Explore the best off road driving trails near Death Valley with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.
Bryce B. on Cottonwood and Marble Canyons
This is a great hike for winter. I live in Wyoming, so all we have is winter camping. Not my style. Not a difficult hike and navigating was not an issue. Just watch for the entrance to Dead Horse Canyon and you'll be fine. Since we weren't certain of the water situation we hauled our water. No water filter. Maybe not a good idea if it's hot, but for us it was no problem. We did it from the Cottonwood side, and I think this is the better choice.
This was a fun 4x4 drive to take my Jeep on. The road is not easy to spot from the main paved road, hence it is not well traveled and if you do encounter anyone else along the way, they are likely doing the same thing you are. Plenty of solitude with cool rock formations to look at along the way. The road is a bit rocky in a few spots but not anything extreme or crazy. Exploring the Inyo Mine ghost town way out there was pretty cool too. Fun drive :)
This drive is worth doing for the scenery. If you expect a 4x4 trail then you will be disappointed. The road is rocky and bumpy but if you stay on the tire tracks you will be fine. The road is mild enough to enjoy the vistas and not have to worry about serious obstacles. I didn't see any need to switch into 4 Wheel Drive on the road. Sit back and enjoy the amazing views. I look forward to doing this on a mountain bike.
Cool trail with really nice photo opportunities. Not a challenging loop hike, long but easy. I popped my tire and had to change to the spare on the sand road, changing a flat in sinking sand was fun! I was in a 4x4 truck with big tires, but anything can still happen. I wouldn't recommend driving to the trail head without a high clearance vehicle some of the rocks are quick large to get over. Added some photo's from the morning sun. Definitely do this as a morning hike when the sun is cresting into the canyon. I camped around mile 9 on the road, was a great spot.
The narrows are beautiful!!
Definitely a worthwhile trip. The scenery is outstanding and its a great #4/5 (high easy/low moderate) road for a great intro to Death Valley. I took my FJ Cruiser through here in High-4 mode and it was easy-peasy. Saw some non-4x4 passenger vehicles struggling with the rockier portions of the road. Not sure how they made it past Leadfield as there were some serious holes in the rock portion that my FJ filled with 3/4 of a tire. I would have pretty ticked off if one of them had gotten stuck in front of me going down the grade. Its a one way road (for good reason) and it would have been a nightmare trying to go backwards on the trail.. very few opportunities for two cars to pass each other.
Expect soft sandy beds, rocky downgrades, big holes, and lots of rockfall.
Warning: don't try this in the summer!!! We've been to Death Valley a number of times in the summer because you've not really had the full experience until you've stood at Bad Water in the 130* heat. But our first trip in the winter (Feb) allowed us to do some real on-foot exploring! The trail is easily accessed by a rental car via a gravel road, and there are some bathrooms at the trail head. Hiking through the canyon was fun...and challenging when you had to scramble and pick your way through some of the narrow passages. Other than some of the rock climbing, it's an easy trail that you can enjoy with your family.
Beautiful drive. Stock SUV's would be fine. We drove in from Death Valley rather than starting on the Nevada side. Very secluded and there are some neat spots out there to rest and relax. Lots of hidden mine shafts and stellar views of the sunset!
The most popular DV backcountry hike although there are no signs or trail to guide you so come prepared with a few topo maps and GPS. After an extensive discussion with a ranger at Stovepipe we decide to do this route. He drew us a map and suggested just one topo for Harris Hill where most people get lost. We made it through the correct pass but had a bad hand-drawn map that sent us to the right of a hill that we were supposed to go left around. This led us to what we now have learned to be an "impassible" canyon. This also meant we missed our water source at Dead Horse. Don't do this. It meant a few hours of climbing down dry steep waterfalls followed by another three hours of hiking until we found Cottonwood Rd. Did I mention we ran out of water that morning? A learning experience for sure. Do your research, talk to a few rangers, bring your navigational tools, and lots of water in case you miss the few water sources. That being said - do this, it is awesome! You will be the only one out there and boy is it quiet. The stars and moon will blow you away. This website below is really helpful in prepping for your trip. Also note I've read in a few places that the loop is closer to 30-32 miles.
We hiked this at the end of the season (mid-May) so had to deal with temp in the low 90's. Long sections of the "trail" in the wash are hard to follow and with the zero shade, made for some cranky hikers. Thankfully there is plenty of shade in a lot of sections of the hike. Some scrambling and having to hack through foliage that had taken over the trail. Great shady spot to stop and have lunch near the trial end. As always, make sure to bring enough water. Those open sections were brutal, especially towards the end of the day.