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Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

London, United...
3 posts
Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

We will be hiring a car and driving through Death Valley from LA to Furnace Creek, staying a night then driving on to Las Vegas. Anyone have any safety tips for this trip through one of the hottest parts of the world, a trip we are doing in the hottest part of the year? I am starting to think we are crazy although the area looks spectacular from pictures I've seen. What do we do if our car breaks down??? Our mobile phones will not work in the park. Anyone done this trip?

Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Dusseldorf
Level Contributor
3,305 posts
660 reviews
1. Re: Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

You are not crazy and it is drop dead gorgeous. Read Frisco's many posts on safety. But the best thing to keep in mind, stay on the asphalt and do not drive on any dirt roads. This is very easy to do, but some folks seem to get confused with GPS and end up who knows where. Have enough water in the car for drinking....like a few gallons does not hurt, and of course hat and sun glasses and sun screen. Carry water if you go for short hikes, and only plan on very short hikes. Yes, it is very hot but yes it is very beautiful, and just kkeeping in mind where you are is really all you need to do. Do go to Dante's view....it is cooler up there and it is a great view. Stop at Father Crowley's Point on the way into the valley.


Level Contributor
11,479 posts
1 review
2. Re: Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

1. Read one of the park brochures and stay on the paved roads, or the established roads to major attractions. Check with the information center for these major attractions. Once there, DO NOT venture off the main road.

2. If you are on gravel, slow down to about 25mph. Speed is the major force in flat tires on gravel, especially in the heat.

3. Take at least 2 gallons of water per person in the car. Take a broad-brimmed hat, and sun protection such as a cool, long-sleeved shirt. Do not walk around in flip-flops. Have tennis shoes or more substantial sandals on. The ground can burn your feet when it's 120 outside.

4. The lower the altitude, the hotter the experience. So, plan your low altitude visits for the earlier, morning hours. It can easily be 100 degrees at midnight, so it's all relative. However, if you are going to visit something like the dunes, do it early and don't get any heroic hiking ideas. People die there every year, within hailing distance of their tour buses.

5. Don't use your GPS. Rely on park maps or USGs maps. People have died because they relied on GPS that were not accurate or misleading.

6.When in doubt, don't drive down an isolated dirt road. One flat tire is a very unpleasant inconvenience in the heat. Two flat tires can be fatal.

Stoke on Trent...
Level Contributor
750 posts
68 reviews
3. Re: Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

All the safey information given here is very sound. Assuming that you will be in an air conditioned rental car you should be ok if you follow the advice given. It has been mentioned on this forum before that we Brits tend to tolerate the heat better than a lot of people. I don't know why that should be as we aren't exactly used to it. We went in mid June last year and it wasn't that bad. As a photographer I made the most of the early mornings and evenings, though they were still hot too. Just not as hot. Death Valley really is beautiful. Make sure that you see Zabriski Point (preferably at sunrise) and the badwater salt flats. If you are at the flats in the early morning you can walk out to see some facinating shapes. It is one of those places though that you shouldn't venture out onto in the daytime, it is VERY hot.

Dublin, California
Level Contributor
23,818 posts
47 reviews
4. Re: Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

Don't rely on a GPS, be sure you have good print maps. Don't stray off the paved roads. Take lots of water. Make sure your car is in good working condition.

Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
Level Contributor
44,465 posts
1,110 reviews
5. Re: Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

Broad brimmed lightweight hats for everyone. Even if you don't normally wear them!

Edited: 12 June 2011, 21:44
San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
Level Contributor
16,689 posts
52 reviews
6. Re: Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

** "Anyone done this trip?" **

Many, many of us, and those of us replying to you are still alive. :)

Death Valley is a unique place and if you have the chance to visit and stay overnight to truly experience it, don't miss it!

More detail than you probably want to read, lol.


London, United...
Level Contributor
85 posts
32 reviews
7. Re: Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

Did this two years ago. Shared exactly your fears, but got great advice from this forum. Take lots of water, get a cool bag so you can keep it chilled , stick to the main sights, take it slowly and you will be fine.

If you break down there will be plenty of traffic to sort you out and help you temporarily. I am sure motorists will all help each other out. You wont be alone, believe me.

It was the best part of our west coast holiday and I wouldnt have missed it for the world.


Edited: 24 June 2011, 14:20
Level Contributor
754 posts
101 reviews
8. Re: Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

Now for an opposing viewpoint.

I used to live in the desert. After enduring sixteen desert summers, I still can't quite understand why anyone would want to vacation there during the summer. Spring, fall, and winter I can understand, but summer is hotter than hell with an incredibly intense sun.

If you insist on going, listen to the safety tips others have given. This article tells you what can happen if things go wrong:


Western PA
Level Contributor
751 posts
17 reviews
9. Re: Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

jaimexplorer, many visitors DON'T have a choice about when they vacation. If they teach or have children in school, summer may be the only time available. Perhaps the visitor wants to visit areas of the Sierras that are only accessible in the summer. There are countless other reasons why it is summer or nothing for many.

JaneandAndrew, heed the advice from the experts for the area, don't do anything stupid :-), and you'll be fine. I think blueaero posted a trip report after their trip last year, so that might be of particular interest to you.

Enjoy your visit!

T2E :-)

10. Re: Driving through Death Valley in August -advice please!

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