death valley - titus canyon

Sometimes my reluctance to extensively plan pays off extraordinarily. Looking at Google maps as we were leaving Vegas, I noticed that Death Valley was on our way out.  That was right after I found this cool article about a 27 mile unpaved trail that cuts through the national park.  Everything I read online said that this trail in particular didn't need a Jeep or high clearance vehicle, so we decided to give it a go.  This tiny road in Death Valley was both the best decision of our trip and the worst/scariest all wrapped up into one.   

Lets start with the first (awesome) 14 miles.  Those are all the pictures above.  The trail is this awesome dirt and gravel road that weaves through the mountains and puts you on top of some awesome spots to really take in the vastness of the desert, including Red Pass, the highest elevation point on the road at 5250'.  The road also took us through Leadfield, a small boomtown that lasted less than a year back in 1927.  Originally, people flocked to this new city to mine the lead deposits, but after they bottomed out pretty quickly it became an eery ghost town on a lone road. At this point we were loving our spontaneous decision to drive this road.  We had never seen anything like Death Valley before and we were so excited to be driving/hiking this new incredible place

After Leadfield we entered Titus Canyon.  The road started to get a bit rocky and not as even but we decided to carry on hoping that it would clear up.  We talked about turning around a couple of times, but we are both so stubborn and we figured that if we were this far in we should just press on.  Then it didn't clear up at all. The road conditions continued to get worse and worse and I started to really freak out.  I stopped taking pictures and instead just prayed that we would make it out of the trail without getting stuck. 

I've since looked back on the article I had read before we left, and even though the difficulty level is 1, it says to check at the visitor center for road conditions... which we (stupidly) didn't do.  During the last 8 miles the road was so bad that we had to repeatedly get out of the car and put huge rocks and dirt into the holes so that we could then drive over them slowly praying that we didn't bottom out and get stuck.  This whole time, we basically also had no phone reception – and then the sun started to set when we still had about 4 miles left to drive. Not to mention that the last 2 miles you are going through a canyon about as wide as your car.  Not a fun day for myself or Matt.  The whole 27 miles took almost 7 hours to get through (for reference, the website said the whole drive should take you 2-3 hours).  The feeling of getting out of the canyon without getting stuck and driving on a paved road again was insane, but I would never ever do that again unless we rent a Jeep or truck.  Please learn from my experience, it could have been so much worse than it was. But if you do it right, it could be a thrilling adventure.

Other Road Trip Posts: Our Route // Arkansas // Dallas // Santa Fe // Turquoise Trail // Grand Canyon // Vegas // Tahoe // San Fran // Costanoa Lodge // Big Sur // Playoff game in Pasadena.