Racetrack Valley: Death Valley National Park


Tea time at Teakettle Junction.

Racetrack Playa

The road to the Racetrack is bumpy and should only be traversed in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Jeeps can be rented at nearby by. Stop along the way to admire the ornate teakettles hanging from the signpost indicating Teakettle Junction.

The Racetrack is the bed of an ancient lake, a playa. From the smooth sand colored surface protrudes a dark monolith, the Grandstand. Luke of course climbed first the shorter of its two peaklings, then the 22-meter (73 foot) high point.


Luke on the Grandstand with a little Captain in him.

Hike to the Southeastern corner of the playa to Peak 4560 to see the source of the moving rocks. Here the rock trails are well defined, long, and often erratic. A group of 3 smaller rocks seemed to have been following the same path for some time, giving the impression they may actually be racing.

Ubehebe Peak

With the Grandstand checked off the list, turn West and began your ascent of Ubehebe. The 1,731 meter (5678 foot) peak towers over the Racetrack Valley. Though lower in elevation than Telescope Peak, this one was much more challenging. The trail, not as well maintained is steeper and mostly over scree and rockfall. The trail crests then descends into a saddle before finally climbing again to Ubehebe Peak; the final ascent becomes a Class 2 or 3 scramble.

Begin this climb early to avoid the heat.


Luke score The Ubes (Ubehebe Peak)

From here you can head across Last Chance Range into Saline Valley via the Lippencott Road. In Luke’s opinion this was the best driving of the trip. Sharon on the other hand, decided that there was no chance we would be heading up the same road the next day to visit the Ubehebe and Little Ubehebe craters as planned. The road is windy and steep, with lots of rock fall and an impressive cliff to one side. This road demands 4-wheel drive, high clearance, and an experienced


Luke runs into the Joshs to grab a balloon. Hate those balloons!

Gas is expensive in the park, fill up before entering.


Fall colors, California style!

As we drove home, we were impressed by the colors displayed by the trees along the Kern River near Lake Isabella. The oaks took on the most vibrant shades. Who said you need to go to Maine to see fall colors?

Seeing so much, we left the majority of Death Valley unexplored. As desert trips have become somewhat of a late Fall tradition, we’re sure we’ll be back to discover more of the beautiful country.


More Trip Reports from Death Valley National Park

For more national park adventures, visit our National Park Service Guide.