It might seem harmless to pocket a rock or pick a flower when you visit Death Valley, but unfortunately it is illegal to take anything at all from the park. Even though one stone or arrowhead won’t make much of a difference by itself, Death Valley receives about a million visitors every year. If each of them took even just one or two rocks or wildflowers, there would be nothing left after a few years. The Parks Service takes this kind of thing very seriously, so we would strongly caution against taking anything from your trip to the park. When in doubt, just remember the old hiker’s mantra: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
That’s especially true for the more delicate parts of Death Valley’s ecosystem. The desert is a harsh place to live, and the animals rely heavily on the few plants that do grow there. Destroying or picking any flowers or other plants can have a real effect on the ecosystem, so make sure you leave them alone. Death Valley’s sand dunes are also fragile, so sledding and sand surfing is prohibited on most of them.
There are also a few other legal regulations that you should know. This might go without saying, but while registered gun owners are allowed to bring their firearms into the park, it’s illegal to fire a gun in Death Valley except in self-defense. That means no target practice out in the desert, even if there’s no one around. The use of marijuana is also illegal on federal lands, even though both Nevada and California have legalized its recreational use. Finally, unmanned aircraft like drones and model planes are prohibited in Death Valley unless you have the written approval of the superintendent.
To make the most of your trip to Death Valley, check out our Death Valley Self-Guided Driving Tour. More prolific travelers might also be interested in Action+, a yearly subscription that grants access to all 100+ of our US tours.
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