Jail Canyon is a worthy day trip as well as a place to camp. An old miner’s cabin lies at the end of the rough route near a ravine with some aging cottonwood trees. There are a couple of flat areas to camp nearby with a great view of the canyon below. The wind can howl up the canyon with strong gusts rocking our truck while sleeping overnight. Read more
Part of the fun of planning your trip is getting out a good map and choosing where you want to explore. Guide books are very helpful with deciding where to drive and camp. Just be aware that back roads and campsites can change dramatically due to the harsh elements.
A favorite 4×4 road into Death Valley was impassable the last time we visited Goler Wash in 2015. A large rock slide had enveloped the road making progress so slow and rough it took the fun out of the journey – nearly an hour to travel 1 mile. We like the Goler route as it usually a “short cut” from the west side of the Panamints to visit the Barker Ranch, Stella’s Cabin, Stripped Butte and other scenic campsites. Otherwise it is a very long way around via the Park’s Highways. So, have a plan B for camping if the desert has changed the terrain from what your favorite guide book reads. Read more
The difference between an adventure or an ordeal is attitude.” – Bob Bitchin
Here is my short list of important tips to help make your trip more of a fun adventure than an unpleasant ordeal.
- Carry TWO spare tires. Expect to have a flat tire when exploring 4×4 roads in canyons with old mining equipment and debris. Having a 2nd spare insures that you can get out of the back country. There is no towing service nearby.
- There is NO cell phone service in most of Death Valley. Pay phones are available at Stove Pipe Wells and Furnace Creek. 2 way radios work well most places and help when you are separated to stay connected with each other.
- Don’t rely on Google maps or online maps that rely on cell or WiFi reception – bring a real life map. Our favorite maps are: Death Valley National Park Recreation Map by Tom Harrison and Death Valley National Park by National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps.
- Weather – our favorite time to camp is from November through April. Be prepared for snow, high winds and temperature extremes. The beauty of camping in Death Valley is that if you are too hot, simply drive to a higher elevation – or too cold, drive to a lower elevation. Death Valley boasts to have the most difference in elevation in the U.S.; Telescope peak is at 11,049 and Bad Water is 282 ft. below sea level!
A major perk of camping in the back country is the vivid display of the night sky. Void of city light pollution you can see the Milky Way and an array of stars and planets. Star gazers can get to know these heavenly bodies by using a star chart – either manual or as a cell phone app. Read more
The winner for our “Ghost Towns of Death Valley” DVD is, drum roll please…….
Tammy Gillett, pictured here with her dog buddy, Kate. Tammy exclaimed, “I am delighted to win the DVD and I plan to watch it tonight!” She just recently subscribed and has been, “enjoying reading the camping stories.” Thank you Tammy and to all of our subscribers for entering our drawing.
I am giving away a “Ghost Towns of Death Valley” DVD to the lucky winner of my 1st blog contest. Enter to win by simply making a comment on one of my posts or subscribe to my newsletter.
Ghost Towns of Death Valley is a 44 minute account that explores the western boom towns of Death Valley, illustrated with rare early film footage, vintage photos, and the breathtaking scenery of Death Valley National Park.
I will announce the winner on *January 13, 2018!
It is inevitable while traveling in the California desert, Sierras and Pacific coast range, that you will come across a rattlesnake. I live in rattlesnake country and it is still unnerving to have a close encounter.
Rattlers tend to mind their own business and are an important part of rodent control. It is good to educate yourself as to where they like to hangout and simply make yourself a rule to never put your hands where you cannot see and to wear protective boots when hiking in their domain. Read more
Death Valley contains many canyons where old mine shafts, cabins, millsites and various ghosts of past mining operations lay silent to be discovered by the exploring traveler.
One such place of interest is the Minnietta cabin and mine in the Argus range. The well maintained cabin is one of the many mining shacks in Death Valley adopted by off-roading groups. Travelers caught in the harsh elements can find a place of refuge, or like us, simply camp in our truck nearby to enjoy exploring the ruins and equipment abandoned where it was last operated.
The type of equipment spans the century from old west wood trams and iron rails to 1940s and 50s boilers and trucks. Rust comes slowly in the dry desert leaving the ruins preserved for the history buff to puzzle out how the mines were operated. My hubby once worked as a stationary engineer and he loves to examine the old steam boilers and machinery closely.
A favorite “short cut” into Death Valley from the west side of the Panamint Range is to go across Goler Wash. Be sure to check road conditions before entering as one year we found so many rock falls it took the joy out of driving it.
From the rocky road into Goler we were able to gain access to the Barker Ranch, infamous for once being a hideout for the notorious Manson gang in 1969.
The serene beauty of the area where this ranch is located belies the heinous deeds of Charles Manson and his gang who used it to hide from the pursuit of lawmen after their murder of five people, including Sharon Tate and Abigail Folger. The Barker Ranch is where the group was apprehended by Inyo County Sheriffs. You can read the story as an insider law enforcement account in the book Desert Shadows. Ironically my hubby worked where Manson was incarcerated for a portion of serving his life sentence.
Occasionally we will recommend a product that we have tried and used to improve our camping experience. Those items will be a clickable link in my blog articles for ease in your finding useful products, as well as for me to make a small profit as an *affiliate. I am also using this page to build a resource list with categories for your convenience.
- Death Valley –
Maps: Tom Harrison map; National Geographic map. Both maps are printed on waterproof and tear resistant plastic.
Guide books: The Explorer’s Guide to Death Valley National Park by Bryan ; Death Valley SUV Trails by Roger Mitchell
- Big Sur –
Los Padres National Forest Monterey & Santa Lucia Ranger Districts. You can buy a map or follow the links to download the map to use offline. I prefer a hard copy.
- Campfire reading –
No camping trip is complete without a good book to read! One of our favorite authors is Louis L’Amour with his historical fiction of the old west, often describing areas where we have camped out. Here is a favorite title to get you started, “The Shadow Riders“. Later you can watch the movie.
A fun read of witty cautionary tales of outdoor life is, “A Fine And Pleasant Misery” by Patrick McManus.
- Star chart – Camping under the stars isn’t complete without a star chart to learn the names of constellations and planets. No batteries or cell reception is needed for this manual star wheel. Read more about the basics for camping under the stars.
- Sleeping bag -Our favorite is a double size bag for two people (we are both tall), rated for zero degrees by Teton Sports Mammoth. This cozy bag has 3 zippers (both sides and across the bottom) with drawstrings, baffles in the head section and a comfy flannel lining. This bag served us well sleeping on an air mattress in the back of our pickup truck. Most recently it fits perfectly on our mattress pad in the cab over section of our Alaskan camper.
- Enhance your camp cooking with the simple art of grilling on this handy, portable Smokey Joe BBQ by Weber. The smell and taste of smoked, barbecued meat and veggies beats the camp stove cooking method and this little BBQ makes it easy.
- Sunglasses – I really enjoy the invisible “cheaters” in this pair of polarized bifocal sunglasses. The 1.50 readers really make a difference to see to tie a fishing lure, take out a cactus sticker, or to see the details of a desert flower.
- Hair – I am a Stylist for Lilla Rose and their patented Flexi hair clip. I love these clips for practical easy care of my hair while camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, bicycle and horseback riding.
Sample itinerary and menu to camp in Death Valley
- For truck camper reviews: truckcampermagazine.com. This is a great online resource to compare brands and find reviews by other real life campers.
- The telescoping Alaskan camper: alaskancampers.com. After years of research we decided on the Alaskan camper for giving us the creature comforts we want while camping in the back country. Here is our story of a quest for a truck camper.
*“We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”
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Whether you are new to camping or an experienced desert rat, my hope is for readers to use this online base camp as a place to laugh, relate and learn from our camping experiences and love affair for 4×4 back roads and adventure. Details of our remote camping spots and recommended gear are here to make your next off-road trip one of delightful discovery.
Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
- We share our off-road favorite haunts in the Blog section where you can enter key words in our search bar such as “Big Sur” or “mines” or simply peruse by scrolling through the posts.
- I am developing a list of camping resources on the Gear page where you will find maps, guide books and camping gear we recommend.
- We welcome you to use our Comments section at the end of each post or Contact Us page to share what interests you as a camper.
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Be sure to use our easy sign-up form to get our monthly newsletter emailed to you. Goodies include prizes, the latest stories and tips for camping, as well as details for wilderness areas to see.
We are honored to have our submission published for “The Bucket List for Visiting Death Valley“ in the Truck Camper Magazine!!
Your love for the great outdoors and adventure is hopefully what brought you to this online niche. Exploring the back country in our 4 wheel drive truck is our favorite mode of reaching remote areas to boon-dock. We don’t find camping in a designated campground parked next to a huge RV with its generator growling as our style of escape. Our knowledge of off-road camping spots and our tips and stories of discovery are here to make your personal camping experience richer and more fun.
From the desert to the Pacific coast:
We love the desert, which is not where the majority of folks desire to camp – so perhaps you are in the minority with us and understand the call of the desert with its varied geology, dark starry nights, blessed quiet and surprising oases (yep, the plural for oasis).
There is something infectious about the magic of the desert. Some are immune to it, but there are others who have no resistance to the subtle virus and who must spend the rest of their lives dreaming of the incredible sweep of the dunes, of golden mesas with purple shadows and tremendous stars appearing at dusk from a turquoise sky. Once infected, there is nothing one can do but strive to return again and again.” – H. Wormington
Back roads along the rugged California coast line are also near and dear as they are closer to home and afford us breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean where the summer temperatures are usually much cooler. We share these Favorite haunts with you as well as experienced tips for how to deeper enjoy your camp out.
My personal journey as a camper:
I was not raised a camper, though I grew up loving the outdoors, riding horses or building my own tree house. My introduction to camping began when a handsome young man invited me to a college group’s rock climbing trip in Joshua Tree National Park. After asking me to marry him, our 1st vacations were backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains, usually along the John Muir Trail. As our family grew with three children we tent camped and hiked with them, later introducing them to backpacking as they got older.
After our kids were grown we discovered sleeping on an air mattress inside a camper shell on the back of our truck as more comfortable and did this for nearly 20 years. Most recently, we have purchased a truck mounted camper and are loving the luxury it affords as we plan to travel across country.
After many years of camping and exploring the back roads of mountains and deserts, I affectionately called my hubby a desert rat. To this he started calling me his desert fox, and thus I have coined this blog.
My journey as a camper has been an evolution and it is our desire to continue camping as long as we are physically able. My heart is to share this love of camping with baby boomers as well as the newest generation of campers who utilize the latest technology.
For the love of creation:
As always in life, I have faced many challenges, some of them directly due to our love of the outdoors. The miracle of my rescue from drowning in the Kern River, directly influenced my desire to write and thus the birth of this blog.
I ride shotgun as my husband loves to drive and explore rough, dirt roads (often times more like trails) in our four-wheel drive truck. The back roads provide escape from daily life to renew the soul with God’s creation.
The wilderness gives me perspective to “be still” and a thrill in my heart for the awe of its beauty. I will be sharing many of those adventures along with lessons learned with you, in hopes that you will be encouraged to discover your own.
Thanks for your interest in contacting Desert Fox Camping. If I am in the boondocks, I will reply when I have cell or internet reception. Thanks!
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