Campgrounds and some roads opening soon
DEATH VALLEY, Calif. – October 18, 2022 – As temperatures cool, Death Valley National Park is opening campgrounds. The National Park Service (NPS) and Caltrans are making progress reopening flood-damaged roads. Free permits will be required for overnight camping along the park’s most popular backcountry roads and trails.
Texas Springs Campground and Stovepipe Wells Campground will open at noon on October 15. A water system issue in Sunset Campground will delay that site’s opening until October 24. All of the park’s campgrounds are first-come, first-served, except for Furnace Creek Campground, which can be reserved at Recreation.gov.
Seven storms caused a series of flash floods from late July through mid-September. Navigation apps are giving travelers incorrect information about road conditions in the park. Only sections of California Highway 190 are open. Towne Pass, between Emigrant Junction and Panamint Valley on CA-190, will likely remain closed until mid-November. Complete information on road closures are on the park’s website at nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/conditions.htm.
The flash floods also benefited the landscape: they erased some human impacts. The NPS is using this natural reset as a time to implement free mandatory permits for roadside camping and backpacking in the most heavily-used areas, to prevent damage from occurring again.
Free permits are required for roadside camping along Echo Canyon, Hole in the Wall, Marble Canyon, and Cottonwood Canyon Roads. Free permits are also required for overnight camping along the Cottonwood-Marble Canyons Loop. Backpacking and roadside camping permits are not required for any other area of the park, but they are encouraged.
The floods obliterated sections of many roads. In some cases, it’s not even clear where unpaved roads used to be. Park rangers closed some of the park’s backcountry roads until the legal roadways are re-established. NPS road crews are prioritizing clearing paved roads, and are likely to start work on unpaved roads in November.
“The floods gave us a chance to reconsider acceptable levels of camping impacts in these popular areas,” said Superintendent Mike Reynolds. “Park visitation has doubled over the past decade, which has resulted in crowding on backcountry roads adjacent to developed areas like Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells.”
Permits are a way for park rangers to communicate with campers about Leave No Trace ethics, NPS regulations and other ways users can help protect the environment. Park staff compare usage information from permits with resource impacts on the ground to determine if use limitations are needed to protect the fragile desert. Permits are also valuable during search-and-rescue efforts.
Roadside camping permits are issued for nine campsites along Echo Canyon Road, six along Hole in the Wall Road, ten along Cottonwood Canyon Road, and four along Marble Canyon Road. No camping is allowed along these roads, except with a permit in designated site. The mandatory permits for roadside camping are free, and are available only in person at Furnace Creek Visitor Center (8:00 am to 5:00 pm) and Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station (intermittent hours). Roadside camping permits are issued on the day of, or one day in advance of, the first night of the permit. Permits are first-come, first-served, and cannot be reserved in advance.
Backpackers can get no cost permits for the Cottonwood-Marble Canyons Loop during business hours at Furnace Creek Visitor Center or Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station, online at nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/wilderness-permits.htm, or at the 24-hour self-service drop box outside Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station. These permits are not for specific campsites, and there are no limits on the number of permits issued.
“We really wanted to find a way to make the permits both free and reservable online,” said Superintendent Reynolds. “Unfortunately, we can only issue permits in person. We are likely to consider an online reservation option for 2023/2024, but that would require charging a fee.”
Featured Image: Backpacking along Cottonwood-Marble Canyon Loop. NPS photo by Nico Ramirez
Death Valley Road Conditions As of October 19, 2022
Many areas of the park were heavily impacted, damaged, or closed following record rainfall in August. While some roads have reopened, additional flooding in September re-closed many roads. Thank you for your patience as crews work hard to clear debris, rebuild roads, and open additional areas over the coming months.
- CA-190 from Death Valley Junction to Emigrant Junction (Zabriskie Point, Harmony Borax Works/Mustard Canyon, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Mosaic Canyon Trail) (No access over Towne Pass to Panamint Valley)
- CA-190 from Panamint Valley Road to Hwy 395. This provides access to Panamint Springs Resort, Father Crowley Vista Point, and Saline Valley Road.
- Badwater Road to Badwater Basin (Badwater Basin, Golden Canyon Trail, Desolation Canyon Trail). (Closed beyond Badwater Basin at Mile Marker 17)
- Devils Golfcourse
- Artists Drive (Vehicles longer than 25 feet not allowed)
- Emigrant Canyon Road (Charcoal Kilns, Wildrose Peak Trail, Telescope Peak Trail). (Vehicles longer than 25 feet not allowed)
- Lower Wildrose Road (aka Trona-Wildrose Road), access to Panamint Valley. (Vehicles longer than 25 feet not allowed. Some sections unpaved and only single lane wide.)
- Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road
- Dantes View Road (Dantes Ridge Trail) (Vehicles longer than 25 feet not allowed)
Many park roads are closed due to recent flood damage. This includes:
- CA 190 from Emigrant Junction over Towne Pass to Panamint Valley Road
Caltrans hopes to open this by October 31
- Badwater Road south of Badwater Basin (Mile Marker 17) to CA-178 and Shoshone,CA (Sidewinder Canyon Trail, Willow Canyon Trail)
- Daylight Pass, Beatty Cutoff, Mud Canyon (Keane Wonder Mine). Daylight Pass and Beatty Cutoff may open by late-October.
- North Highway (Ubehebe Crater)
- Salt Creek – May be closed until fall 2023. Flooding changed the creek bed, destroyed the boardwalk and damaged the toilet.
- Bonnie Clare Road and Scotty’s Castle due to flood recovery work . Unlikely to reopen before late 2023.
- Jail Canyon (see the Superintendent’s Compendium to learn more).
- Darwin Falls Trail- trail is washed out and road is in very rough 4X4 condition
Backcounty travel is not advised. Due to recent flooding events, visitors should expect additional hazards and roads in far worse condtion than stated in the Backcountry and Wilderness Access Map. Many areas have not been assessed for damage. Some areas are impassable – do not plan on through-travel.
If you choose to travel on backcountry roads, be aware that rescue is likely to be extremely delayed. Travel prepared to survive, with 2 full size spare tires and extra food and water. If you have questions about road conditions or need help planning your backcountry trip, please call: 760-786-3200.
Note that road closures listed below apply to ALL vehicles, including motorcycles and bicycles. The roads were completely washed out in places and entry will cause tire tracks and braided roads in wilderness as users try to locate what was once the road. Thank you for your patience as we work to reopen these locations.
- Westside Road (Johnson Canyon, Galena Canyon, Trail Canyon, Hanaupah Canyon, Warm Springs Canyon)
- Titus Canyon
- Racetrack Road
- Steele Pass
- Echo Canyon
- Hole in the Wall
- Cottonwood/Marble Canyons
- Owlshead Road
- Grotto Canyon