Pleasant Canyon Road is a challenging drive in Death Valley NP

Pleasant Canyon Road/South Park 4x4 Loop is a highly challenging trail situated in Death Valley National Park, in the US state of California. A rough 4WD vehicle is necessary due to washouts and large boulders. This narrow, rocky road is suitable for experienced 4WD drivers only, ranking as one of the challenging Backcountry roads in Death Valley National Park.

Pleasant Canyon Road

The trail, also recognized as South Park Canyon - Pleasant Canyon loop, is exclusively for 4x4 vehicles. The drive is 23/30 miles long, commencing at the intersection of Ballarat Road and Wingate Road just southeast of the ghost town of Ballarat, at an elevation of 1200', and ascending to 7100' at the top of Roger's Pass. While most of this trail is easy to moderate, the steepest, narrowest sections of both Pleasant Canyon and South Park Canyon are susceptible to water damage and rock movement, occasionally creating challenging conditions. Stock SUVs might struggle to negotiate these stretches, particularly the steep ascent in South Park Canyon when heading from west to east. The road is very rough but facilitates a loop from South Park back down into Panamint Valley.

The trail includes many mines, presenting a pretty safe path that is wide enough, yet the angles create a sensation of climbing to the top of Everest. For the most up-to-date information on road conditions, visit Death Valley’s website at This old road has a lot of history. Built by the constructors of Thorndike Mine, it was the route the mules used to haul ore down the mountain into Panamint Valley

Death Valley is one of the hottest places globally, and climatic conditions in the park can be extreme, holding the world record highest air temperature of 134°F (57°C). When planning your visit, prioritize hydration, avoid hiking in the heat, and travel prepared to survive. Stay on paved roads in summer, and if your car breaks down, remain with it until help arrives. Carry extra drinking water in your car for emergencies. If you experience dizziness, nausea, or a headache, seek shade immediately and hydrate with water or sports drinks. More people succumb to single-car accidents than any other means, so adhere to speed limits, shift to a lower gear on steep downhill grades, and always wear your seatbelt. Exercise caution by not placing your hands or feet where you cannot see first, as rattlesnakes, scorpions, or black widow spiders may be sheltered there. Avoid canyons during rainstorms and be ready to move to higher ground. While driving, stay alert for water running in washes and across road dips. Refrain from entering mine tunnels or shafts, as they may be unstable and contain hidden shafts, pockets of bad air, and poisonous gas. Hikers, backpackers, and four-wheelers should be self-reliant and well-prepared. Plan ahead, carry detailed maps, and inform someone of your plans. Backpackers should obtain a free backcountry permit from any visitor center. Dial 911 from any telephone or cell phone, but be aware that cell phones may not work in many parts of the park, so do not solely depend on them.
Pic: B Spec