter when you go, take lots of water with you–it’s called Death Valley for a reason.
Fill up your gas tank before you head into the valley. It’s a long way between filling stations out there.
You can’t go wrong with any of the campgrounds in Death Valley. Furnace Creek is the only campground located ‘in’ the valley that’s open year around. Sunset, Texas Spring, and Stovepipe campgrounds are legit as well, although they’re only open October through April. You can book these in advance at recreation.gov, however, Furnace Creek is available on a first-come basis during winter months.
Badwater Basin Salt Flats Trail
Best Side Trip
Scotty’s Castle. Hidden in the far north section of Death Valley National Park is the strange, strange place known as Scotty’s Castle. We’ll leave it to the guidebooks to provide the details, but this Depression-era mansion has absolutely no business being there. We can’t figure out if Scotty was a maniac or the smartest guy on the planet. Let us know your opinion once you check it out.
We STRONGLY urge you NOT to go to Death Valley between May 1 and September 30. Temperatures in Death Valley in the summer months can reach 130°F (54°C). Our Roadside Assistance and insurance WILL NOT cover you if your van breaks down in Death Valley during these months. You will be liable for the full value of recovery and damage to the vehicle. In that area, tow truck drivers have a strangle hold on service fees and a recovery can run you up to $1500 (depending on where and when you break down) plus the cost of a new engine. If you decide you have to go no matter what, then we strongly advise not driving the vehicle between 11 am and 5 pm during peak sun hours.
Desert Driving During the Summer Months
A large area of the southwest United States is taken up by desert climates, most notably the Mojave Desert. Precautions should be observed during the summer months between May and October as temperatures can and do exceed 115f (46c) daily. These extreme temperatures occasionally lead to vehicle overheating and debilitation. Please follow these simple rules to make your travel itinerary a safe one.
- Do not travel during the mid-day to late-afternoon time frames (1-4pm).
- Drive short distances. Do not attempt to knock out a 5-hour sprint across any desert climate. This dramatically increases your chance of a breakdown.
- Tap the brakes. Drive a reasonable speed while crossing any desert landscape.
- If you do break down, do not leave the vicinity of your vehicle.
- Take plenty of water with you. Make certain your Escape Campervan water receptacle is completely full prior to heading across the desert.