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Road conditions

UK
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Road conditions

We will be driving from Los Angeles to Death Valley late July 2014 and want to camp at Wildrose campsite. We were planning to drive via Trona but it appears the Trona-Wildrose road may be closed due to strom damage 12 months ago. Is this road still definitely closed? Can the road closed signs be ignored? Can the campground still be accessed by entering Death Valley from the west on the 190 and then turning down Emigrant Canyon road? Is the campsite actually open? We will be driving an SUV.

LA
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1. Re: Road conditions

NEVER ignore a "Road Closed" sign in Death Valley. In the hot summer months it could be a fatal mistake.

Is this a rental car?

Most rentals are not allowed to be taken off the main roads. It voids the rental car contract and the insurance will not cover you if you violate the rental car contract. Towing in Death Valley is very very expensive. Think $700+, as there are no tow companies that operate within this huge park.

LA
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2. Re: Road conditions

Traveling from Trona to Wildrose would require you to drive on a road that violates your rental car agreement.

Henderson, Nevada
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3. Re: Road conditions

In general the best source for road conditions in Death Valley it the "Death Valley Road Conditions" page on Facebook... but Facebook seems to be down as I write this... and has been for the last half hour... Once it is back up, you may still find it unclear... I have been on the facebook page and they post questions for people asking people the status of some roads... the park is huge and they don't patrol these roads often...

As far as I can tell the Trona road into the Valley is still closed. It is maintained by the county, not by the National Park, and Inyo County is not very wealthy, and this road is very secondary, and so is low priority. I have spoken to people who have ignored the signs, and tried (soon after the flooding), and it was a very difficult, very technical off road crossing... requiring a trail modified (lifted, rock shields, off road tires, possibly with a winch) jeep or similar vehicle. A basic SUV won't cut it. If you are asking the question here you probably shouldn't be doing it.

Lower Wildrose canyon was very badly washed out in the same flood, and it is possible that they will never reopen that route.

I believe you can still access Wildrose campgound from the north off of Hwy 190. Assuming that route is open (check) you can probably get there in any decent SUV and possibly with many cars... but if this is a rental you would be violating your rental contract... Many do, but that can come with significant additional fees when you return the vehicle. Similarly, going too far, and calling for a tow truck comes with really significant fees...

Your best advice will come from Frisco Roadrunner... she should find this post eventually...

Randy

LA
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4. Re: Road conditions

A regular rental agency SUV is not much more than an expensive, gas-guzzling minivan with a little bit more ground clearance. But even then, the ground clearance is not suitable for off-road travel. Please do not fool yourselves into thinking you are renting an off-road vehicle.

They do not have off-road tires. They usually don't even have a real spare tire, just a temporary spare. Having one flat tire in Death Valley is an expensive and time-consuming hassle in the 120+ heat. Having two flat tires can be fatal, as it renders your vehicle immobile and heatstroke becomes a looming danger.

Most tires in Death Valley flatten because you run a tire over a sharp rock at too high a speed. 30 mph is too high a speed in 120 F temperatures on a rocky road. Rental cars just don't have tires that can handle this kind of driving and should not be subjected to it in Death Valley summer heat.

You should carry at least 4L of water per person per day. Even then you can only hedge off dehydration. Heat stroke can happen even in a well-hydrated person when they cannot cool off.

Never rely on an auto GPS or even a phone-based GPS for directions. There was a terrible fatality several years ago based on this assumption. You need current road information and best to have printed maps that actually describe whether a road is paved, gravel, or high-clearance 4WD only. GPS may not tell you that. Cell phone coverage is not guaranteed, especially in more remote parts of the park and you cannot rely on a signal if you have an emergency.

Edited: 06 July 2014, 18:27
Camp Sherman, Oregon
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5. Re: Road conditions

The Wildrose area will be a nice area of DV to visit in the summer, being that the campground is at 4100'. I don't see any problem accessing the campground from the north via 190 as the road is a normal, paved road and the gravel roads in the area are maintained by the park and not "backcountry" roads. Most of the gravel roads in the area are not "off road"! They are well graded and easy to drive. You can easily access the Charcoal Kilns, Eureka Mine/Aguerberry Point. Yes, the campground is open. The route from the north is open.

Though I don't think you should do this, many do access from the south, going around the closed signs. They have reported that repairs and conditions have allowed them to easily to do this, much different from early conditions as reported by Randy. Again, I'm not suggesting at all that you try that route!

Have a great time up in the mountains. Temperatures will be in the mid nineties.

Just had 102 degrees last Tuesday in Portland.

If nobody drove rentals on gravel roads nobody would get anywhere in Death Valley as most of the sites are only accessible via gravel roads! My own street is a gravel road in close SW Portland!

LA
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6. Re: Road conditions

Not all gravel roads in Death Valley are created equal

Best OP realizes that a regular rental agency SUV may not have any special features.

Edited: 06 July 2014, 18:55
Henderson, Nevada
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7. Re: Road conditions

In the last 24 hours thunder storms and flash floods have hit Death Valley... the Facebook road conditions page https:/…DeathValleyRoadConditions says that currently the Badwater road in from the south from Shoshone, the road to Dante's View and Titus canyon are closed... (you can reach Badwater from Furnace Creek) with more storms and more road damage expected....

Such is the way of the desert, and Death Valley...

Randy

UK
6 posts
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8. Re: Road conditions

Is it possible to rent a jeep for Death Valley in July / August? Farabees are closed for the summer and I have not managed to find an alternative.

Henderson, Nevada
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9. Re: Road conditions

If Farabees is closed I would check in Las Vegas... Dollar has had Jeep Wranglers available in the past. They don't have the lift and the rental contract will not be as dirt road friendly... but it will be a jeep... and you really don't need a lifted jeep for most Death Valley roads....

Randy

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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10. Re: Road conditions

When roads in Death Valley are closed due to expected weather conditions or existing storm damage, it is not done frivolously. It means that there is either a real risk of flooding or washouts, or there is already serious damage that makes the road difficult or dangerous for the average driver. (Yes, I know no one here is average; everyone who comes here is an expert with 4wd, knows all about backcountry travel, and has full confidence in his or her abilities to conquer nature and stay out of trouble—IOW, the exact profile of someone who is gonna get in trouble...LOL).

I have no timetable on the repairs for Panamint Valley or Lower Wildrose roads. Unfortunately, both of these are more than "very secondary" roads; they ARE secondary roads but also major alternatives into the park for people coming from the Los Angeles area or other points south and from the San Joaquin Valley who come from Bakersfield. All of Wildrose Road is NPS, beginning at the junction with PV Road north of Ballarat, while PV Road is Inyo County.

When rental car agreements say to remain on paved roads, we generally interpret that as improved or developed roads including asphalt or cement as well as graded gravel, dirt, or clay. Examples are Mosaic Canyon, Salt Creek, Mustard Canyon, Devil’s Golf Course, 20 Mule Team Canyon, and the 2 miles at the WEST end of Titus Canyon. It's true that if no one could drive on gravel roads of any kind, no one would ever see much of Death Valley! These roads are not going to damage a passenger car suspension unless they are driven fast enough to be uncomfortable, which is fast enough to puncture a tire. At the Visitor Center or out and about, I advise people that they are OK for any vehicle driven carefully, and to go easy to protect their tires.

Going around a "Road Closed" sign may be physically possible, and you might even live to brag about your daring exploit. OTOH, you might, as several people suggested, encounter bad enough conditions to cause vehicle damage. You might get a flat tire. You might at some point come to a locked gate and insufficient clearance or true shoulder to go around, and then if you do drive around, you might be technically in violation of the park regulation that forbids "off-road" driving. If you go into a marked closed area and a flashflood or cave-in does strike, it's possible no one will know you are in there and you will be on your own. Ignoring closed roads is always at your own risk, and with the implied understanding that emergency responders may not have a legal or moral responsibility to break their necks to come to your aid.

The info on Farabee's website is not 100% accurate; they are open for the summer, at least they were last week before I left. They rent Jeep Wranglers equipped for backcountry use, including heavy-duty tire, but even they will advise against going far into the outback in summer. They can arrange to do backcountry rides with experienced tour leaders. Try 760-786-9872 or 877.970.JEEP (5337)

Edited: 06 July 2014, 23:52