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Death Valley - is it worth it?

M

mr-roboto

I am contemplating riding at some point through Death Valley. It is located in the eastern part of California's Mojave Desert, the lowest, driest, and hottest area in North America. It is infamous with it's typical 120 degree days. Has anyone ridden through it and what is the best time during the summer to visit the area?

RB
 
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At the back of the pack and out of the dust
Rman, ThrasherG and I passed through on our way from Vegas back to Barstow in November a couple of years ago. It is a very surreal place, austere, beautiful. I was unprepared for the scale of the landscape. I'll be back, but not in the summer.
 
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Very awesome place well worth the ride. Dont' go during summer time. I went during March and it was still very hot down at badwater basin.
 
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We passed through their in June, but we had AC. :trust:

IMG_11991023_zpsa8c806cf.jpg


We saw 121°F through the bottom, everywhere else was ~100°

I would lean more towards spring if I was riding it.
 
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From Wes Siler:
395 is a nice ride to cover distance on and saline valley hot springs are as good a destination as any.
north pass into saline valley is graded and easy, south pass is gnarly, i'd suggest heading in that way, then taking north out if its too much.
depending on your skill and tires, the hot springs are a great base camp to check out some of the more difficult trails like lippincot pass over to racetrack playa, etc.

find local conditions reports here: http://forum.salinepreservation.org/
 
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I rode it during the first week of June, 2012. It was hot -- 119 degrees -- and it came after some strenuous hours of fighting deep sand northeast of Mt. Whitney. My wife was worn out from the sand and, though thoroughly hydrated, suffered a heat stroke and had to be choppered to Vegas. The rest of us (six total) were hot but had no issues with the heat.
It is absolutely worth the trip. Fascinating country. I'll try to get there before the end of May next time.

(While we there, we saw one of the locals -- there are people who live there -- jogging up a pretty steep section of highway. We mentioned it to someone at a cafe; they said he was training for a 100-mile Death Valley run.)
 
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Out Standing in the Field
Some friends and I did it in July one year. We'd all do it again in a heartbeat. It was hot during the day, but the place is so weird its well worth the heat. Just go out early in the mornings and take plenty of water. We had some of the most memorable experiences of any trip we've done.

The area is incredible, do some reading before you go. We were on the big bikes so while we did one single-track, we mostly stayed to pavement and double-tracks. The nights are surreal, the first night we were there and once everybody quieted down I was struck by how Silent everything is. No sounds.

If I went back, I'd try to take the DRZ and do more of the interesting stuff where I was a little nervous about taking the GSA. Also, there are plenty of great roads around it.
 
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Have been through DV several times; like any desert area, doing it during the summer requires "attention to detail". To really enjoy it, would really recommend doing it in the non-hot months. Some people like to suffer; it's not for me. Death Valley is one of the most "grandeuresqe" places I've ever seen; go when it can be savored.
 
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Id love to visit that area. There is a lot of old west history there. My only experience with the area is lovely Fort Irwin and the National Training Center which borders it to the north.
 
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I forgot to add my obligatory Death Valley photos haha.

Don't get gas in Panamint springs unless you like paying 6 dollars a gallon. Just over the pass in Stovepipe wells (or whatever it's called you'll know it when you see the sign haha) gas is at a closer to "regular" price.



These cabins are really cool and free to stay in but are first come first served


Make sure to sign or bring and sign a Teakettle






Amazing views everywhere


This picture was taken at 5000 feet (according to the GPS) and below is Badwater basin at negative 280ish feet. On some days they say you can see Mount Whitney as well so you can see the highest and lowest point on a good day.
 

george-1

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Austin
It shouldn't be missed if you are in the area. One time I was entering the park on Highway 190 from Lone Pine. I had seen a couple of fighters flying around ahead of me, but lost sight of them as I rode. Right before I dropped into the canyon here, one of the fighters flew over me at what seemed like 20 feet over my head, but I'm sure it was probably more. It came from behind, flew over me, and turned sideways and dropped into the canyon showed on the link.

Another one of the experiences you'll only get on a motorcycle.
 
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kilgore
I always wanted to go and see Barker Ranch before some idiot burned it down.
When you get ready to go, Kurt, give me a call. I'll ride out with you.
I rode home from Lone Pine, by way of Death Valley, in 3 days. Easy peasy.
 

M38A1

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112*F coming down thru Kansas one trip was pretty oppressive..... Was wearing my solid textile gear from a trip North and caught that on the way back. I think that's the first time I actually rode without a jacket for a bit. Funny - I had forgotten about that until now.
 
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I used to live out in death valley. I'd take a winter trip on the bike, but not in summer. And yes it is worth it.
 
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I lived in San Jose for many many years and would ride to DV every Feb. and every October. We always camped in Panamint Springs (highest ele), Stovepipe Wells (kind of rocky tent sites, flat and barren) or furnace Creek (nicest, and near the store).

In all those trips we'd never ride off road, but many trails exist. there are some awesome street routes you can do from there (Westgard Pass is my favorite). Also some really cool places like the Bristlecone pine forest off of Westgard , just outside of Big Pine off 395 which is part of the loop.

Whether it is worth it as a destination from TX is questionable to me as it is so far away from here. Nice routes can be found along the way though. We always went because it was a really nice ride getting there, some fast riding for the big bore sport tourers, and WARM in the winter. You must watch weather though as a windstorm can leave a lifetime impression and they happen often in March and April. If one is coming, get out fast. Get back to 395 to Lonepine and a hotel! I've lost two tents there over the years. Seen every tent in a campground go away, except for mine which was beat to death, ripped open and filled with sand, while nicely staked down.
 
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DV is best seen by dual sport or adv bike. There are so many jeep trails/canyon roads throughout, lots of hidden gems like 80 year old shacks, rusted up machinery and mining equipment and other geological features you won't ever see from the main roads. Can see where Charlie Manson and his wimminz hid out.
 
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So would an oilhead R1150GS have an issue with the heat making the crossing?
Easy peasy in summer. I spent a few days out there on a air cooled Buell. Bikes that radiate heat do better than liquid cooled out there...as long as you're not incessantly winding it up anyway. Had my HD out there too with no issues too. And I'd seen plenty of KLR and Honda XRs doing just fine.

The fact that it's so dry makes it easy to tolerate. Humidity makes for less power and more heat, so engines prefer DV's dryness even if it is 120 degrees.

As a human, keeping the core cool is your big issue. Take lots of frequent breaks in the shade in the back country. At night, camping out, the temps aren't too bad. Kind of pleasant actually.
 
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I'll almost bite my tongue on the heat issue. If a guy can ride around sightseeing in TX in the summer, he'll do fine in DV. To me its still just too hot for fun, but I'm new to TX and still getting used to summers. A GS 1150 will do fine I am sure. Run full synthetic Mobil 1 15-50 in it though.

The comment on core temps is spot on. Get one of those cooling vests you soak in water. they work really well.
 
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I rode through on a 2-stroke 250cc twin in August, 1970 and it did fine. I would stop and soak my T-shirt in water and zip my jacket. AC
 
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It is well worth it. But not in summer. Well, I won't ever go back between the months of April to November. Too hot. If you get a room at furnace creek you can survive, I was in a tent and it was miserable sleeping since at midnight it was still over 100.
My GSA got hot, and the heat off it on my body was incredible. I think I used up half my tire life in the park. :sun:
But again, very desolate, harsh, and so beautiful at the same time.
No place like it, Texas doesn't come close. DV is like the Twilight Zone........you can't ever leave.........:trust:
 
M

mr-roboto

Thanks to everyone, you have compelled me to go ahead and visit the area. Due to scheduling, it will probably during the second half of the summer before I attempt this. I will probably leave Pahrump, Nevada around four in the morning and ride around the park until noon via 190. After that I will turn in for the day and then leave the next day very early in the morning to avoid the afternoon inferno via Scotty's Castle Road to Nevada.

Large CamelBak filled with ice and electrolytes in the water - check
Windscreen all the way up - check
Cooling vest - check
Proper wicking base layer - check


RB
 
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I'd bring extra water. Ice will take up a lot of room. You can sweat up to 2 liters of water an hour. Make sure you hydrate plenty at night before bed. And extra water bladder doesn't take much room and is great insurance.
 
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