There are lots of motorcycles in Death Valley National Park. Including every type of bike. And for good reason: There are all kinds of great motorcycle roads for whatever your riding pleasure may be. Sport-Tourers, Cruisers, Sport Bikes and any other street legal machines will enjoy slaloming up and down mountains, easing through some long sweepers, and will also need to beware of Runaway Throttle Syndrome on some stretches of straight roads between mountain ranges.
California State Route 190 is arguably the most pleasant stretch of pavement; at least it’s in the best condition. In fact, the part within the park, known as the Death Valley Scenic Byway, is a National Scenic Byway.
Route 178, within the park, is less traveled than 190, and is in need of repaving, but is very much worth traversing. Dual-Sport and Adventure-Tourers will particularly revel over the numerous dirt and gravel roads.
Of course all this is best ridden when the temperatures are reasonable, which is fall, winter and spring. You probably already know that Death Valley gets warm. Indeed, it’s one of the hottest places on earth. Back in 1913, it attained the second-highest temperature ever recorded on our little earth: 134 degrees F. Moreover, there aren’t too many trees to find some shade. So, as any rider knows, you get to soak up them solar rays.
Nearly 550 square miles of this park lies below sea level, including the lowest point in North America – Badwater – which is 282 feet below sea level (expect this to be the warmest place of your visit). The point is the lower elevations do get toasty. 120 degrees is not that unusual in the summer. Temperatures tend toward the triple-digit end of the thermometer from mid-April until mid-October. Bring lots of water in any season.
In contrast to the Badwater basin area, the stark mountains appear even more tremendous as they thrust up into the heavens. Telescope Peak rises to over 11,000 feet. Bear in mind that this chunk of national park comprises more than 3.3 million acres of ruggedly inspiring desert scenery, multi-colored geology, undisturbed wilderness, and some interesting historical sites which makes any ride all the more relaxing and/or exhilarating, depending upon your pace.
In addition, the night sky is another equally spectacular vision. You’ll find it hard to fathom that there isn’t some kind of life out there somewhere when all those star lights seem as dense as downtown Los Angeles.
Be aware that this is a large chunk of Mother Nature set aside for motorcycles, and most of the 3.3 million acres have nothing but scenery. (It’s the largest national park in the lower 48 states). There are some services available within the park, including gas, but do keep an eye on your tank, as there is enough open space to run that fuel down to empty.
There is lodging in the park. As well, there are nine campgrounds with varying facilities. This weekend I camped in one of the low elevation campgrounds (Emigrant). Several higher elevation campgrounds and camping areas in the mountains remain open year round. However, most of the low elevation camps are closed in the summer in the hopes of keeping us wayward riders from getting cooked.
Ride Death Valley National Park outside of the summer, and you’ll look forward to an enchanted return again and again.