During high summer in Death Valley, you can forget about packing a stove. Surface temperatures top 200 degrees F, and you can literally brew coffee just by setting a dark pot on the ground. The air temperature is not exactly cool, either. The summer of 1996 saw 40 days hotter than 120 degrees F, and 105 days with temps higher than 110 degrees F, making it the hottest on record. The summer of 2001 was another scorcher, with 154 days sizzling above 100 degrees F.
Park rangers justifiably discourage hiking or camping in the lowlands between May and October, though campers still visit. In winter you can safely enjoy the warmth and stunning landscape on trips like the 26-mile Cottonwood to Marble Canyon loop. Backcountry camping is allowed at most places in the national park that are at least 2 miles from a maintained road and 200 yards from water sources. Take at least 2 gallons of water for each day you'll be out.
Contact:Death Valley National Park, (760) 786-3200; www.nps.gov/deva