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Death Valley in July in a rental RV

Skoerping, Denmark
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Death Valley in July in a rental RV

Dear all,

I have been trying to find info here on whether the above is doable.

Situation: We are a family of 4 who will be renting an RV at Cruise America in July. I especially look forward to seeing Death Valley, but my wife is rather reluctant, because Cruise America says on their website that:

"Vehicles may be operated with EXTREME CARE in Death Valley and other desert areas during the months of July and August. In Summer, renters visit these areas at their own risk and Cruise America will not be held responsible for extraordinary vehicle recovery and other charges. During certain periods these areas are not habitable and could pose a danger to the driver and passengers."

So I want to ask if it's insane to drive through Death Valley in order to see Badwater/Furnace Creek. I think the plan will be to get through DV as fast as possible, because of the above warning. We will rent the 25 ft RV. I would like to get to the warmest point in DV at the warmest period of the day, i.e., between 2-4 pm. We will be arriving from Las Vegas.

Thanks in advance

Ole

Denmark

Tucson, Arizona
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1. Re: Death Valley in July in a rental RV

Relax. You can definitely drive your RV through Death Valley. The main thing is stay on asphalt, which is easy to do. NO dirt roads in your RV. This is unbelievably easy to do and is what almost everyone does in a car anyway. So you can see all that you want and never leave asphalt.

ZB

Skoerping, Denmark
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2. Re: Death Valley in July in a rental RV

Thans alot Zabriskibound! That was also the intention - to stay on the asphalt. So excited to see this unique place on Earth!

Best regards

Ole

Oregon Coast
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3. Re: Death Valley in July in a rental RV

Hi ximoen and welcome to TripAdvisor.

Up until last year, no RV companies allowed their motorhomes in Death Valley in the summer. Last year, CruiseAmerica began allowing their rentals into DV and I think they are still the only company allowing this.

They put that warning on there mainly to let people realize that there are extremely HOT conditions in summer. Additionally, if an RV rental breaks down and needs towing, the tow truck charge to tow it out of DV back to a large town will be very expensive. They don't want to pay it!

So by saying:

"In Summer, renters visit these areas at their own risk and Cruise America will not be held responsible for extraordinary vehicle recovery and other charges" , you as a renter should realize that if you do break down, *you* will be paying for any repairs or towing.

Now, the vast majority of rental motorhomes won't have any problems at all. People drive RVs in Phoenix Arizona and Palm Springs California which are nearly as hot!

If you have a temperature gauge, watch it. You *may* have to turn off the dash air conditioner. Basically, use common sense and you should be just fine. Enjoy your visit and don't forget lots of water and lightweight hats!

LA
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4. Re: Death Valley in July in a rental RV

The towing charge for an RV that breaks down in Death Vally can exceed $1000 and it is not paid for by the rental company.

I have read that the towing company does not take credit cards. I am not sure about that.

Uden, The...
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5. Re: Death Valley in July in a rental RV

The only part in DV that can be a bit tricky is the steep climb from Stovepipe Wells to Panamint Range over 16 miles. Use lower gear and just in case, there's radiator water availble along this strech but I never saw a vehicle stopping there. There really is very little chance of a break down with a good car/RV. And I also think CruiseAmeroca is the only company that allows driving an RV in Death Valley in summer but prob. the others will follow.

San Francisco
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6. Re: Death Valley in July in a rental RV

It is not true that these areas "are not habitable." You don't need to rush through in fear for your life! Millions of people visit them, and many people live there. In fact, Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert, and you could have a lively debate about how habitable it is, but people do live there. I'll be going to Death Valley again soon to work as a seasonal park volunteer, which means I don't get paid but go because I want to.

The RV companies exaggerate their warnings to be sure folks understand, and many people do get scared off and miss out on Death Valley. They want you to be careful because it's a pain for them to service vehicles that break down or get stranded there so they make the renter responsible. Just use common sense and be aware of your gauges. Note that they do not cover “extraordinary vehicle recovery." I interpret "extraordinary” to mean something out of the ordinary, for example an RV stuck in Titus Canyon. Driving on a paved state highway is not extraordinary, and most modern vehicles won’t have problems.

You CAN go to Badwater and many other great places. In fact, shorter RVs (762 cm or less) can go on Artist's Drive, 20 Mule Team Canyon, and all the way to the top at Dante's View. The Dante's View road is narrow and curvy at the top, and there is a parking area for large vehicles a couple hundred metres from the top, so you can still enjoy it. I often see RVs on graded gravel roads for places like Devil's Golf Course, Salt Creek, or Mosaic Canyon. These are not paved but are maintained often, and any vehicle driven carefully will be fine; mainly you'd want to go slowly to avoid flat tires. Take your time and truly experience and enjoy Death Valley, which is much more than Badwater

Skoerping, Denmark
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7. Re: Death Valley in July in a rental RV

Wow. So many great responses to my questions. I can't thank you guys enough.

And as a matter of fact, I am now considering a stay at Stowepipe Wells Village at their campground. The one at Furnace Creek is closed this summer. But staying for one night will give us time to experience more of DV.

My wife is still worried though, e.g., how about the tires? Will they melt?

As some of you said: Use common sense, and I agree to that. Turn off the aircondition, if you can hear it is working too hard. Stay on the asphalt, etc.

One question: Can we get out of the park from Stovepipe Well Village by following 190 east, and then to the junction of 395 and 190/136?

Thanks, and best regards,

Ole

Oregon Coast
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8. Re: Death Valley in July in a rental RV

Your tires will be fine :-)

Have your wife look up information about visiting and living in Phoenix Arizona. Although not quite as hot as Death Valley, over 4 million people live in the Phoenix metro area and live with 'average' high temperatures of:

June 104º

July 106º

August 104º

September 100º

Record highs during the summer are into the lower 120's, and daily highs are often in the 110's. I use this example to show that although DV may have a small population, other American desert areas have millions of people who live there year round. They get along just fine driving all kinds of cars and RVs in fiercely hot weather.

*

>> I interpret "extraordinary” to mean something out of the ordinary, for example an RV stuck in Titus Canyon.<<

I'm not entirely sure, but I think you may be incorrect on this point. Remember, as far as I know, only CruiseAmerica allows their rigs in DV in the summer, and they *just* started doing that last year. They may very well consider that whole remote area on paved road to be "extraordinary".

Perhaps somebody could email them to find out - would be useful.

*

Ximoen, other posters here know far more about DV than I do, but I am the only RVer so far on your thread. I've been RVing for 20 years. I would not take your rental motorhome off the asphalt, even on a graded road.

Edited: 09 June 2013, 20:37
San Francisco
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9. Re: Death Valley in July in a rental RV

No problem with tires melting, in Death Valley or anywhere else in the desert.

While you are in the park, you may see vehicle testers. Not all car testing happens on the racetrack (and I don’t mean the Racetrack in Death Valley, lol). Car manufacturers from all over the world--Ford, Nissan, Volvo, Audi, you name it--come to Death Valley in the middle of summer to test cars. We see them come into the visitor center to apply for special permits and pay a fee much higher than you will pay, for the privilege of trying to beat cars to death in Death Valley.

They put the maximum stress on engines, cooling systems (including a/c), suspension, tires, brakes, and other components, simulating the highest anticipated demand that consumers will put on their cars. Producers of tires, belts, oil, coolant, etc. do the same. These same companies take their products to the Yukon in winter. If you drive an automobile from almost any major company, there is a good chance the prototype was tested in Death Valley. I don’t know if RV companies do the same, but scads of Tiogas, Winnebagoes, Coachmen, etc. can be seen around DV even in summer.

You may see RVs or trailers parked with a cover of canvas or similar material attached along the lower body, shielding the tires. These are long-term parkers who keep the vehicle in one place for weeks or maybe decades, maybe because they live in it, and it is continually exposed to the sun for many hours in the same position each day. If you leave any tire out in DV for years, it will get brittle, but if you’re parking any vehicle for just a few days or you’re moving it around, not to worry.

The Stovepipe Wells campground that is open now is run by the resort. The NPS campground at SPW closes in summer. Go to the hotel desk to register for campsites, and you can also buy guest passes to the pool and showers for $5.00 apiece, good for the whole day.

To get to 395 from Stovepipe Wells, take 190 WEST. (The gas station is on the north side of the highway). You’ll come to a junction where you can go straight ahead (this is 136) OR branch off to the left (this is 190). Both roads go to 395, and the one you take depends on where you want to go. Go left for 190 for 395 south, to Los Angeles or Sequoia National Park. Take 136 for Lone Pine, the eastern Sierra Nevada, and Yosemite. The large expanse you will see along both roads is Owens Lake, once navigable for small steam boats until its main source, the Owens River, was diverted to supply the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Now Owens Lake is a desert marsh, and as you drove along you may have noticed the refineries along the shore that harvest minerals off the lakebed and process them for industrial uses.

Uden, The...
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10. Re: Death Valley in July in a rental RV

Actually, RV rentalcompanies forbid to drive through Death Valley but they say nothing about other roads like the ones between 95 and 395 (266 and 168). That stretch also is extremely hot and more deserted than Death Valley and youl'l have to climb several mountainpasses on 168. Odd!

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