Contact Death Valley National Park, P.O. Box 579, Death Valley, CA 92328 (tel. 760/786-3200; www.nps.gov/deva). Be sure to pick up the official Visitor Guide, a newspaper-style free handout listing most of the park basics. It's available at ranger stations and the Furnace Creek Visitor Center . Also, it's not a bad idea to ask a ranger for tips on avoiding heat exhaustion and on high-temperature auto care (although the latter is usually a problem only with older vehicles).
The Death Valley Natural History Association, P.O. Box 188, Death Valley, CA 92328 (tel. 800/478-8564; www.dvnha.org), operates the park bookstores and organizes a number of events.
Park headquarters are at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center (tel. 760/786-3200), open daily from 8am to 5pm year-round in Furnace Creek, 15 miles inside the eastern park boundary on Calif. 190. You'll find well-done interpretive exhibits and an hourly slide program, as well as an extensive bookstore. There's also a museum, a bookshop, and an information center at Scotty's Castle (tel. 760/786-2392), also open daily year-round.
Ranger stations that collect fees and can provide you with information are at Stovepipe Wells (no phone) and Grapevine (no phone).
Entry to the park for up to 7 days costs $20 per car (or $10 per person on foot, motorcycle, or bike). Be sure to keep the receipt handy; you'll be required to show it when passing the entry checkpoint near Scotty's Castle (Grapevine).
There are nine campgrounds within park boundaries. Four are free; overnight fees elsewhere range from $12 to $18.
Special Regulations & Warnings
It isn't called Death Valley for nothing, but there's little chance you'll encounter any life-threatening situations, especially if you follow common-sense safety tips. You'll find these and many more in brochures available at the park's visitor centers.
- Always carry a supply of water for everyone, including your car. Dehydration is your most urgent concern, particularly in summer, when temperatures routinely reach at least 120°F (49°C) at the arid lower elevations. Recommended minimum amounts are 1 gallon per person per day, twice that if you're planning strenuous activity. Drink often, whether you feel thirsty or not, and be alert for the signs of dehydration: dizziness, headache, and cool, clammy skin. It's a good idea to stow several gallons for the car, even though radiator water is available from tanks placed at strategic points (uphill climbs) along the main roads.
- Always carry sunscreen and protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Watch your temperature gauge, especially if you have an older vehicle. When driving, turn off your air-conditioning on uphill grades if your car begins overheating. In the event that your car overheats, keep the engine running, turn the heat on full blast, and turn the car into the breeze. Remove the cap only if the engine has cooled significantly.
- Be alert for wildlife on the road, and don't let yourself be distracted by the scenery. Single-car accidents are the number-one cause of death in Death Valley, and they can occur summer or winter, daylight or nighttime. Many long miles of roads run through the park; though well paved, they often have sharp curves, dips, and steep downhill grades. If your tires wander off the edge of the pavement at high speed, don't jerk the wheel, which can cause you to skid. Instead, gradually slow down until it's safe to bring all four tires back onto the road.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.