Death Valley National Park is a very unique place to travel with your dog. It’s a gorgeous, rustic land of extremes.
I’ve taken many vacations to Death Valley National park with my Dachshunds so I thought I would share my favorite things to do.
Whether you’re already planning to vacation in Death Valley with your dog, or you are searching for something fun to do, this article will help you plan your trip.
About Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is located in Southeast California, right along the Nevada border.
This 1.3 million acres (5,300 km2) of desert became a National Park October 31, 1994. It’s the largest National Park in the contiguous United States.
The park occupies an interface zone between the arid Great Basin and Mojave deserts, protecting the northwest corner of the Mojave Desert and its diverse environment of salt-flats, sand dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons, and mountains. (Source)
The landscape, referred to as Basin and Range by geologists, is primarily made up of valleys, mountainous areas, salt and sand flats, and water-carved canyons.
One of the most famous park features, the Badwater Basin, is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet (86 m) below sea level.
There is an entrance fee for all National Parks. There is no extra fee for pets.
The fee is paid by the “car load” and is $30 for one private vehicle (commercial vehicles are more). This grants you an access pass good for 7 days.
Alternately, you can buy an annual National Parks pass for $55. This is a good option if you plan to stay more than 7 days or visit more than one National Park within the year.
When entering by foot, bicycle, or motorcycle, the fee will vary but is usually under $30.
Paying the entrance fee is unique for Death Valley National Park as, unlike many National Parks, there is no entrance gate where you pay the fee “at the gate”.
One can drive into Death Valley National Park at no cost. However, if you plan to make any stops (aren’t just driving through) you will need to stop at one of the locations inside of the park to buy your pass.
Locations where you can pay the fee include:
- Furnace Creek Visitor Center
- Furnace Creek Campground kiosk (when staffed October 15 to April 15)
- Stovepipe Wells Ranger Station
- One of the many remote fee-collection locations within the park
Dogs in Death Valley Rules
The National Park rules regarding dogs make some of the most famous features off limits to those, like me, who always take their dogs along (the sand dunes for example).
Somme National Parks that are more dog friendly than others but the general rules regarding where dogs are allowed are:
- Along roads
- In campgrounds
- In picnic areas
- In other developed areas designated as pet friendly
(Service animals can go more places with you of course)
Pets are not allowed:
- On trails
- Into the Wilderness
- Inside most buildings
- Out of developed areas
General park rules state that all dogs must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet at all times and you must pick up their waste.
Death Valley also prohibits you from leaving your dog your car while you are away because it can become deadly hot in minutes.
Although these rules may seem restrictive, there are still plenty of ways you and your dog can enjoy Death Valley National Park together.
Knowing these 3 crucial things about visiting a National Park with your dog can turn your experience from good to great.
Desert Safety in Death Valley
The desert can be very unforgiving and the weather can change from moment-to-moment.
It’s common to be enjoying a nice sunny day with your dog and have a rain storm move in that drenches you in seconds.
In the warmer months, the temperature is regularly over 100 degrees. In 1913, the highest recorded temperature of 134 °F (56.7 °C) was measured at Furnace Creek.
Daily summer temperatures of 120 °F (49 °C) or greater are common and the nights can be below freezing in winter.
Because of high temperatures in summer, the most popular time to visit the park is in spring. Fall is also nice and usually less crowded.
The greatest dangers for your dog in Death Valley National Park are:
- Spiny plants and hot, rough ground surfaces damaging your dog’s foot pads
- Flash flooding
Follow these safety tips to help make sure you and your dog stay safe:
- Bring plenty of water. You may need to “encourage” your dog to drink enough water by flavoring it (I add a splash of bone broth)
- Consider bringing a cooling vest for your dog (you” have to carry water with you to keep it wet)
- Go for hikes in the evening or morning when the temperatures are cooler
- Keep checking your dog’s feet for thorns, burns, or tears in the pads
- Bring comb or pliers for pulling thorns , or pieces of cactus, out of your dog’s feet
- If it’s hot, regularly check ground temperatures with back of hand
- There is no cell phone reception in most areas of the park so it’s a good idea to bring a prepaid calling card. There are pay phones if you need to call for help at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch, Stovepipe Wells, Grapevine Ranger Station, and Highway 190 near Dante’s View turnout.
- If you’re going to drive the backroads, bring enough “survival gear” to be comfortable in the heat (or cold) for a few hours if something goes wrong with your car (ie. snacks, plenty of water, a way to create shade, etc.)
- If you will be driving in lower-traffic areas, help may be hours away. Consider bringing a personal emergency communicator like the Garmin InReach (affiliate link so I may receive a small commission if you buy one)
3 Best Things to Do in Death Valley with Your Dog
There are so many things to do with your dog in Death Valley National Park that you could easily spend a week there.
However, if you are limited on time, it’s still worth it to visit for only a day or two.
My suggested two-day itinerary is to visit Titus Canyon (hike or drive with stops) one day. The second day, drive or hike the Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road and make a stop at Artists Palette.
If only have one day in Death Valley with your dog, definitely drive Titus canyon and stop at Artists Palette for sunset.
Titus Canyon is one of the crown jewels of Death Valley National Park and a place I like to see every time I visit.
The canyon is very diverse with rugged mountains, colorful rock formations, petroglyphs, wildlife, rare plants, and spectacular canyon narrows.
If you want to drive the whole thing, there are several spots where you can stop to walk around with your dog (you must stay within 50 feet of the road).
Please note that much of this canyon is only suitable for high clearance vehicles. A vehicle with 4WD may be necessary after it has rained. However, the two-way section from the west is OK for two-wheel-drive, standard clearance vehicles.
Another great way to see the Titus Canyon with your dog is to hike up the narrows (walk along the road).
It’s the most popular back-country road in Death Valley National Park so it can be really crowded certain times of the year (spring is the most popular time of year to visit and winter is typically the least crowded).
Don’t worry if the crowds slow you down though because it’s a place where you definitely want to take your time anyway.
If you’re lucky, you may spot the native bighorn sheep (please make sure you keep your dog on leash and under control if you see them).
Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road
Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road is primarily known for the colorful, eroded badlands.
The area surrounding the Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road is also where certain scenes (Jabba the Hutt’s place) from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, were filmed.
You can drive this 2.5-mile road (It’s suitable for most vehicles but it’s always check road conditions before you go) or hike it with your dog.
The road is only one way for vehicles but the great thing about hiking it is it can be done in either direction.
Hiking it also allows you to see the area at a slower space and admire all of the unique features up close.
Of course, it’s important to leave as little impact on the landscape so don’t go too far (your dog is required to stay within 50 feet of the road anyway).
There is no designated shoulder but the road is plenty wide for one vehicle and a person to pass each other in most places.
Where it’s not, or you just feel safer doing so, there are may places you can step to the side.
Artist Drive and Artist Palette at Sunset
Artists Drive is not a place to hike with your dog but it’s definitely a must-see. It’s one of the more unique areas to see in the park.
The drive is a paved, 9-mile, one-way road that is suitable for most vehicles under 25 feet in length (it’s too windy for longer vehicles to navigate safety).
The drive takes you through colorful hills and there are a few viewpoints where you can take a picture of your dog (from the parking area).
The colors of blue, green, and purple are produced by the oxidation of the metals and elements found in the ground here.
After about 5 miles, you will come to Artist Palette, which showcases some of the most spectacular colors.
I think these are the 3 best things to do in Death Valley National Park with your dog. However, there are many, many more worthwhile places to explore if you have time.