West Side Road - Death Valley National Park

3.6/5 (8 reviews)
Furnace Creek, California (Inyo County)
Last Updated: 02/23/2019
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Trail Information


Don't be fooled by the easy 4x4 trail rating, this Death Valley National Park backcountry route has a history of being deadly for the unprepared. Almost every year some unfortunate gets stuck, breaks down, and in some cases just wander off and perish along this road. This 37-mile backcountry route runs below sea level for its entire length. It was the original route of the 20 Mule Team Borax wagons out of Death Valley and offers the only access to the east side of the Panamint Mountains south of Furnace Creek. Along the route, mining was active at the Queen of Sheba mine as recently as 1970, Hungry Bill had a small farm and mining operation in Johnson Canyon that he supplied miners with fresh vegetables. The infamous Charles Manson and his followers were captured at Barker Ranch which is on the west side of the Panamint Mountains and accessible from the Butte Valley Road that intersects West Side Road. Death Valley Shorty, a former Buffalo Bill Wild West Show performer and famous flim-flam man for which Scotty's Castle is named, is buried along the road. There are the remains of old borax works and the nearly impassable Devil's Golf Course geologic formation is comprised of evaporated salt.

Trail Difficulty and Assessment

Trail Navigation

There is deep sand to negotiate in a few spots, and the road surface has been graded below ground level is some places creating a very soft berm that will pull your vehicle deeply into the sand edge if you don't pay attention. There are areas of washboard surface and hidden side roads where it's possible to meet someone pulling onto West Side Road right in front of you. Wet road conditions can become nearly impassable quickly as road sections can turn into gooey mud. BE CAUTIOUS! The entire length of West Side Road runs below sea level, with the lowest elevation being -100 feet. There is no water, and some of the canyon and mine access side roads are seldom explored.
Flash Flood Area - Flash flooding can occur along the West Side Road making it impassable. Road damage from sudden storms may take an extended time to repair so be sure to check local conditions before departure.

Trail Reviews

3.6/5 (8 reviews)
Temporary Closure
Rated 1/5
Visited: 11/18/2022

Also closed. Even the main paved road through the park is closed for another month at Badwater Basin
Visited: 02/04/2022
Difficulty Accuracy: Easier

Easy trail, multiple trails to camp
Rated 4/5
Visited: 05/18/2021

A long, flat barren stretch of road that has some pretty intense washboard areas. We traveled it in a new Defender which has an absurdly cushy ride, and still, the washboards were pretty miserable even when aired down. Still totally worth it, just some real bone-shaking sections on an overall easy, non-technical drive. Lots of great landmarks and photo ops to explore, makes you feel pretty horrified to think about the original settlers and prospectors you learn about while reading historical markers detailing the harsh conditions they faced. Makes you pretty thankful to climb back into AC and have a drink cold water.
Trail Review: West Side Road - Death Valley National Park - Meg G.
Trail Review: West Side Road - Death Valley National Park - Meg G.
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Rated 3/5
Visited: 03/20/2021

Compared to the most recent review, the trail was not that smooth and has a decent amount of washboard. It was the worst closest to each end, and wasn't too bad in the middle. We started from the Furnace Creek (North) side because the entrance is in a really cool desolate area, and after what would be waypoint 11 it becomes more traditional "desert" landscape with a surprising amount of vegetation.
Trail Review: West Side Road - Death Valley National Park - Broc Addis
Rated 5/5
Visited: 02/25/2020

It must have been recently graded, because it was FAST. No washboard at all. We did 40-50 mph the whole way on the trail and it was pretty comfortable.

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