Road Info - what are the paved roads like?

Is it safe?

What roads are closed?? 

GPS can be dead wrong!.

The following is my creation - if you have corrections or updates, please get to me @ jwest0554@gmail.com

Janet Westbrook, Professor of Biology, emeritus,  Naturalist;   updated 7/714

Death Valley Road Conditions

The MORNING REPORT!!! Current Road info, temps. http://www.nps.gov/deva/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=439529

Even better- Death Valley has made a Facebook Page which they and others update.  Best resource for current road conditions!!  See https://www.facebook.com/DeathValleyRoadConditions

and - a map that shows where camping is allowed and not, shows backroads, etc.  good resource!
http://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/upload/Backcountry-Roads-Map.pdf

Panamint Valley Road (Trona to Hwy 190) is OPEN!! 1.7 miles of graveled surface...(but not lower Wildrose- its seriously washed out and dangerous!)  ***Monsoons are here 7/6/14 and wash out roads! DO NOT CROSS FLOWING WATER.  Wait for it to go away - it will.  Flowing water can wash your car away too!!

Sierra Passes OPEN!!

Can you get to DV without getting into snow??  Sure - from the EAST side - take 127 out of Baker,
enter via Shoshone/Badwater road, or DV Junction, or Scotty’s Junction/Bonnie Clare roads. 

Thunderstorms are back, so the road report is a real mess, changes constantly.    The park has only a
couple of road graders and they’ll eventually get to all of these, so check back if you intend to go play
on anything other than paved roads....Think Farabee’s Jeep rental... every
day a different part of the park gets hit!  This was an unusually wet summer for our area!  And now snow. 

See below for more road comments....

Did you get a brand new GPS for Christmas or your birthday?? Turn it off here!! They're GREAT in cities, but sometimes/usually they don't know much about wild places, especially simple ones like TomTom. City maps OK, rural maps not so much. They don't know which roads are closed in winter by snow. They don't know which roads are now closed for one reason or another. They don't know which roads may be rocky or 4x4 needed. They're not real good about road info in Death Valley at all! Get a park map! Turn off the GPS until you head for home. They don't tell you to drive into snow drifts or deep sand until you get stuck.... USE SOME COMMON SENSE WHEN FOLLOWING YOUR GPS. !! Some ladies went to visit Scotty's Castle and after 400 miles of aimless driving, wound up in Saline Valley because their GPS didn't have any of the dirt roads on it. DON’T use GPS for road info in Death Valley!!!!!! It's fine for marking where you are, but maps aren't any good!! "recalculating"?? not out here!

  Watch the weather reports carefully - if headed for Saline Valley, use North Pass.  Hunter Mountain to Lost Burro Mine not a good idea when freezing nights because of the spring which freezes into an off-camber ice sheet a block long. !!  Steele works if it snows but is serious 4x4.

PLEASE BE CAREFUL where you go!! The weather can change in an instant and get very cold and windy up high, even in summer! Hail, thunderstorms, lightning have been happening. Watch out!!

Be sensible! Don't get stuck. If it looks bad ahead, turn around while you still can. It'll be there when you come back. DON'T CROSS RUNNING WATER!! DON'T GET STUCK IN SNOW!!!! road or trail. It's bigger than you are! If you get stuck, STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE!! It's fairly easy to spot a vehicle from the air, but almost impossible to spot a person. Tell someone, anyone, where you are going and when you expect to be back - !!


CURRENT ROAD CONDITIONS per NPS.7/6/14 (notes are mine- )  Remember, you can always rent a Farbee’s Jeep.
Summer thunderstorms can happen at any minute and change all this!
Aguereberry Point -  open, high clearance best
Artist’s Drive - OPEN
Badwater Road - Debris all the way to Shoshone; great place to get good shots of Telescope and in morning light.
Big Pine Road = OPEN     it’s paved to Eureka Valley; 10 miles of dirt down to the dunes,]; 75 miles total to Scotty’s, 130 miles to gas at Stovepipe Wells.  Will have snow on the high pass out of Big Pine
Bonnie Clare Road - Hwy 267 to Scotty’s Castle from NV;OPEN, new paving done.
Charcoal Kilns -Emigrant Road - OPEN to Mahogany, last mile steep and rocky  (last 2 miles gravel to kilns.)
Cottonwood/Marble Canyons- graded up the fan but serious 4x4, high-clearance in the canyons!  Wonderful petroglyphs, but you can hike to them from the top of the fan.
Dante's View Road -Debris-  wonderful views! Best in morning light;
Devil’s Golf Course -OPEN- great views from the center of the valley!  amazing at night.
Emigrant Canyon road, OPEN! Emigrant Station to Wildrose Station to the Charcoal Kilns. Great flowers!
Eureka Valley to Sand Dunes - OPEN, washboard, but should be OK for car with clearance.  Do not go beyond campground either direction without 4x4, serious deep sands!!
Greenwater Valley Road OPEN from Dante’s view road to Hwy 178 near Shoshone -. 
Harry Wade Road -OPEN 4x4, high clearance, use care crossing the Amargosa river bed-DEEP SAND.
Hunter Mountain Road - OPEN, watch dried mud groves at the spring on the east side. 
Keane Wonder Mine Road - CLOSED until further notice; road and mining area closed to all entry due to safety hazards.
Lippencott- Saline to Racetrack - OPEN but rough. this is a NARROW twisty steep road.  very narrow!!!!! no dulies.
Mosaic Canyon -OPEN, road quite rough washboard for city cars, take it easy.
Mustard Canyon Road -OPEN-continue past the wagons at Harmony Borax into yellow Sulfur hills. fun thing.
Panamint Valley Road OPEN Trona to Hwy 190
Racetrack Valley Road -OPEN- watch for washouts and rocks = washboard, rocky- and heavy-duty tires recommended; Playa is dry again but DO NOT walk on muddy places and leave footprints.  This road EATS tires!  Have a “real” spare, not a donut!  Right now 4x4 and/or high clearance.  (think Farabee jeep)  It’s a tires issue.
Saline Valley Road (North Pass)   OPEN!!  Inyo Co has graded all the way to South Pass!  Bat road still washy at the beginning, but has been human-dragged farther up the hill. High clearance still best.    See http://forum.salinepreservation.org/   “In great shape now!”   You can get to Saline from either end now, with “ease”!!
Saline Valley Road (South Pass) - “OPEN!!”   smooth(ish) all the way! 
Saline Valley Road bottom - freshly graded = no washboards yet-  Just so ya know... Airing down and using 4x4 helps some, but it's still hard on suspensions!   Speed causes washboards!
Saline - Chicken Strip - ? probably has deep ruts across it like Bat Road?   for careful pilots used to rough uphill landings, tail-dragger best. The Springs people will probably work on it at Christmas?  They did the Bat road at Thanksgiving.
Saline Valley Bat Road to the Warm Springs road, still some deep dips near beginning, take it easy.
Scotty’s Castle Road -open, new paving is nice.  And new fenceposts!
Steele Pass Road -open, but 4x4 from Steel Pass down to the springs; washed out; however, with very good rig, lots of clearance, can be done;  still no “road” - you’re driving the boulder wash.  Follow tape “flags”  Dedecker Canyon-it’s usual narrow self at steps, 4x4 and high clerance always needed for the whole deal!
Skidoo    can be rough as in washboard.
Titus Canyon Road -CLOSED - flash flood damage 7/5;    rough!;  "use caution", but that always applies! High clearance a must, front wheel drive at least; 4x4 usually not necessary, just clearance, but not good for “city” car tires or flatland drivers!!.  Not for timid drivers - road hangs on side of hills, with one difficult up and two difficult down stretches! Deep gravel at the end.   You can rent a Farabee Jeep!  (though jeep not necessary, just clearance- but still need to not be a timid driver!)
Twenty Mule Team Canyon Road --OPEN- a lovely drive through colorful Colemanite mud hills! One way eastward.
Ubehebe Crater Road -OPEN  Ubehebe Crater new parking area; no bathroom, but nice walls. Always windy up there.
West Side Road - OPEN
Warm Springs Canyon off West Side Road -open, take it easy! graded first 2 miles, then high clearance, 4x4 to Geo cabin
  Mengle Pass really took a beating - 4x4, lockers, lifters, etc.  and good luck; walk it first. It’s really, REALLY BAD!  
Wildrose Road - OPEN to the Kilns.  OPENto  Mahagony Flat CG -last mile steep and rocky; and snow covered and icy - it’s all shaded.  Telescope Peak is now a serious winter hike!  9 miles one way, take snowshoes, ice axe, crampons, etc.
Lower Wildrose CLOSED TO THROUGH TRAFFIC but folks are driving through illegally... here’s the scoop - Inyo County’s part of the road is a real mess!!  They’re looking for State and Fed funds to fix it- pavement is undercut and down in the wash, and where there is pavement, there’s only one lane plowed free of boulders, so if you were to meet another car, there’s no way to pass.  Best to just stay off it, and it is officially closed for a reason!  it’s not safe!!    OPEN and very nice  (gravel places as before, springs in the middle of the road as before), down to Wildrose rest area, but turn around there!! 
Father Crowley Point is open. Go enjoy the rejuvenated overlook! even a new bathroom!! Nice railing gets you safely able to look down into Rainbow Canyon
Darwin Falls Road - rougher than usual due to washouts, etc.  high clearance needed, rocky to parking place.
Hiking trail to Darwin Falls - serious mess! Your feet will get wet! 

DV DOESN’T REPORT ON THESE ROADS, but there are comments on the chat boards.  

Panamint Valley 4x4 roads - the Panamint Valley road is OPEN!

Pleasant, etc. - need 4x4 to get to the cabins. ROAD Closed at Chicken Rock to any large vehicles, OK for quads and bikes- too skinny and dangerous.   The Bridge has a load limit and vehicles 50” or less.  In any case, no Hummers up there! So you can’t do a loop in anything big.
Surprise Canyon;  high clearance to the end at Wicht’s Camp. Trail -  the waterfall is pretty much across the whole canyon, so wading IS necessary!  the waterfall near the beginning is a real hazard!  Panamint City - 6 mile hike. You will get your feet wet scrambling up the several waterfalls.  Plenty of water at the 2 springs, but not so much at P City
South park - rough, but open;  may be damaged; snow, ice up high
Pleasant - rough, very rough, but open;  may be damaged; snow, ice up high

Goler Wash -open again- rough, 4x4 sometimes necessary for the falls to Barker Ranch only.   Mengle Pass absolutely needs 4x4, high clearance, lockers, and spotters.  It’s serious!!  Remember that Barker Ranch burned in 09;  no traces of Manson.  Mengle Pass is a “rock crawl” - seriously big boulders and seriously deep holes.  Definitely 4x4 and very high clearance. 

Panamint Valley - OPEN   Watch for burros, especially near slate range.
    Indian Ranch Road has been graded from Ballarat to Indian Ranch.

Hwy 136 - Lone Pine to Hwy 190 intersection (past Keeler) -OPEN.

THUNDERSTORMS CAN HAPPEN AT ANY TIME!!  7/5/14- they did!!
With budget cuts, roads aren’t going to get graded very often, so they’re pretty
washboardy! When they do get graded, it brings up the sharp rocks, so you still
need to be careful!! 

Racetrack is dry, but....
DO NOT walk out if it's wet to take photos of the rocks because you will leave tracks in the mud, especially where you fall down! Don't take the rocks!!!!! you think they’re going to keep moving in your yard?
geezz!  Look at this photo.  Those tracks will set in the mud and be there forever.
and they will stop the further movement of that rock.  Don’t be STUPID!  Stay off!   These tracks will be there forever! :-(


GASP!! IS IT SAFE TO DRIVE THROUGH DEATH VALLEY IN THE SUMMER? Sure - just be ready. Be sure your vehicle is in good condition (like the hoses, a/c, etc.) Rental vehicles are usually new, so they should be OK! Be sure the radiator is working well, full, etc. Check engine oil levels as that can also affect how hot the car runs!! SLOW DOWN GOING UPHILL. Be sure YOU are in good condition. Be sure you have LOTS OF WATER both to drink and to spray all over you. (yes, spray - get one of those fan-sprayer thingies, or any ole sprayer, and use it as you drive through!!!!). Don't forget to put some salt in you along with the water - you lose both when you sweat. Chips or any salty snack work. If something happens to you or the vehicle - STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE!! It provides shade. Try 911 on cell phone, even if you don't have regular cell service - but for emergencies it seems to work!! If your phone has GPS, turn it ON. However, the place is far from abandoned - someone will come along sooner or later and help you!! Just DON'T even think about walking anywhere for help. You won't make it. Stay put at your vehicle or wherever and make help signals which can be seen from the air. !!!! Summer 2005- 2 folk DIED from the heat - they were out hiking in 115F sun, ran out of water, died. !! STAY IN THE SHADE AND WAIT. BE sure someone knows where you are going.!! Make sure your location can be seen from the air. Summer 2004 - 2 folks died in Flash Floods! if it's raining, head for HIGH ground and stay there until the water goes away! As the speed of the water squares, the load it can carry cubes; i.e. a river going from 1 mph to 2 mph can now carry 8 times the load!! Your vehicle hasn't got a chance, nor have you. Get to HIGH ground (you can see past flood lines in all the washes!) and STAY there! the lady that survived this past flood was stranded for 40 minutes, then it went away.
Actually, same cautions apply in winter. Stay with your vehicle and stay warm. Heard of "hypothermia"? It can kill you if you try to walk out. Stuck in the snow? Make signals and STAY PUT - someone will find you, especially if you left word where you were going! Note: if your car is overheating, slow down, turn off the A/C obviously, and turn on the heater - yes, the HEAT - it'll help cool the cooling fluids.

So how steep are the hills? What are the roads like??

Hwy 190 from Lone Pine/Olancha to Stovepipe goes over 2 major hills;

1) steep drop past Darwin City, from Father Crowley point down into Darwin wash drops 600 ft in 1.6 miles = 7.1% grade; is twisty with sharp corners besides, total drop is 2280 feet, 4.7% grade. Very hard on RV's, going up or down!

2) Panamint Valley to Townes Pass climbs 2800 ft in 7.2 miles, all nice constant radius turns, but relentless 7.6% grade with one section of 9.3%. At least it's not narrow and twisty, but still very hard on RV's, going up or down.

Townes Pass down to Emigrant Station drops 2800 feet in 7.5 miles, 7% grade, with dips and a few sharp corners near the top. RV's or trailers over 25 ft. not allowed because of the tight turns and narrow road just above Wildrose.

If you're pulling a trailer or driving an RV with a wimpy engine, think twice about going this way - it's a lot easier on your vehicle to go around to Baker and come in the east side. It's longer, but your brakes and engine will be happier!! See maps.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO GEAR DOWN WHEN GOING DOWN, ESPECIALLY WITH AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION VEHICLES!!. See that "L," or "1, 2" on the gear shift below "D? "You paid for um, USE um!!!! If you're always having to use the brakes, you're not in a low enough gear. Your brakes won't last for all three of these hills!! You can easily build up speeds that your brakes won't handle!

Watch your temperature gauge going up those hills, especially RV’s!! If it's approaching RED, slow down!! Gear down. Turn off the A/C!!! Try turning on the HEAT - yes, heat - it'll help cool the cooling fluids. If that doesn't work, STOP. If you stop to let the car cool off at some of the lovely overlooks, leave the engine running and the car pointed into the wind so the radiator can cool the fluids. Spray water on the radiator - but don't take that cap off!! Be sure you have enough water in the vehicle for both you (1 gal per person per day) and your car!(3+ gal more)!  New modern (rental) vehicles shouldn’t have an issue with A/C or the hills except in mid-summer, but keep an eye on the temp gauge anyway. 

You can avoid the Darwin/Panamint hill deal by going through Ridgecrest but there's still the Townes Pass hills.

You can avoid Townes Pass by going Wildrose/Emigrant, but RV's and trailers aren't allowed and it's steep too! It's a 6% grade in spots, but very narrow with sharp corners in lots of places. Great road, but...

From the east - Hwy 190 from Death Valley Junction is 3000 feet, but fairly even 3.2% grade in and out. This is the easiest way in and out of the valley for RV’s and trailers.

Also on the east - Daylight Pass to Beatty - 4.7% on east side, 6.3% on west side of pass but a bit twisty.

Jubilee and Salsberry Passes from Shoshone - 5.5% and 4.9% and wiggly and dippy and skinny road but resurfaced in 2007.

DRIVE CAREFULLY!! These roads are mostly just paved wagon roads - there are dips, sharp corners, and the roads within the park haven't been upgraded since Model T days - i.e. curves aren't always banked properly, turns aren't constant radius except on upgraded Townes Pass west, and they're skinnier than you're used to. Follow posted speed signs - they MEAN it!! And yes, the park roads are patrolled by California Highway Patrol. USE LOWER GEARS GOING DOWN ALL HILLS. "D" for automatic cars works fine in flat places, but not climbing up and down these mountains! Stay alert!! Motor vehicle accidents cause way more injuries and deaths in Death Valley than the elements!!

See “Backcountry Roads” for info about the many popular dirt roads in DV region.


Thunderstorms happen and close roads quickly