Death Valley with a Puppy: California

Did you know that Death Valley is the largest national park outside of Alaska? I didn’t. Al, @kevinfromfinance & I were looking for a long weekend camping trip and after a bit of research on Al’s behalf we settled on Death Valley. I’ve been pretty keen to go and see it, and we were quickly running out of the time in “the season” to visit, so this felt like the right time to go.

Now, here in the U.S. they have weird rules around where you can and can’t take pets. For example, most national parks don’t allow pets except within 100 yards of the road and neither do the state parks (look for the county parks if you’re looking to hike with your doggy). However, Al had found a blog in his research who talked about taking pets so we felt comfortable taking Kevin. At this point I should point out that there were a lot of other dogs at our campsite who seemed very happy with their Death Valley adventure, even though my pampered pooch was not such a fan (more on this later).

So, we head out from LA, conscious of needing to break up the journey as Kevin hadn’t really done any long road trips and it’s almost a 5 hour drive. To be honest, there aren’t a lot of ground breaking, amazing spots to stop along route, I’d recommend driving out a bit into Antelope Valley more rather than staying on the 14 if you’re looking to stop. We did however stop in a little town for lunch and a leg stretch. There were big signs telling us about this place and we’d seen nothing else so we weren’t going past. The little town was Trona, it looked like a mineral mining town, and it was a tad depressing. HOWEVER, my burger was not! The little cafe was called Esparza and is just off the highway on Main Street, you cant miss it. It was busy, and the food was fresh. They did have a lot of fish taco stuff on the menu, but I am in a big believer in not eating seafood when I can’t see the ocean.

Not long after here you make your way into the valley, and it is gorgeous! I love the dramatic scenery, and how the landscape changes depending on which part of the valley you are in. Super cool. However, even though we were there during the “season” it was still hot as hell! Honestly, it’s like your soul is being sucked out through your pores. There is barely a whisper of shade anywhere and even the temperature may not be that hot (36 Celsius) it felt hotter than anything I had experienced. It’s the drying heat, it’s full on. This is why my puppy was not a fan, that and too much car time & having to be on the leash all of the time.

1st up: camping

Temperatures were pretty good for over night camping here, though remember you have no shade so you aren’t going to be hanging out in the day here. The ground is also rocky as hell (I suspect that the ground situation is man made because the moment you step away from the camp ground it is all clay). We ended up with quite a few bent tent pegs and weren’t sure the tent was going to make it through the first windy night, but it did!! The sites are also small so you def feel like you are sitting right on top of your neighbors. But $15 a night and flushing toilets is a big win in my book.

The campgrounds is also surrounded by these weird rock/clay structures that you can climb up for beautiful sunrise/sunset views.

2nd: the views

Amazing as I mentioned before. We went out to a few spots and even the drives to them are just gorgeous.

Titus Canyon is dog friendly and supposed to be gorgeous , with shade. However, it’s 3 miles up an unsealed rocky road which after just under a mile in our little electric car (no spare tire) we decided to turn around on. The desert is no place to get stuck with a flat.

Ubehebe Crater: ok, technically not dog friendly. Though. You are allowed to take dogs 100 yards from the road and that was far enough to see the crater from a little height. You can walk up around it all, but we didn’t do that with Kevin. We also tried to put booties on Kevin’s feet here. So funny! I was bent over laughing so hard by the time I got myself upright to video him, he’d pretty much got them off. They were not a success. I think too big, and he hated them. The crater itself though is super cool, worth the drive out to.

Dante’s View: you definitely want to drive up to this. All paved paths along the main viewing spots so it is puppy friends too. The views are amazing. You look over the Badwater Basin which is the lowest point of the valley.

Zabriskie Point: we didn’t end up stopping here because it was super crowded. Some tour buses had pulled it. It is supposed to be beautiful views though. The sign says no dogs but it’s a paved path so I think that is ridiculous, clearly others did too as I saw dogs there.

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes: we just did a drive by here cause it’s also no dogs. I’m also not that interested in walking up sand dunes, they aren’t a novelty to me. Lots of people seemed into it though.

Twenty Mule Canyon Road: yay it’s dog friendly! It’s a short unpaved road through the canyon and Kevin loved it. He finally got to feel like he had a bit of freedom here. The colour day sunset time were gorgeous as well.

And that was pretty much everything we saw. I am guessing other people just take there dog more places than they are supposed to. I struggle between thinking I should be allowed to if I am respectful of the environment and thinking there’s a reason why the parks say no. It’s very tricky.

3rd: the refreshments

There aren’t a lot of choices when you are in the valley, but there are some options for you to take advantage of.

Oasis at Death Valley, Furnace Creek: this was a total desert oasis. Things we loved most? The grass and the shade!! So good! Ok they also have a very good general store (which is really a hotel shop). For food items to purchase, this was a way better general than Stovepipe (they had better souvenirs). They also have a place to grab a pizza and sit outside, which a lot of people were doing. Pizzas were $25 which I categorize as normal.

In addition to this they have the restaurant where you can eat in or takeaway from. We did takeaway so we could sit outside with a beer and a bite to eat. Food was not ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but the potato skins were yum. Inside it is a seriously eclectic collect of old west(?) meets hunting lode (?). I don’t know, it amused me anyway. You’ll want to note, that at proper meal times you will need a reservation here.

Stovepipe Wells: this little town is an important one to know. This is where you want to fuel up. Petrol (gas) is about $1.50 cheaper per gallon than anywhere in the valley, and was cheaper than LA. Think about what this will mean on a Sunday morning though which is a normal departure time.

They have a saloon here which is supposed to be pretty cool, but they don’t do any outside service so we didn’t get to check it out (good one weird Californian drinking laws). What I did learn though, is that you are allowed to drink your beers from the general at the outdoor table (though the general store is not allowed to open your beer for you).

Panamint Spring Resort: I had heard this was a great beer stop, so on our way back to LA we figured it was the place to stop before we left the valley. They describe themselves as rustic, western -style and I’d agree with that. The bar has a wrap around patio that you can sit out on (perfect for us) and they serve up some reasonable food as well as a nice cols beer- I think there is a choice of 150 different beers, we went local. I opted for a chicken sandwich that was really good. I am not sure why adding pineapple makes it desert style, but I love pineapple so it worded for me. Al had a hot dog, which was a good dog. The burgers looked good too. It’s simple, normal bar food, but it tastes good. Totally worth a stop. I saw there was a waterfall nearby you could hike to, but by this point we were ready to head home.

So would I go to Death Valley again? Yeah, it is gorgeous. But I think I’d have to work out a few more logistics next time.

  • Take a 4wd. Or at least something more sturdy than my Ford Cmax hybrid. Then I would feel more comfortable going on the unpaved roads.
  • Think about whether I bring Kevin. I could be better at ignoring the rules which would give me more places to take him. It is hot as hell though and he doesn’t like the heat. If I did take him I would test out the idea I saw from someone where they put frozen water bottles in a doggy back pack. That might make him more comfortable. He might handle it more when he is older as well. I assume puppies are like children and more susceptible to the weather.
  • Stay in a hotel. With air conditioning. Or I guess, an RV. I like camping, but it would have been good to have somewhere to shelter for some of the day. I think it would have been easier for Kevin. I’d also like pool 🙂

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