We finally made it to Death Valley towards the end of our 2021 travels. We usually run out of time heading back into California from where ever but I finally wrangled an extra week out of our schedule and we were able to plan for a visit.

Our visit covered a lot and I mean a lot of ground. We did multiple sites, hikes and jeep trails. Breaking up the visit in logical groups seemed to make the most sense for a series of posts.

What We’ll Cover

There was so much we did that I’ll cover the trip in a few posts which will cover:

  • The Must See Sites
  • Our Favorite Hikes
  • The Far Away Sites
  • Free Camping and Jeep Trail

The categories are helpful to focus in on how you may want to plan a trip. The See Sites is up first and if you only have a day in the park or even just passing through, these are the more popular and logistically closer together so you can see them in your days visit.

Far Away Sites

With a park as large as Death Valley, if you want to see more than the popular sites, you definitely need a couple extra days.  We spent a full day driving and driving and driving to head up to the more northern end of the park. 

Ubehebe Crater

That’s where you will find a beautiful crater called Ubehebe Crater which you can hike around and even down.  Of course you have to hike back up!

Teakettle Junction

From there we drove towards Race Track Valley.  Along the way we found Teakettle Junction.  We also saw a big horn sheep running in the hills.  Wish I could’ve capture his picture; it was a memorable site.  We kept our eyes peeled for more wildlife, but the big horn sheep was it. 

Race Track Valley

Race Track Valley was unique.  We’ve seen dry lake beds before, but this place was huge.  Then we went rock hunting or specifically evidence hunting that they moved!  Found some at the far end of the lake.

The road is paved to Ubehebe Crater but after that it was gravel road all the way to the Race Track.  We decided to just keep driving a huge loop taking us on a 4WD trail that had some challenging spots.  I’d recommend you retrace your route from Race Track Valley to the Crater and then back to Furnance Creek. 

Wildrose Charcoal Kilns

The best known surviving example of kilns to be found in the western states are here in Death Valley. They were completed in 1877 and used only through 1879 to process ore from lead-silver mines in the area. Getting to this area is a 28.2 mile drive with only the last 2 miles on gravel (and a 25′ vehicle length limit). You will pass by the Wildrose campground, an established campground that is free in the park.

Wildrose Peak Trail

There’s also an 8.4 miles (2,200′ elevation gain) hiking trail head at the Charcoal Kilns parking lot. The climb takes you to the peak overlooking the area. The The drive and hike alone would be a full day’s visit unless you were camping in the Wildrose campground.

Lippincott Road 4WD Backcountry Road – SW of Race Track Valley

Rather than turn around from Race Track Valley and return to the Crater then back to pavement, we decided to continue the loop’s southern route. This put us on a 4WD only trail to descend the mountain and return to another valley. The descent was very doable in the jeep but a 2WD truck and even a 4WD stock truck would have had to get out and move rocks. I ended up holding the jeep freak out bars way more than the camera but trust me when I say the drive was extremely rocky (large rocks) that makes we very happy we have the jeep wrangler that we have. We traveled Lippincott Road then continued south until we hit the pavement on Highway 190.

Trail #14 South of Racetrack Valley

The Death Valley Back Country Access Guide notes that is it Rough 4WD! Very steep, exposed, and winding with cliff edge washouts. Lower part of the narrow section is very difficult for wide vehicles. Now we can report, it is spot on but we’d add that the lower part could be challenging for stock 4WD trucks or any vehicle with a longer wheel base.

Lippincott Road Heading to Narrow Lower Section
Finally Heading Towards Pavement

The return drive was much longer than the mostly flat drive to the crater and then to race track valley which made this for a very long day indeed.


Here’s a 1 minute clip on YouTube:

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