For spring break this year we went on a overlanding adventure in Death Valley National Park. There were two 3rd generation Toyota 4Runners, 4 adults, 3 little boys and 2 dogs. We did almost 200 miles of dirt driving and two nights spent dry camping in the remote north end of Death Valley National Park. A great and dirty time was had by all!
This was not our first rodeo, but we did experience our first legit Goat Rodeo. Our camp site the first night was Bailey’s Hot Springs near Beatty, Nevada. Camping with hot springs access was $25 per night. They have all the services, water, bathrooms, showers, hot springs. They also have a farm and the boys enjoyed the morning wrangling baby goats.
Beatty is the last fill-up for this trip. We stopped at the Death Valley Nut & Candy Co for fuel. Inside they have a lot of nuts and candy and cheap die cast toys.
HWY 374 heads straight out of Beatty to Death Valley National Park through the bone dry ,and beautifully named, Amargosa Valley. Incidentally, the name Amargosa comes from the Spanish amargo, meaning bitter and referring to the alkaline water (agua amargosa) of the so named Amargosa River.
But before you get too far into that you hit the Titus Canyon Road. But before you get even that far there’s a turn off for Rhyolite, NV. This is a cool tourusty ghost town often instagrammed and hashtagged for various tourism authority campaigns. So we skipped it.
Titus Canyon Road is a 27 mile dirt track that is easy by overlanding standards, though for the times when it’s washed out or flooded, there is a sign recommending high clearance and 4 wheel drive.
The road crosses the rest of the way across the Amargosa valley, then climbs up into the Grapevine mountains. It becomes a shelf road with a steep drop off (though not the steepest, or the narrowest we saw on this trip) before it attains the summit of Red Pass.From Red Pass you head down to Leadfield Ghost Town. Again, the road is wide and smooth by overlanding standards, it certainly looks exciting and the scenery is amazing, but it’s not a 4×4 road here at all.Leadfield was a boom and bust mining town that peaked in 1926. Investors and miners were lured by bogus advertising from the Western Lead Mine Company showing steamboats plying the waters of the Amargosa River to get to Leadfield. Leadfield had a stamp mill and a post office, but more or less died out by 1927.Now it’s a really cool place to stop for lunch and explore the old buildings and ruins. There are a number of structures and the remains of the mine addit which is gated off. We spent some time exploring and picnicking. Of course the kids could have stayed the rest of the day.From there Titus Canyon gets tighter and tighter as the car ahead disappears behind the rocky canyon walls. It’s a really cool drive and, unfortunately, there are no obstacles to make it challenging. You should definitely take the time to stop and explore, there are lots of places to park without blocking traffic, and there was a bit of that during our spring break visit.The canyon continues to narrow and when you think it’s going to pinch out, it opens up, dumping out on a broad alluvial fan that drops down to Scotty’s Castle Road in Death Valley National Park.
Part two of this adventure is coming. Please subscribe!
Death Valley Overlanding Maps and Guides
- California Desert Byways: 68 of California’s Best Backcountry Drives by Tony Huegel
- Death Valley Overland Adventure Part I Map
- National Parks Service
Death Valley Road Conditions