camping death valley artist palette
Death Valley

Camping in Death Valley 2021

It’s President’s Day weekend and my friends and I have always talked about camping in Death Valley. It’s a not too far drive from Los Angeles and can be a quick getaway from the city.

Our itinerary was pretty simple; see a bunch of hipster Instagram destinations.

Day 1

It took us about 4 hours to get to our first destination; Badwater Basin. The basin is the lowest point in North America and is nearly 300 feet below sea level. It’s basically a giant salt pool that you can walk on. If I’m being honest, I would recommend skipping this as a destination. Do stop, however, if you are driving by.

The next spot was Artist Palette. Created by its volcanic history that caused the oxidation of different metals to form colorful rocks. Artist Palette was kind of a letdown. The colored rocks are dull in person compared to what you see on Instagram. You really have to know Photoshop to make the colors pop. Just like Badwater Basin, skip if you have to go out of your way. Visit, if you are passing by.

Slightly disappointed, we went off the map and off the main road to hang out and make some lunch. On the menu for the weekend was 4 pounds of carne asada, a bag of burgers, pasta, and some canned food (just in case). Oh, and 3 cases of various beers.

We had to drop by a general store to pick up some fire wood for the night. This was a bad idea and a big waste of time. We didn’t end up getting to Inyo Mine till after nightfall. This meant that we had to setup camp and prepare dinner in the dark.

The forecast for the night was 45 mile per hour winds and cool 30F temperature. Even sheltering between a mountain and two trucks, the winds were way too strong to be outside. We all ended up sleeping [uncomfortably] inside our vehicles for the night.

Day 2

The next morning we drove to Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. The dunes kind of remind me of what Egypt might look like. Not that I’ve ever been. It’s definitely a neat attraction, however, the tumbleweeds that are everywhere ruin the idea of an Egyptian Oasis.

We then took our off-road capable vehicles through rock and ruts to get to Reward Mine. A mine that is big enough to drive a full-sized truck into. This was the prettiest destination to drive through. A combination of desert and snow-capped mountains for the backdrop to reach the mine. This was pretty cool to explore and the pictures stand on its own without the need of heavy editing.

After yesterday’s mistake, we realized that we needed to find a campsite earlier in the day. The plan was to look for spots in Alabama Hills. This was the highlight of the trip. A valley of odd-shaped rocks formed over millions of years and a snow-capped mountain in the near background. And it was free to camp.

alabama hills camping

Most spots here are accessible by regular cars, however, the nicer spots require a 4×4 with higher clearance.

Thoughts

Due to covid, the camping scene has kind of exploded. Many people trying to keep sane by going out and doing things. We did BLM camping and nearly every site was packed. Paid camping was even worse for the last-minute trips.

If you want to go, book ahead of time or start looking for BLM camping during the day.

Bring a radar detector when traveling long distances. It’s well worth it for the cost of a Uniden R7 versus the time and money it takes when getting a ticket.

When going camping in remote locations, don’t expect your cell phone to work. My buddy and I decided to buy ham radios prior to the trip. Regular walkie-talkies may not be powerful enough to reach help and most won’t allow you to set specific channels. We choose the Baofeng BF-F8HP for the price and its extensive list of features. Essentially, it’s a Chinese rip-off of more expensive ham radios for a fraction of the cost.

Read more about my road trip planning or my most recent cross country road trip.

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