2022 is the year of road trips for us. We started the year with a weekend Road Trip to Death Valley. We both work over 40 hours a week so most over our trips are only 2 days but we cram as much as we can in those two day. This blog will show you how we did Death Valley in 2 days.
1. The Desert Campsite
We started our trip Friday night after work. We always try to do this on our road trips. We try to get as close as we can to the start of our adventure. This allows us to have a full day exploring without the drive time to get to the location. Since we didn’t know much about Death Valley I didn’t want to be looking for a campsite off the side of the road in the middle of the night so I did some research and found The Desert Campsite. The Desert Campsite is an abandoned RV site outside the park with concert pads. It is free and first come first served. After driving all night it gave us peace of mind that we would wouldn’t get stuck in the middle of a wash somewhere, which has totally happened to us before.
Saturday – Day 1
2. Twenty Mule Team Canyon
Our first stop was The Twenty Mule Team Canyon (say that 10 times fast) scenic route. This is a one way road with the entrance at the north end of the route. It is a well maintained dirt road. Even though it is a popular stop it definitely was not one of our favorites. This route is listed all over the internet on the MUST SEE PLACES OF DEATH VALLEY. So the canyons are beautiful but they didn’t stand out as something that we didn’t already see driving to the route. It really lacked that wow factor to end up on these popular lists of must sees for us. However it is a short road that you can follow to check this out and mark it off your bucket list.
3. Inyo Mine
Our 2nd stop was the Inyo Mine. To get there follow highway 190 north. 4 miles north from the Twenty Mule Team entrance you will come to a dirt road called Echo Canyon Road. You follow this dirt road through a wash that turns into a beautiful canyon for 9 miles until you reach the base of the Inyo Mine. This stop is not listed as a popular stops but it turned out to be one of our favorites. The ruins of the once thriving mine has many levels of decay with structures still standing to the stack of wood that once was a building. To get to the mine that is still open follow the dirt trail to the left that will take you up the mountain to another wood structure. On the back side of the that you will find two openings. One that we followed and another one that drops straight down. Once inside the tunnel we followed it all the way to the end. We never explored the ladders because they looked pretty unsafe but just the straight shot to the end was pretty cool to see.
4. Badwater Basin
Our 3rd Stop was another popular spot, Badwater Basin. Badwater basin is the lowest point in North America. This stop was on my bucketlist. In 2013 I hiked Mt Whitney, the highest peak in the continental US So I had to visited the lowest, Right? The parking lot is small and it looks like on most busy days you may have to wait until someone leaves to get a spot. Once you park you walk out onto the salt flats. If you turn back and look past the parking lot and up the mountain wall there is a small white sign that says sea level. This gives you an idea how far down you are from the sea level. Venture out to the middle of the flats to actually be on the lowest spot.
5. Natural Bridge Trail
Our 4th stop is popular spot to hike in Death Valley. It is called the natural bridge trail.
To get to the trailhead you have to follow another dirt road but most cars can travel down this road. The parking lot seemed fairly small especially how popular this trail is.
The hike to the natural bridge is pretty easy. It is a dirt wash with a slow incline. From the parking lot to the bridge is only about .3 miles. The tall cliffs that surround the wash offer a lot of shade while you walk. The trail keeps going past the bridge but we didn’t go on because we still had so much more to explore on our list and so little time to do it in.
6. Artist’s Palette
Our 5th stop is another popular spot in Death Valley, Artist’s Palette. The route is another 1 way route with limits on the size of vehicles that enter. The starting point is at the south entrance of Artists Drive and the main attraction is halfway through the route. The pastel colors of the canyon are soft and subtle, yes beautiful but in real life it doesn’t portray the drastic colors you see on Instagram. Again for us another let down on the popular spots.
7. Keane Wonder Mine
Our 6th stop was another popular spot in Death Valley and it was one that we actually loved, the Kean Wonder Mine. Again this is another spot off a dirt road that takes you to a small parking lot. From there follow the hiking trail that takes you around the lower part of the old mine. There is information about the once working machines and equipment. But don’t stop there the best is at the top. It is here that you can see the areal tramway that is still in great condition. It even has carts attached. There is many mines that you can still see that. Not only that but at the top you get the most amazing views of Death Valley.
8. Goldwell Open Air Museum and Rhyolite Ghost Town
Our 7th stop took us outside of the park into Nevada. We headed down the 374 towards Beatty and then right before you get to Beatty you make a left on Rhyolite Road. This will take you to The Goldwell Open Air museum and Rhyolite Ghost town. The open air museum is free and does not disappoint with the art displayed scattered around the desert. Get out and stretch your legs.
Once we got our fill of art we followed the road to the ruins of Rhyolite. Rhyolite was an old gold mining town lasting only 6 years. Not much is left of this Ghost Town but a few buildings. We drove through the main street looking at the few walls standing and the old rail station. There were more buildings if you were to take the dirt road but we still had one more place to get to before the sunset.
9. Titus Canyon, Leadfield Ghost Town and Pictograph.
Our 8th stop was Titus Canyon. Titus Canyon is a 26 mile dirt road that takes you through Leadfield Ghost town. This one way road starts outside the park by the entrance to Rhyolite. After Rhyolite we were in a race with the setting sun . The afternoon came quickly and we are pushing to get to the slot canyon at the end of Titus Canyon before we loss the light.
The road is maintained enough to get most 2 wheel drive trucks, SUV’s and some cars through. There were only a couple parts that a standard sedan would scrap. But always check the conditions before you go. A good rain could wash areas out.
At the 15 mile marker we came across Leadfield Ghost Town. Leadfield mined copper and lead. It boomed with the promise of a river that ran close to the town with the river helping deliver the ore to the smelters. The river turned out to be 20 miles away from the mining town. The mines ended up closing due to the high cost of transporting the ore.
At the 18 mile mark we came across Petroglyohs. This was a quick stop for us. I wish we had more time but we were still chasing that light in the canyon ahead of us.
An finally at the 23 mile marker we entered the Slot Canyon just in time for the sun to set casting beautiful shadows along the steep cliffs. This 3 mile section slowly winds you through the canyon emptying you out inside the park. This was by far the most favorite part of our trip. My suggestion would be to get to this spot sooner so you have time to check out Leadfield.
10. Stovepipe Wells – Toll Road Restaurant
We stopped for dinner at Toll Road Restaurant in Stovepipe Wells. The restaurant is located in the Stovepipe Wells resort. It is tucked away in the back corner and should not be missed. We had gotten a limited menu because half the power was out due to construction down the road and I am so happy that we were forced to try the hamburger and homemade chips. The bun alone stamped with Stonewall could have made us happy. It was buttered and crisp. The burger was cooked perfectly and the chips were amazing. Make sure to try this place if you are near Stovepipe Wells.
11. Homestake Dry Camp
Our last stop of the night was our camp spot that is 76 miles to the north of Stovepipe called Homestake Dry Camp. This camp site put us close to our Day 2 starting location. Most of the road is paved until you pass Ubehebe Crater. After that you have 20 miles on a wash board road. We hadn’t seen anyone on the road for most of the 76 miles, but once we made it to the camp site we found it to be extremely crowd with limited amount of space. Luckily we don’t take up much room so we found a flat spot to camp on and turned in for the night.
Sunday – Day 2
We woke up early with frost on the windows. It was under 20 and everything was frozen. We quickly got packed and ready to be on our way.
12. The Race Track
Our 12th stop of our trip was The Race Track. The Race Track is a large dry lake bed with large rocks that seem to move across the lake magically, leaving a trail behind them like a snail. Scientist have been trying to figure this out for years and in 2014 they figured out how this magic was happening. The way I understood it was that there is a small amount of water that freezes, once it starts to melt there is a point that the ice will carry the rock as the winds pushes it leaving a trail in the mud. Once it completely dries it looks like the rocks are moving on their own along the dry lake bed. It is a really strange thing to see in person and I highly recommend a visit here but because of people coming here and moving the rocks on their own I fear this place won’t be open to much longer.
13. Tea Kettle Junction
Our 13th stop was a quick stop at the Tea Kettle Junction to admire another funky find in the desert. I love these little treasures in the desert. We always try to seek these finds out when we are offroading.
14. Ubehebe Crater
At the end of the 20 mile road from The Race Track was our 14th stop, Ubehebe Crater. This is not a volcano, this crater was formed by an explosion of heat flashed water that turned into steam 2100 years ago. The edge of the crater is a short walk from the parking lot. There are trails that will take you around the rim and to the bottom of the crater. There is also another crater called Little Hebe Crater that is said to give you more dramatic pictures of the craters formed thousands of years ago if you are looking for that WOW shot.
15. Journigan’s Mill
For our 15th stop we headed south towards Ridgecrest for our way home and out of the park. We decided to take Emigrant Canyon road home west of Stovepipe Wells so that we could see the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. On our way out we stopped at the ruins of Journigan’s Mill right off the road. There is not much left here but some slabs, rusted out vintage cars and old water towers.
16. Eureka Mine
The 16th stop of our trip was the Eureka Mine. While still heading south on Emigrant Canyon Road you will come to Aguereberry Point. Turn onto this dirt road and you will follow it for 2 mile past the Aguereberry camp. The Mine was closed to protect the bats but you are still able to explore the ruins outside. We wanted to explore the Aguereberry camp but there were already a group of cars at that location and there wasn’t anywhere to park that wasn’t blocking the road.
17. Wildrose Charcoal Kilns
Our 17th and final stop was the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns. At the end of Emigrant Canyon Road it turns into Wood Canyon Road next to Wildrose Camp Ground. From there it is 7 miles to the Kilns. The road to the kilns is paved for 5.1 mile then it turns to dirt. Once you hit the dirt the landscape becomes less desert and starts to become more of a forest. The dirt road seemed to be maintained by always check the weather because there were some erosion on the side from a storm that had gone through a few weeks prior. Once you reach the Kilns there is a parking lot.
The Kilns were built in 1877 to produce fuel for the surrounding smelters that were 25 miles away. The only evidence they have is showing that the 10 Kilns were operational for 2 years. The Wildrose Charcoal Kilns are in great condition and easy to explore right from the parking lot.
We headed back to the Wildrose Camp Ground and followed the the Wildrose Road out of the park. There is a short part of the road that is not maintained but it isn’t bad. The road put us on Panamint Valley Road that took us through Trona and into Ridgecrest dumping us onto the 395 and on our way home.
Our favorite parts of this trip weren’t the ones on the most popular lists of things to see in Death Valley it was the things that were less traveled like the Inyo Mine, Titus Canyon, the Race Track and the Wildrose Kilns.
One major tip is that there is hardly any cell service in the park. If you decide to venture past the crowed tourist spots and explore the road less traveled have a plan in place. We use onX Maps which allows us to mark the areas we want to visit and download the map before we go. This way we are able to use it offline.
When visiting Death Valley remember to leave everything as it is. Enjoy the sites without disturbing them, bring home your pictures, memories and always remember to leave no trace.