Par 3 on the Devil

Development Route / Published December 2021

This is a Development Route – it has not been fully vetted by the Dirty Freehub Team. The turn-by-turn directions have not been validated, the route has not been ridden in its entirety by a Dirty Freehub Team member, and the general documentation is less. Development Routes are an organic, community effort to develop ideas into highly curated, 5 Star Routes. Riding a Development Route requires a sense of adventure, self-sufficiency, and good navigational skills. We also ask that if you do ride a Development Route, contribute some knowledge back. See the right panel for how to get involved.

Finding your way through the desert of Death Valley National Park, you will have the opportunity to see the interesting landscape of Devils Golf Course. Don’t bring along your 9 iron though, this area is so-called because of its inability to be played on, really to almost walk on. Jagged spikes of eroded rock salt form a rugged terrain that is delicate yet dramatic to see.

Along the route are many historical sites to explore. The region was once a destination for gold prospectors and borax mining sites and many stories can be found about the history and people who lived and explored in one of the harshest places in the US.

And don’t forget to keep an eye out for desert creatures including roadrunners, a small, long-legged bird, and a year-round resident. The Mojave Desert Tortoise, who lives mostly underground has called Death Valley home for millions of years, even before it was a desert.

Do this route to get an up-close look at life on the valley floor and to learn about the ecology and treacherous history of Death Valley. This is a must-do ride if you are a history buff.

Note, the Dirty Freehub Team has not ridden this route, but we have driven the entire route and stopped and looked at some of the sites. If you do this route, we sure would appreciate some feedback. See the “Make this Guide Better” block to the right on how you can help. Thanks!

Adventure / Gravel Route

Out & Back: 27 miles / 280 ft gain
– Surface: ~ 100% gravel
– Technical Difficulty: Moderate
– Tire Size: 45mm (best guess)
eBike Friendly: Yes
– Location: Death Valley National Park, CA

Legend

Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road

When we like to ride this …

October to April, when the temperatures are reasonable. This will be one of the hottest spots in Death Valley each and every day.

The Start

A pull-off parking area west of West Side Road.
Lat / Long: 36.339196, -116.867864

For help with GPS files, the RideWithGPs mapping app and to learn how to download our routes for free, see the “Using Our Rides” page.


Terrain & Riding What to expect …

A flat, very flat, ride bounded in the distance by the Amargosa Mountain Range to the east and the Panamint Mountain range to the west. But remember, the valley floor is big!!

However, the road twists and turns, limiting your near sightlines, bringing you through several different ecological areas.

The road quality is generally hard-pack, varying between a clay base (?) and laid down gravel. There are also some short stretches where it is a bit sandier, but surprisingly for this deep on the valley floor, there is not a lot of wash

Highlights

Devils Golf Course / ~ Area at the beginning of ride

Devils Golf Course a geological landscape made up of jagged salt formations created by years of erosion of wind and rain. A dramatic, yet beautiful site to stop and explore.

Shorty’s Well / ~ mile 8.5

Alexander Zachariah Borden, nicknamed ‘Shorty’ came searching for gold in 1887 in the Death Valley region. Finding only a few small gold strikes throughout his many years of searching did not discourage him from falling for the desert and so he stayed. Shorty became familiar with the area over his many years of looking for gold and eventually, he gained some amount of fame by finding a water well off the Westside Road, which in a desert can be considered as valuable as gold.” [Shorty’s Well]

Dalton Harris Gravesite / ~ mile 9.5

Burial site for Jim Dayton and Shorty (Frank) Harris. Jim Dayton, a respected pioneer prospector of the Death Valley region, died in 1898 of exposure while traveling to buy supplies and was buried where he was found. Harris, one of the greatest and most successful Death Valley prospectors died in 1934. Before his death, he requested to be buried next to his prospecting partner and friend Jim Dayton. The marker for Harris reads: Here lies Shorty Harris, a single blanket jackass prospector – 1856 – 1934 Also on the marker is written – To these trail makers, whose courage matched the dangers of the land, this bit of Earth is dedicated forever. The two friends are buried deeper than anyone else.

Eagle Borax Spring / Eagle Borax Works / ~ mile 10.5

Eagle Borax Spring is a spring that sits at an elevation of -269 feet. Near the springs is the site of Eagle Borax Works, the first borax refinery in Death Valley. It was founded by Isadore Daunet and was in operation for only two years. Not much remains of the structures.

Bennett’s Long Camp / ~ mile 13.5

Near this location, the Bennett-Arcane group became stranded seeking a shortcut to find gold. The emigrants who were originally from the Mojave-San-Joaquin (Mojave Sand Walking) wagon party, remained at this site for over a month nearly perishing before two of the travelers, William Lewis Manly and John Rogers, undertook a heroic journey on foot, returning with supplies and leading the party to safety.

Badwater Basin / ~ mile 13.7

This route terminates (u-turns) near the lowest point in the continental US. ~ 250 feet below sea level. Near Badwater Basin.

Technical Difficulty[what this means]

  • Riding Difficulty: Low
    One of the better maintained gravel roads in the park. Most hard-packed, a few sandy spots.
  • Navigation Challenge: Low
    Out and back route, no turns.
  • Locale Risk: Moderate
    National Park backcountry – be prepared for remote conditions and limited cell phone coverage.

Food & Water

None

Other Notes

  • Death Valley is classic Southwest desert riding with more of a jeep road feel than a classic gravel road; it can vary from hard-pack with embedded rock to loose and course to soft wash sand and washboard. The surfaces are ever changing based on based on maintenance, rains, and time of year. Thus, error on the side of too much tire, rather than not enough. We recommend 700c X 50 mm or 650b X 2.1” tires or larger and an adventure gravel bike versus a more traditional all road gravel bike. Larger, softer tires will handle the wash best.
  • Check the weather before you go. Wind and sun exposure can be signifcant factors on this route.

Ride Options

A longer option is to continue on the Westside Road until intersecting Badwater Road and then returning north. This is a complete circumnavigation of the Badwater Basin. We believe there are many more historic sites along the way.

The starting location is the same as that for the shorter (original) route.

Legend

Red = paved road
Brown = gravel / dirt road

Comments

Revision History

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