Ah, Death Valley! It’s a famous park, and for good reason. It has amazing views, some great landmarks, and holds a couple records. It’s 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America. What makes that even more incredible is that it’s less than 100 miles from the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney! It also certainly lives up to it’s name; Death Valley holds the record for the highest ambient air temperature ever recorded on Earth at 134*F back in 1913, it holds the record for the highest surface temperature ever recorded on Earth at 201*F in 1972, and it also averages only 2.36 inches of rain per year. On top of that, the night skies are incredible, as this is one of the darkest places you can visit. The Milky Way Galaxy is visible to the naked eye, and if you’ve never seen space at a place as dark as this park is, the first time you see it will be unbelievable. There is some good camping here, just don’t go camping during the summer. As I said in my SeKi post, I really believe that the US National Park system is a great achievement, and this is just another example of just how good it is.
Ride Description: From Vegas you’ll be heading over the Spring Mountains, which is a nice start to the day. Once you cross those you’ll be taking the long, straight road to Pahrump before heading to Death Valley. Once you get into Death Valley you’ll first turn down Furnace Creek Wash Road, and towards the end you’ll be hitting a couple switchbacks up the mountain that can be pretty fun. At the top you’ll be rewarded with the best view of Death Valley, Dante’s View. After this, you’ll head to Furnace Creek. Down in Furnace Creek is the only gas station around, though there’s not much there besides gas and restrooms, so plan accordingly. After that are the Mesquite Sand Dunes, which are nice. Some of them are pretty large, it’s a good spot to stop for a photo. I will say that if you want to cut time, this is what you want to cut out. They’re cool to see, but it’s a long drive out for something you’re going to look at for like 5 minutes. Most people won’t be walking out in the dunes with riding boots on either. After that you’ll head towards Badwater Basin, but you should stop at Artist’s Palette first. Artist’s Drive is a great little loop, with some tight turns and elevation changes. It is one-way so you don’t have to worry about oncoming traffic, but still be careful once you get towards the middle, it gets tight. Artist’s Palette is a cool rock feature, lots of colors that’s highlighted by the sun. After Artist’s Palette you will head to Badwater Basin. This is the lowest point in North America, and a sign up on the rocks behind the parking lot shows where sea level is, 282 ft higher. You’re able to walk out onto the salt flat from here if you’d like. It’s pretty neat, they have some signs to read and a couple other things, so definitely stop here. Once you get moving again, Badwater Road is a pretty fun ride, with some curves around the bottom of the moutains and whoop sections before climbing the hills. In Shoshone there is the Crowbar Café, which is a nice little restaurant with some cool scenery. Once you’re done there you’re just heading back home to Vegas.
Riding Tips: You don’t have to worry about too much here. In Artist’s Drive it get pretty tight and has a bunch of elevation changes, and it goes down to a one-lane, one-way road, so here is about the only spot that can be a little sketchy if someone’s riding faster than their ability. Also, all along Badwater Road, and especially through Artist’s Drive, you need to keep an eye out for gravel. There are some sections that might have some loose patches, especially if it’s rained recently. Artist’s Drive will actually close after heavy rains because the water flushes a ton of rocks, sand, and dirt down into the road. Badwater Road does have some turns in it, nothing tight though, so just make sure no one is riding beyond their skill level.
Recommendations: Don’t go in the summer on a motorcycle. Just don’t. It’s miserable, and you’re in serious danger of an assortment of heat-related injuries. Add in that you’re in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and it’s easy to see why it’s a bad idea. If you’re only in town for a couple days and you’re thinking about heading here, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Only go after the sun is down or early in the morning, bring a lot of water, and make sure you don’t go alone. If you’re local, just wait until the fall/winter/spring months. Definitely bring enough water/snacks with you, bring more water than you think you’ll need.
The Route: You’re going to start down in Blue Diamond, at the gas station that’s right at the 159/160 junction. You head up and over mountains, and then the long, straight stretch to Pahrump. There you should stop at the Horizon Market, and grab gas and some water and a snack if you want. From there you’ll keep going on Bell Vista Road/190, and that’s going to take you down into Death Valley. If you want to head to Dante’s View, the turn for that is on your left right after the Death Valley pay station. Turn down Furnace Creek Wash Road, it’s a few miles until you climb the mountain. At the top is a rest area. Double back down to 190 and then turn left, continuing on the way you were originally heading.
In Furnace Creek is the only gas station around. If you go out past Furnace Creek, you’ll come across the Mesquite Sand Dunes, if you choose to go. If you do go there, when you’re done head back the way you came, and again stop to top off your tank in Furnace Creek. Keep heading north and you’ll hang a right onto Badwater Road. A little ways down you’ll pass the exit for Artist’s Palette on your left, and then another couple minutes will be the entrance. Bust a left and then it’s just a one-way loop, with the only turn-off for Artist’s Palette. Continue on through and then turn left on Badwater Road. Further down the road you’ll come to Badwater Basin, which is the main attraction.
Once you’re done at Badwater Basin, you’re just going to continue on down Badwater Road, which has some nice turns and some whoop sections that can be pretty fun. After you climb the hills, you’ll come to Shoshone, a small little town. There is gas here, and right across the street there is the Crowbar Café, which has some pretty good food. After you grab something to eat and gas up, it’s just back through Pahrump to Vegas.
Here’s the link to the route: https://goo.gl/maps/v8soMpeSZwJsm5u38
And of course, some photos:
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. Ride safe!