As the official site states, Death Valley is the hottest, driest, and lowest national park. How hot you ask? The highest recorded air temperature was at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913. It was 134°F. While that was the hottest, summer temperatures can routinely top 120°F. And how dry? Average rainfall is less than 2 inches. How low? Badwater Basin is the point of lowest elevation in North America, recorded at 282 feet below sea level.
This may not sound like the most hospitable place to visit. And it definitely requires some planning, but Death Valley National Park is worth the visit. Traveling to this national park with pets will require a little extra effort and will definitely limit your activities. But even though the trails are off-limits to four-legged travels, this is one of the national parks that can still be enjoyed from overlooks and the many miles of roads.
Dog Friendly Activities
Death Valley National Park is an average national park when it comes to pet policies. Dogs are not allowed on trails or in the wilderness. The one exception is the bicycle path to Harmony Borax Works. But if you are comfortable walking on unpaved roads, there are several of those. The national park service even recommends a few of them in their pets section.
We had good hiking the day before arriving at Death Valley National Park and had plans to head through the more dog friendly Mojave Desert Preserve the next day. As a result, our dogs were relatively content to explore along the roadsides with promises of bigger adventures to come.
From the roadsides and parking lots we were able to see the Mesquite Sand Dunes (a less impressive version of Great Sand Dunes National Park), stop at Badwater Basin to see the impressive salt flats located over 200 feet below sea level, and spend time at the overlook at Zabrieski Point to enjoy some beautiful views of badland rock formations. So, while there was definitely a lot we missed by having the pups with us, we did really enjoy our driving tour of the park.
There are a variety of camping options available in Death Valley National Park. From sites with no tables or firepits to the full hook-ups available at Furnace Creek. Find a full list of campsites at the official NPS site.
We visited in May and were super thankful for the electrical hook-ups at Furnace Creek. As mentioned above, Death Valley can get a little hot. When we arrived on May 27th at 3pm, it was 100 degrees outside. Having electrical hook-ups made it easier to run the AC and keep ourselves and the dogs a little cooler.
Furnace Creek Campground was a nice campground and well maintained, but it was a desert campground with little vegetation between sites. Don’t expect a lot of privacy. This campground is conveniently located near the visitors center and is relatively central to the park. It was great for driving our RV to, but if you like to get off the beaten path, consider one of the more remote campsites.
Activities in the Surrounding Areas
Just a few hours south of Death Valley is another impressive desert landscape and 1.6 million acres of it is located inside the Mojave National Preserve. This national preserve is much more dog-friendly than any of the nearby national parks. Here your dogs can join you on the trails, they just aren’t allowed inside the buildings.
We spent a couple hours driving through the Mojave National Preserve, enjoying the desert scenery. We stopped at the Kelso Visitor Center, located in the historic Kelso train depot. The dogs weren’t allowed inside the train depot, but they enjoyed relaxing in the shady grass outside of the depot. We took the dogs to the Kelso Dunes (there are a lot of sand dunes in this area of the country). However, the sand was too hot for the dogs to hike much here. We recommend visiting in cooler months to more fully enjoy the hiking options with your four-legged companions. Or bring appropriate warm weather footwear for the dogs to protect their paw pads.
See our Great Basin National Park post for some suggestions on places in Nevada to explore if you are approaching Death Valley from the east like we did. We found several dog-friendly areas in Nevada and spent time at Ward Mountain Recreation Area.
Death Valley is another national park that does not allow dogs on trails, but we still had a great visit. The drive in is stunning, as Death Valley is surrounded by majestic mountain peaks. Once you are in the valley, there are sand dunes and saltwater flats to experience. It was a great location for a driving tour. And when it comes time to hike with the dogs there are plenty of unpaved roads inside the park and dog-friendly trail opportunities outside of this national park.