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The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

Cambridge, United...
Level Contributor
41 posts
76 reviews
The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

Coming to Death Valley in early April and was thinking to drive out the see the moving rocks however I am getting a little concerned about some comments on the state of the road

We are hiring a car in Vegas to drive to DV. if we got an SUV (Ford Escape or similar) would this be suitable for driving the road?

We went to Costa Rica last year and the roads were truly as bad as people say (slow going, very bumpy and a flat tire) so I'm a little wary to get ourselves in another situation where we're struggling to change a flat at the side of the road.....

Saw the jeep hire option but $175 for the day with a $35 extra for non US drivers seems like a total rip off to me!

Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Dusseldorf
Level Contributor
3,308 posts
660 reviews
1. Re: The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

The road is notorious for eating tires. I have driven it in a rental SUV. However, realize that if you need to get towed, you are talking several thousand dollars with the nearest tow truck miles away and very hard to communicate with ( no cell phone coverage!). That said, if you go very slowly, and allow lots of time, you can do it. I always carry even in a rental two cans of fix a flat, a shovel, lots of food and water and blankets. You will probably not encounter more than four or five vehicles on your drive from Ubehebe down to the Racetrack. Also remember that the tires on the rental car are not good, and that you are not supposed to drive rental cars off the pavement. You need to realize you are taking a chance on rock infested, heavily washboarded roads that seem like they go on forever at 5 miles an hour. Forgot to add....and a tire repair kit that I know how to use.

ZB

Edited: 4:40 pm, February 10, 2012
Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
60,942 posts
42 reviews
2. Re: The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

Another poster drove Rd to the Racetrack with a rental car. Nothing happened to the tires during the drive but the first flat came when he reached Ridgecrest and the second one on the way to Yosemite. He still thinks it has nothing to do with the rd to the racetrack though. I doubt that.

Napa, CA
Destination Expert
for Napa
Level Contributor
8,432 posts
20 reviews
3. Re: The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

A lot depends on the condition of the road whether it has been worked on recently. For the most up to date information, you might want to ask on the Death Valley Talk message board:

www.death-valley.net/forum/viewforum.php?f=1

Here's some pictures and a description of the road:

birdandhike.com/Hike/…_Racetrack_Rd.htm

Camp Sherman, Oregon
Level Contributor
1,833 posts
4. Re: The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

That is good advice. Even though I drive on similar roads in central Oregon all the time many people coming from overseas may not be familiar with those conditions. I think many of Trip Advisor's visitors many not have the same experience as the posters on www.death-valley.net.

Some recent postings: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g143021-i2027-k494…

When will are back the latter half of March and we make it to the Race Track I will make a report of my opinion of the conditions.

Edited: 6:33 pm, February 10, 2012
Lassen National...
Level Contributor
2,631 posts
10 reviews
5. Re: The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

This road looks really nice compared to some roads I drive on. Never have had a flat. Must be some very sharp rocks?

SoCal
Level Contributor
124 posts
6 reviews
6. Re: The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

We were there during the second week of January. Sharp rocks are mostly problematic in the area with the Joshua trees about halfway in; there the road narrows and twists and the rocks on the side are yeah, pretty sharp. As you approach the Racetrack, from Teakettle Junction on, it becomes severe washboard (even more so the closer you get )and will rattle the fillings right out of your teeth. Overall, the road's not nearly as bad as we expected it would be. Lots of fun and nary a flat. But that was with an experienced desert driver at the wheel.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
Level Contributor
16,864 posts
52 reviews
7. Re: The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

Yes, the road is that bad.

Last summer I worked in the park and part of my assignment was at the Furnace Creek visitor center. One of the most asked questions was about the Racetrack. One of our exhibits is a sample of rock from the road. It's about 6 inches long, shaped roughly like a shark's tooth, with edges sharp enough to be cut people, and I would tell them that if they had one spare tire and there was only one such rock on the road, they'd be fine. We also needed to let them know it’s pretty much an all-day trip from Furnace Creek or Stovepipe Wells: an hour to the turnoff, up to 3 hours or even more to the Racetrack depending on road conditions, time to explore and enjoy, and then the return trip.

Is this your first trip to DV, and how long will you be there? If your time is limited, I’m inclined to suggest that you focus on more accessible sights. The Racetrack is a long trip, out and back (same way coming and going), and IMO it is a lot of time and effort for what you will see.

The Titus Canyon trip is about the same length (not including Rhyolite, which is worth seeing). but there you can see different plants from what you see at lower elevations, beautiful rock formations, a ghost town, petroglyphs, bighorn sheep under the right conditions, and sheer, high canyon walls that demonstrate the effects of flashfloods in the desert.

Or with a little more time, you can see the natural wonders along Hwy 190 (Zabriskie Point, 20 Mule Team Canyon, and Dante’s View) and those on Badwater Road (Devil’s Golf Course, Badwater, Natural Bridge, Artist’s Drive, and Golden Canyon), and have time for a hike.

Not to dissuade you from the Racetrack if you have your heart set on it. It’s definitely an intriguing phenomenon. No one has ever seen the rocks move (or at least no one has come back to tell about it), but maybe you’d be the first.

I've been there a couple of times, ditto with Titus Canyon, and TBH, if I were picking one of them to go back tomorrow morning, it would be Titus.

Edited: 10:03 pm, February 10, 2012
British Columbia...
Destination Expert
for Regina
Level Contributor
5,449 posts
94 reviews
8. Re: The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

maturango.org/janetmuseumpages/deathvalley/B…

and enough backroads for a few lifetimes out there: …aceweb.com/oldtrailmaster/backroads.htm

Cambridge, United...
Level Contributor
41 posts
76 reviews
9. Re: The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

Thanks for the comments. We're only in the park for 3 days so based on the advice I think we'll give the racetrack a miss & focus on some of the other sites in the park.

San Francisco...
Level Contributor
1,112 posts
7 reviews
10. Re: The Racetrack - is the road really as bad as it sounds?

My husband and I have done a fair amount of off road in the Valley and we knew what to expect but it was still a test of the nerves.

Ehere is correct in saying that when you get about halfway to Teakettle Junction (which itself is only halfway to the Playa) through the first set of Joshua trees things get gnarly. We were in a fully loaded Toyota Land Cruiser. No way would I do it in a Ford Escape.