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Death Valley to Santa Barbara

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Death Valley to Santa Barbara

What is the best route to take to get from Stovepipe Wells to Santa Barbara? Google maps shows 190 to 395, to 14, to 5 north, to 126 to 101 and says it takes about 5 hours 15 minutes. Is this the route to take and is the time estimate realistic? Unfortunately we are doing this drive the Friday of Columbus Day weekend, and would like to avoid as much traffic as possible. What time would you recommend leaving Death Valley (Stovepipe Wells area) if we want to arrive in Santa Barbara by 5pm. We're hoping to have time to have breakfast and spend about an hour hiking Mosaic canyon before we leave.


San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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1. Re: Death Valley to Santa Barbara

Yes, this would be the best way. It’s about 320 miles, but much of it is scenic rural roads and not freeways. There is another route that is a few miles shorter but may take longer because more of it is in the mountains and there is a short unpaved stretch (gravel, OK for any car driven carefully). That would be the Wildrose-Trona Road south from Hwy 190, starting 9 miles west of SPW, to the junction of Panamint Valley Road, and then through Ridgecrest. However, this route is currently closed because of storm damage and we don’t know when it will reopen, so you can leave it out of your planning.

While there’s no guarantee, I suspect that on Friday of Columbus weekend, traffic leaving Death Valley will be pretty light. Hwys 395 and 14 are freeway almost all the way. I think the first major traffic you’ll encounter will be in the Santa Clarita area, which is basically a suburb of Los Angeles. But it’s on the fringe, not in the middle of the metro area. Hwy 126 is rural, but it is a good road, easy to drive and very scenic.

I think 5½ hours is realistic, maybe with a few minutes added for a cushion and some sightseeing if you should see something you can’t resist. I don’t know how big a holiday Columbus Day is in the Santa Barbara area, or if traffic coming and going around the city in the afternoon commute period might delay you. You might ask on that forum.

2. Re: Death Valley to Santa Barbara

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