West Side Road - Death Valley National Park

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4/5 (13 reviews)
Furnace Creek, California (Inyo County)
Last Updated: 12/11/2023
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Trail Information

Highlights

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Desert Category Icon Desert
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Mine Category Icon Mine
Sand Category Icon Sand
Scenic Category Icon Scenic
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.

Trail Reviews

4/5 (13)
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Official Crew
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142950
Temporary Closure
Rated 5/5
Visited: 12/11/2023

Call before you go. There is a ton of mixed messages coming out of the park about trails being open or closed.
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Official Crew
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63450
Temporary Closure
Visited: 11/07/2023

Confirmed closed via nps.gov website
Temporary Closure
Visited: 11/03/2023

Trail gates from Badwater Basin Road are currently closed due to damage from Hurricane Hilary.
Open
Rated 5/5
Visited: 04/09/2023

Pretty easy trail to run. Spent the weekend out in Death Valley and this was the last trail we ran before heading home. Stopped at the Eagle Borax works for lunch. Not much to report, mainly a dirt road with some interesting formations along the way.
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1200
Open
Rated 4/5
Visited: 04/05/2023
Difficulty Accuracy: Spot On

This is an easy road that accesses mines and canyons to explore. When we drove it, it was fairly washboard that got a little old after 30 miles.
Trail Review: West Side Road - Death Valley National Park - Eric
Trail Review: West Side Road - Death Valley National Park - Eric

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