For those planning a trip to Death Valley National Park I thought I would say a few words on the road to the Race Track area. This is not an area that should be missed, but so many do. The park service recommends 4 wheel drive- high clearance vehicles only. I drove this road with an Oldsmobile Bravada with All Wheel drive and not very high clearance, and had no problems. I sure donít recommend taking a passenger car on this road, but a pick-up truck or SUV with or without 4-wheel drive will do fine.
If youíre planning an early morning shoot here, you will need to get a very early start. The road starts just before the Ubehebe Crater parking lot and is approximately 35 miles to the Race Track. Much of the road is dirt and gravel with lots of washboard sections, but is passable for most vehicles. When you get to Teakettle junction (people have left old teapots here,
thus the name) the road takes a turn for the worse. Do not go beyond here if you donít have descent clearance. High clearance and at least all- wheel drive will make you feel at ease. The road becomes loose sand and gravel and deep ruts on both sides of the road. Please watch out for a series of ruts that cut across the road, the first one is severe if you miss it, which I did and my vehicle was air born for a second. Thankfully no damage to the vehicle was done, but I did loose my Styrofoam cooler. I thought about turning around at this point, but I was committed, I could see the Race Track area in the distance. From Teakettle junction itís only a few miles to go and the road improves after those series of ruts.
As you start to enter the Racetrack area you will see the Grandstand jutting up from the flat mud cracked playa (dry lakebed) and there is a good sized parking lot there. Most of the rocks that have trails behind them are just past the parking area just off the road. It is best with morning light so you have side lighting to set off the trails.
I was here for half the day and never seen another person. The only sounds were the wind and some ravens, but were worth every second and Iím glad I made the trip. I did this in November, so the temperature wasnít bad, probably high 80ís. I wouldnít recommend this trip in the summer months as the heat could be brutal.
Check with the rangers for road conditions before you make the trip and take plenty of water and some food just in case. Happy shooting!