Driving the thrilling Emigrant Canyon Road in Death Valley

Emigrant Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 1,674m (5,492ft) above the sea level, located in Inyo County, in the US state of California. Do not attempt this climb in the summer.

Emigrant Pass

Is the road to Emigrant Pass in Death Valley paved?

Tucked away in Death Valley National Park, the road to the summit is fully paved. It’s called Emigrant Canyon Road and follows the canyon—gently winding past steep grassy slopes and low rocky cliffs, across the Harrisburg Flats, climbing to a high point of 5,492 feet at the summit. In the winter months, this pass can receive up to a few feet of snow, so be mindful when traveling through between November and March.

How long is Emigrant Canyon Road in Death Valley?

The road is 33.95km (21.1 miles) long, running from CA-190 road to Charcoal Kiln Road. The drive can be a bit scary for some people, as the narrow two-lane road has no shoulders. At the higher elevations, the road squirms up and down, side to side, with steep drop-offs, tight turns, few guardrails, and hairpin blind corners. Watch for potholes in the pavement. It is subject to flooding in heavy rains. RVs, trailers, and buses over 25 ft. are not allowed due to the narrow canyon and roadway.

Is the road to Emigrant Pass in Death Valley worth it?

Located in the eastern central part of California, the drive out at sunrise is just as spectacular. Around here the landscape is much more open with views over wide plains to far-off mountains both east and west. This road is usually open all year. Emigrant Canyon road climbs to a higher altitude in the park and the landscape is much different than what people expect or associate with Death Valley.

Conquer the Extremes: A Survival Guide to Death Valley Adventure

Death Valley, renowned as one of the hottest places globally, boasts extreme climatic conditions, with a record-breaking highest air temperature of 134°F (57°C). Prepare for your expedition wisely, considering the harsh environment. Here are essential tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit:

  1. Hydration is Key: Plan, Drink, Survive

    • Plan your visit meticulously, considering the intensity of the heat.
    • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout your journey.
    • Avoid hiking during the peak heat hours; prioritize early mornings or late evenings.

  2. Road Safety in the Scorching Summer

    • Stick to paved roads, especially during the summer months.
    • If your vehicle breaks down, remain with it until help arrives.
    • Carry extra water in your vehicle for unforeseen emergencies.

  3. Health First: Recognize and Address Warning Signs

    • If you experience dizziness, nausea, or headaches, seek shade immediately.
    • Consume water or sports drinks to stay hydrated.
    • Prioritize safety to prevent heat-related illnesses.

  4. Safe Driving Practices

    • Adhere to speed limits to avoid accidents.
    • Shift to lower gears on steep downhill grades for better control.
    • Always wear your seatbelt for added protection.

  5. Mind Your Surroundings: Watch Out for Wildlife

    • Exercise caution and avoid placing hands or feet where visibility is limited.
    • Be wary of potential shelter spots for snakes, scorpions, or spiders.

  6. Flash Flood Awareness

    • Steer clear of canyons during rainstorms.
    • Be ready to move to higher ground to avoid flash floods.
    • Stay vigilant for water flow while driving, especially in washes and road dips.

  7. Mine Safety: Keep Out for Your Well-being

    • Do not enter mine tunnels or shafts due to potential hazards.
    • Mines may have unstable structures, hidden shafts, and harmful gases.

  8. Self-Reliance for Hikers and Adventurers

    • Plan ahead, carry detailed maps, and inform someone of your plans.
    • Backpackers should obtain a free backcountry permit from visitor centers.

Remember, in case of emergencies, dial 911. While cell phones may not always work, being well-prepared and self-reliant ensures a safer exploration of the captivating Death Valley.