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Car Camping in Death Valley (6 Free Spots)

Death Valley National Park may not seem like a great place to car camp because of how hot it gets, but you’d be surprised by the amount of places to car camp at no cost.

I’ve been wanting to camp in Death Valley for quite some time now, so I finally got around to making this guide on the best places to car camp.

Where Can You Car Camp in Death Valley?

Dispersed CampingReservation?Cost
Backcountry RoadsNoFree
Dispersed Camping East Side of ParkNoFree
Hole in the Wall RoadNoFree
Echo Canyon RoadNoFree
Cottonwood Canyon CampgroundNoFree
Marble Canyon RoadNoFree

6 Dispersed Camping Spots in Death Valley (Free)

Death Valley road

1. Backcountry Roads

Death Valley National Park is one of the few National Parks that allow dispersed camping (camping at no cost on public land). Not to mention Death Valley National Park is one of the largest National Parks, so there should be no problem finding spots.

As for where you can car camp:

Camping is allowed anywhere in the park, one mile away from any developed area, paved road, or “day use only” area.

If you decide to car camp in the park, “park adjacent to the dirt road, on the shoulder, and in previously disturbed areas.”

NPS

All you have to do to camp here for free is to obtain a permit. You can do so at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center or the Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station.

Now let’s get into more specific, exact places to take part in dispersed camping in Death Valley National Park.

2. “Dispersed Camping East Side of Park”

Coordinates: 36.33868766061526 N, -116.60020097378026

Located just minutes from the entrance to Death Valley National Park, this camping spot has tons of concrete pads to park on. There are even fire pits!

Not to mention, there are very few lights so the stars here are phenomenal.

Remember, this is a dispersed camping spot owned by the Bureau of Land Management so there is no access to restrooms, water, and rarely reception.

Check out more information on this dispersed camping area on The Dyrt.

3. Hole in the Wall Road

The NPS created 6 designated campsites along Hole in the Wall Road for free camping without having to obtain a permit.

These 6 sites are first-come, first-served so once filled up, campers have the option to camp on the roadside instead once they obtain a permit. You can get a permit in person at Furnace Creek Visitor Center during business hours.

There are a ton of great spots where you can just pull off and camp with amazing views too.

4. Echo Canyon Road

A few minutes north of Hole in the Wall Road is another great option for free car camping, Echo Canyon Road. This road is the most central free campsite in Death Valley. You are allowed to camp for free here in your car in one of the nine campsites established by the NPS, even without a permit.

To park your car overnight anywhere along Echo Road that is not a designated site, you are required to receive a permit from Furnace Creek Visitor Center just like Hole in the Wall.

5. Cottonwood Canyon

Cottonwood Canyon and Marble Canyon (the dispersed camping spot listed below) are two roads in central Death Valley National Park that allow free roadside camping once you obtain a permit from Furnace Creek Visitor Center.

Cottonwood Canyon Road stretches into the heart of Death Valley’s backcountry. This area is remote and the road itself is unpaved and can be rough, requiring high-clearance and sometimes 4WD vehicles to navigate safely. Along this road, experienced campers can find isolated spots to set up camp amidst the serene desert landscapes.

  • Vehicle Access: Ensure your vehicle can handle rough, potentially washed-out roads.
  • Leave No Trace: It’s critical to follow Leave No Trace principles, packing out everything you bring in.
  • Water Supply: There are no water sources, so bring enough for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.
  • Permits: Check if the area requires a backcountry permit for overnight stays. As of my last update, Death Valley did not require a permit for backcountry dispersed camping, but always verify current regulations.
  • Isolation: Be prepared for complete self-sufficiency; help can be hours away if you encounter trouble.

6. Marble Canyon Road

Road in death valley

Marble Canyon offers a slightly different backdrop for dispersed camping. The narrow canyon is known for its dramatic marble walls and challenging terrain. The approach to Marble Canyon may be somewhat easier than the road to Cottonwood Canyon, but it is still advisable to have a high-clearance vehicle.

  • Road Conditions: Similar to Cottonwood Canyon, be prepared for off-road conditions.
  • Camping Spots: You’ll need to find spots that have been used before to avoid disturbing virgin land.
  • Flash Floods: Be aware of weather conditions as canyon areas can be prone to flash floods.
  • Wildlife: Store your food and waste properly to avoid attracting wildlife.

If looking for a nearby adventure, there is a trailhead in between the two roads Cottonwood Canyon and Marble Canyon where you can trek through some beautiful caves.

3 Campgrounds in Death Valley

CampgroundsReservation?Cost
Stovepipe Wells Campground Death ValleyFirst-come, first-served$14/night
Sunset CampgroundFirst-come, first-served$14/night
Texas Springs CampgroundFirst-come, first-served$16/night

1. Stovepipe Wells Campground Death Valley

Cost: $14/night

Amenities: Camp store, toilets, trash, firewood, potable water, ice

I added Stovepipe Campground in this article because as a fellow car camper, I know it is much more practical to try to snag a first-come, first-served campground rather than having to plan way in advance and make reservations.

I also added this campground due to its scenery. The Stovepipe Campground has views of Death Valley proper and of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes!

Check here for more information.

2. Sunset Campground

Car camper in desert

Cost: $14/night

Amenities: Camp store, toilets, trash, firewood, potable water

Sunset Campground is also a first-come, first-served campground that is so large that it is rare to fill up-basically heaven for car campers.

If you’re wanting the real desert experience, this location has little to no vegetation and is comprised of desert gravel. 

Sunset Campground is strategically located near Furnace Creek, which is often considered the hub of Death Valley National Park. Its proximity to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center makes it an excellent spot for first-time visitors to get oriented.

Also, being close to some of the park’s most famous attractions, such as Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point, and the Furnace Creek area itself, is a significant advantage.

Remember, all of the above-listed campsites are dispersed camping spots so there is no access to restrooms, water, and rarely reception.

3. Texas Springs Campground

Cost: $16/night

Amenities: Toilets, potable water, reception

Texas Springs Campground is also first-come, first-served and actually has views of trees unlike the other campsites.

Texas Springs Campground is located just above Furnace Creek, making it a convenient base for exploring Death Valley. Its elevation on the hillside offers not only superb views but also a bit more relief from the heat compared to the lower campgrounds. It’s also centrally located with easy access to must-see sites such as Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, and the colorful Artist’s Palette.