Death Valley National Park
|The Road to Nowhere: California's Death Valley (PhotoDisc)|
At most national parks, bicyclists are restricted to heavily traveled paved roads and the made-for-tricycle campground streets. So the dedicated mountain biker needs to sniff around for a nearby national forest or state park to get a little adventure and solitude. Not so at Death Valley, which has a complexand lengthysystem of backcountry roads that are wide open to mountain bikers. Take your pick of paved and backcountry roads. However, bike riding is verboten cross-country and on the hiking trails.
The Best Bike Trails
Trails are listed as strenuous (S), moderate (M), and easy (E).
Panamint Springs to Furnace Creek - 56 miles (S)
If you've heard of Towne Pass, it was probably in the context of California's most brutal cycle ascents. (Don't even think about doing this ride after early spring.) Make it to the top and your reward is a downhill cruise that drops you more than 5,000 feet to Stovepipe Wells. From there, gently rolling hills lead to Furnace Creek, where showers and a swimming pool await your arrival.
Stovepipe Wells to Scotty's Castle - 38 miles (M)
This steady, gentle grade takes you on a "best of" tour of the valley, starting at the village, turning at the sand dunes, and finishing at the castle (worth exploring if your legs aren't too wobbly). You can backtrack a few miles to camp at Mesquite Spring, saving the downhill return for the next day.
Mountain Bike Rides:
Bikes aren't allowed on hiking trails, but don't let that stop you from enjoying the dirt roads, where the scenery makes up for the lack of singletrack.
Auguereberry Point - 6 miles (E)
This non-technical climb up a wide dirt road takes you to the best bike-accessible overlook of the park. From your 6,433-ft. vantage point you'll look out over sand dunes to the colorful mountains that wrap themselves around the valley. Along the way, check out the Eureka Gold Mine and the historic home once owned by the prospector, Pete Auguereberry, who gave the spot his name.
Gold Valley - 11 miles (M)
The year-round spring at the end of this dirt road draws lots of wildlife, including bighorn sheep. Ruins of historic structures speak to the area's history as a mining site. Smith Mountain towers above you to the southwest, Funeral Peak to the north.
Titus Canyon - 28 miles (S)
Two 5,000-ft. climbs on sometimes technical terrain make this a very challenging ride. But the sceneryexpansive views, a ghost town, petroglyphs, running springsmake it absolutely worth the effort. Start from the town of Rhyolite, just outside the park, and finish at Highway 190.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication