Racetrack Valley Road

Racetrack Valley Road, a fairly well maintained dirt track

Racetrack Valley Road is an amazing drive in the desolate northern section of Death Valley National Park, in California, USA. The road is pretty much suitable for all vehicles. Flat tires are common on this road so be sure your full-sized spare is inflated, all parts of your jack are on hand and tire tread is good. It’s one of the challenging Backcountry roads in the Death Valley National Park.

This gravel track is 29 miles long. It links Ubehebe Crater Road and Lippincott Mine Road. It’s a fairly well maintained, graded dirt road. There are no sandy holes or water crossings. It's just washboarded. The zone is famous for the moving rocks. The sailing stones are a geological phenomenon found in the Racetrack. Slabs of dolomite and syenite ranging from a few hundred grams to hundreds of kilograms inscribe visible tracks as they slide across the playa surface, without human or animal intervention. It is recommended for high-clearance vehicles with heavy-duty tires as it can be rough and washboard. The washboards are pretty bad in places, but assuming good weather conditions, the road is suitable for all but low-rider vehicles. The road generally is fine for standard sedans if you drive slowly and carefully. The road is subject to summer washouts and winter snow, so inquire about current conditions at the Visitor Center or at the Grapevine Ranger Station. During and after a storm the road may be impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive vehicle and can easily get muddy if it rains making it challenging to get through. The road begins with a warning, that says only 4-wheel-drive cars should attempt the drive. It’s notorious for eating tires. You will definitely need at least 1 full sized spare tire as a lot of the rocks are quite sharp. If you are driving on even semi-worn tires, you're probably best not doing this. Racetrack is a dry lakebed famous for its mysterious moving rocks. To preserve the rocks’ tracks, do not walk on the lakebed when wet and never drive on it.

Due its unique location and passing through remote areas, it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. Wind is common in the desert, especially in the spring. Dust storms can suddenly blow up with approaching cold fronts. Cell phones do not work in most parts of the park, do not depend on them. High-clearance vehicle required due to loose gravel, washboard and rocks. May require 4WD due to changing road conditions and irregular maintenance, so check postings. For the most up-to-date information on road conditions, visit Death Valley’s website at nps.gov/deva.  The drive out at sunrise is just as spectacular. Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world, and climatic conditions in the park can be extreme. The world record highest air temperature of 134°F (57°C) was recorded here. Plan your visit in the park. Drink plenty of water. Avoid hiking in the heat. Travel prepared to survive: Stay on paved roads in summer. If your car breaks down, stay with it until help comes. Carry extra drinking water in your car in case of emergency. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or a headache, get out of the sun immediately and drink water or sports drinks. More people die in single-car accidents than by any other means. To avoid an accident, follow the speed limits, shift to a lower gear on steep downhill grades, and wear your seatbelt. Never place your hands or feet where you cannot see first. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, or black widow spiders may be sheltered there. Avoid canyons during rain storms and be prepared to move to higher ground. While driving, be alert for water running in washes and across road dips. Do not enter mine tunnels or shafts. Mines may be unstable, have hidden shafts, pockets of bad air and poisonous gas. Hikers, backpackers and four-wheelers need to be self reliant and well prepared. Always plan ahead, carry detailed maps and let someone know your plans. Backpackers should obtain a free backcountry permit from any visitor center. Dial 911 from any telephone or cell phone. Cell phones may not work in many parts of the park. Do not depend on them. The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable. Always bring plenty of water in your car in case of emergency and drink at least 2 to 4 liters per day, more if you are active in the heat. Avoid canyons during rain storms and be prepared to move to higher ground. While driving, be alert for water running in washes and across road dips. If you feel dizzy, nauseous or have a headache, get out of the sun immediately and drink plenty of water. Dampen clothing to lower your body temperature.


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NOTICE: Due to the spread of COVID-19, many points of interest and roads are closed and travel is not recommended. Please follow all local health authority directives before venturing off, and stay safe.