West Side Road, Death Valley


After leaving Badwater, I had to make a choice: either head south, connect with the West Side Road, and circle the valley, or head north back to the center of the park.  Depending on the time of day, you may have enough time to make the loop.  I probably did, but I decided not to chance it.  However, I did choose to turn off onto the West Side Road when I came to its northern end.

Salt Flats, West Side Road

I found a couple of interesting places to stop along the first 3-4 miles of the West Side Road, before turning around.  Above you see a combination of dirt and salt that formed a kind of “sand bar”, stretching out onto the salt flats.

The West Side road is dirt, but it’s well maintained by the park service.  I found it easy to drive the speed limit, only slowing down a couple of times for potholes.  In fact, had I known that the road was in such good condition, I probably would have made the entire loop.

After my brief excursion on the West Side Road, I continued north to Ca. Rte. 190, then turned west to Stovepipe Wells Village.

Stovepipe Wells - Death Valley National Park

Before you reach the gas station, restaurant, and campsites at Stovepipe Wells, you’ll pass two attractions: the Devil’s Cornfield (pictured above) and the sand dunes (below).  I didn’t find the cornfield to be all that exciting, so I took a quick picture and moved on.

Stovepipe Wells Sand Dunes - Death Valley National Park

The sand dunes are much more interesting, especially just before sunset when the light plays off the sand’s ripples and curves.

There’s no parking lot for the sand dunes, nor is there a definite trail.  To reach them, you must park at the side of the road (you’ll no doubt see other cars parked there).  Then, start walking over one dune after another: up one side, and down the other.  It takes a lot of effort, like walking in deep snow.

Note: This trip was first published in 2005.  I spent much more time in Death Valley during the Superbloom of 2016.

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