DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
One of the greatest cycling venues you may have never considered.
We have cycled Death Valley five times between 2009 and 2019 and fully appreciate its beauty and off-season cycling opportunities. Other than Chile, we cannot think of a better off-season destination to train and climb by bike. While Death Valley is tortuously and prohibitively hot during the summer, it is warm to mild during the fall and winter months, making it our top pick of places to ride during the seasons most other areas are generally off limits due to rain or snow.
CYCLING DEATH VALLEY: AN OVERVIEW
There are ten excellent bike climbs within a 25 mile radius of Towne Pass East (Stovepipe Wells).
Diamonds designate Top 100 US bike climbs (red 51-75 / orange 76-100 rank).
The climbs from Death Valley’s western entrance, Panamint, to its eastern exit at Furnace Creek are:
- Panamint Grade (14.8 miles / 3,370’ gained / 4.3% average grade);
- Towne Pass West (9.3 miles / 3,405’ / 6.9%) Las Vegas, Nevada;
- Wildrose (14.6 miles / 4,415 / 5.7%);
- Emigrant Pass West (15.8 miles / 4,141’ / 4.9%);
- Towne Pass East (17 miles / 4,956’ / 5.6%);
- Emigrant Pass East (23 miles / 5,310’ / 4.4%);
- Daylight Pass (from Daylight Pass Road; 13 miles / 4,150’ / 6.1%);
- Daylight Pass (from Beatty Pass Road; 16 miles / 4,500’ / 5.3%);
- Dante’s View (24 miles / 5,453’ / 4.3%); and
- Artist Drive (3 miles / 1,065’ / 6.8%).
OUR FAVORITE BIKE CLIMBS IN DEATH VALLEY
#1 DANTE'S VIEW
Cycling Dantes View, Death Valley, CA.
Ride 24 miles gaining 5,453’ at 4.3%.
Photo: Zabriskie Point (mile 3).
Dantes View overlooks Badwater, Death Valley.
For this climb, we start just across the highway from the "Sea Level" sign at the intersection of Badwater Road and the lightly traveled Highway 190, and then begin a 24-mile journey that offers some of the most exceptional views in Death Valley.
#2 EMIGRANT PASS EAST
Cycling Emigrant Pass East, Death Valley.
Ride 22.8 miles gaining 5,308’ at 4.4%.
You run into all forms of critters out there -- from tarantulas to . . . Peter!
The real climbing portion of this ride begins around miles 7-8, as the first few miles seem almost flat. This climb is definitely in an arid desert setting, and you can expect very little vegetation and stark views throughout.
14.6 miles gaining 4,415’ at 5.7%.
The first nine miles are on a very rough and closed road. This is an epic ride, but beware it is in Death Valley and completely unsupported.
If you are going the last two miles to the kilns, bring a gravel bike.
#4 TOWNE PASS WEST
There’s a lot of straight in Death Valley.
Ride 9.3 miles gaining 3,405’ at 7%.
Photo: Looking back after one mile, view west.
Photo: Just before the start of the climb, view east.
Town Pass West is definitely one of the more scenic Death Valley climbs. Around mile three, we leave the desert floor behind and begin to enter the more hilly terrain, offering exceptional views of the valley as we climb. When we reach mile six, we’re entering stark, vegetation-less terrain that call to mind images of the planet Mars -- all part of Death Valley’s otherworldly allure.
#5 ARTIST DRIVE
At three miles and 6.8% average grade, this is the easiest, and one of the most scenic, DV climbs.
FURNACE CREEK VISITOR CENTER
The Furnace Creek Visitor Center is just north of The Ranch at Furnace Creek - it is where the famous Death Valley Thermometer is located. 😈😈
Photo Sky News.
The hottest air temperature ever recorded in Death Valley (Furnace Creek) was 134°F (57°C) on July 10, 1913. The photo above is a record of the hottest “reliable” weather reading ever, taken in 2020.
July is probably not the best time to be riding through Death Valley . . . 😓
WHERE TO STAY IN DEATH VALLEY
We have entered Death Valley both from the west (via Lone Pine, Whitney Portal, and Horseshoe Meadows; 50 miles to Panamint Springs), and Las Vegas (Kyle Canyon and Lee Canyon; 140 miles to Furnace Creek).
There are three areas with hotels in Death Valley:
- Panamint Springs: This is the closest hotel to the western entrance to Death Valley, which is near the southern part of the top world bike climbing area of Owens Valley. Panamint Springs is the most rustic and least expensive of accommodations in Death Valley. We have stayed at the Panamint Springs “Resort” but do prefer Stovepipe Wells and The Ranch at Death Valley. Panamint has one restaurant, a sparse store, and a gas station.
Sign at Panamint Springs Resort
The birds to the left are real.
- Stovepipe Wells: The Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel is our choice of places to stay in Death Valley for a couple of reasons. First, it is less expensive than the two hotels in Furnace Creek, although a little more expensive than Panamint Springs. Second, it is the hub for bike climbing in the valley -- all climbs are within a 25 mile straight line radius of Stovepipe (see map, below).
Entrance to Stovepipe Wells Village Hotel.
Distance from Stovepipe Wells to all climbs.
- The Ranch at Death Valley (Furnace Creek): If you don’t mind paying roughly $100 more a night for lodging and don’t mind driving a little further to your Death Valley bike climbs, this is a great place to stay. The restaurant and store are better and the compound is very nice. The Oasis at Death Valley is the most luxurious accommodations in Death Valley, and if price is no object ($450-$500 a night), stay there. The Oasis is just a mile from The Ranch at Death Valley (these two hotels are owned by the same company) and is the “Four Seasons” of the Death Valley area. Of course, accommodations like these come at a price; the Oasis is twice the cost of The Ranch and three to four times more than Panamint and Stovepipe.
Aerial drone photo of The Ranch at Death Valley.
Entrance and market at The Ranch at Death Valley.
The Ranch at Death Valley has by far the nicest store in Death Valley.
WHERE TO GET GAS
The only locations to get gas in Death Valley are at Panamint, Stovepipe, and Furnace Creek -- but, buyer beware:
The math on that is $5.99 per gallon (these are 2015 prices) prices in 2019 and 2021 were slightly less).
DEATH VALLEY WEATHER
National Park Service Death Valley Weather Chart.
From June through September, Death Valley, California is dangerously hot during the day, with average monthly highs during that time ranging from 106°F to 116.5°F. Cycling is not recommended during the summer and certainly never without good SAG support. The heat can be stifling (if not truly dangerous) and supplies are few and far between.
Though challenged as potentially inaccurate, the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth was in Furnace Creek, Death Valley on July 10, 1913 (134℉/56.7℃). The “alternate” record is also held by Death Valley as well. In 2013 the weather was recorded at 129.2℉/54.0℃ in Death Valley , then in 2016, the same temperature was recorded in Mitribah, Kuwait. Most recently the record was set again (not including the challenged 1913 high). On August 16, 2020, Death Valley made international news when it recorded a temperature of 130℉!
Death Valley National Park encompasses 3,373,063 acres, making it the fifth largest National Park, and was established in 1994 by President Bill Clinton.
Interesting statistics for Death Valley:
- Hottest temperature ever recorded: 134℉ (1913; this is also the hottest temp ever recorded on earth!);
- Lowest temperature ever recorded: 15° (also 1913!);
- Most consecutive days above 100°: 154 (summer 2001); and
- Longest period without rain: 40 months with a total of 0.64” (from 1931 through 1934).
Thank you Carla and Tom Morton!!
HIKES, THINGS TO SEE AND PLACES TO VISIT
Zabriskie Point - one of the most popular viewpoints in Death Valley
Google Maps + Reviews
Eureka Mine / Harrisburg
This fun jaunt 2 miles off Emigrant Canyon Road and the Emigrant Canyon Road East climb - Google Map + Reviews.
Ballarat Trading Post - very popular spot in Death Valley -
Google Map + Reviews
YouTube - All about Ballarat
This fun little ghost town is off Trona-Wildrose Road a few miles south of the start of the Wildrose Climb. Link to Intersection Ballarat and Trona-Wildrose Road.
-------- Google Map + Reviews.
Harmony Borax Works
This is a very popular spot to visit just north of Furnace Creek - Google Maps + Reviews.
A nice hike off the Beatty Road-Daylight Pass Route is the Keane Wonder Mine
AllTrails.com: “Keane Wonder Mine Trail is a 8.1 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Death Valley, California that offers the chance to see wildlife and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips.”