DEATH VALLEY ADVENTURE
Here’s your opportunity to explore the crown jewel of the Mojave Desert. Death Valley dual sport adventure ride explores some of the best dirt roads, historic sites and dramatic desert landscape imaginable.
Your adventure will begin near the southern end of the Eastern Sierra in the small desert town of Ridgecrest California. You will have the opportunity to explore off-road on historic routes to unique ghost towns such as Ballarat, Darwin and Leadfield which were boomtowns of the Death Valley region. You will also explore off-road to remote location with spectacular and strange land formations that appear to be from another planet.
Your off-road adventure begins as you explore one of the most unique geological features in the California desert. This eerie, fantastic landscape known as the Trona Pinnacles consists of more than 500 tufa spires (porous rock) that formed as a deposit when underground hot springs welled up through fault line fractures on the lake bottom, some as high as 140 feet rising from the ancient Searles Lake dry basin. The pinnacles vary in size and shape from short and squat to tall and thin and are composed primarily of calcium carbonate known as tufa pinnacles. These strange shapes formed underwater in the ancient lake 10,000 to 100,000 years ago. This portion of Searles Dry Lakebed is the bottom of a long ago glacial lake that was only one of many huge lakes that once inhabited the Death Valley region. During the Pleistocene Ice Ages, massive runoff spilled from the Sierra Nevada into a chain of "inland seas." This system of interconnected lakes stretched from Mono Lake to Death Valley and included Searles Lake, which at that time reached a depth of 640 feet. This unusual land formation now sits isolated in the middle of nowhere slowly crumbling away near the south end of the valley, surrounded by many square miles of flat, dried mud and with stark mountain ranges at either side.
Beyond the Trona Pinnacles your adventure will take you back in time to the historic ghost town of Ballarat. Located at the base of the Panamint Mountain Range, Ballarat sprang to life in 1897 as a supply town for the nearby mines in the canyons of the Panamint Range. The main mine supporting the town was the Radcliff gold mine in Pleasant Canyon just east of town. Between the years of 1898 and 1903, the Radcliff produced 15,000 tons of ore. Ballarat was named after an Australian gold camp by one of its first residents, an Australian immigrant named George Riggins. It was in the original Australian town of Ballarat that the first gold was discovered in that country in 1851. In its heyday from 1897 to 1905 Ballarat had 400 to 500 residents. It hosted seven saloons, three hotels, a Wells Fargo station, post office (that opened in 1897) school, a jail and morgue, but no churches. Today, Ballarat has only one full-time resident known as Rocky who lives in this ghost town. Rocky runs the general store on afternoons and weekends to supply cold drinks to visitors passing through town. The town still has a few historic adobe buildings, foundations, jail house, morgue and mining equipment scatter about including Charles Manson's forgotten army surplus Power Wagon Truck.
Your off-road adventure continues up a dirt wagon route through a scenic canyon to the historic Wildrose Charcoal Kilns located in remote area of the Panamint Mountain Range. In 1877 George Hearst’s Modock Consolidated Mining Company completed construction of the charcoal kilns in Wildrose Canyon. The charcoal produced by the kilns was to be used as fuel for two silver-lead smelters that Hearst had built in the Argus Range 25 miles to the west. The kilns operated until the summer of 1878 when the Argus mines, due to deteriorating ore quality, closed and the furnaces shut down. The Wildrose kilns employed about 40 woodcutters and associated workmen, and the town of Wildrose, a temporary camp located nearby, was home to about 100 people. Each of the 10 kilns stands about 25 feet tall and has a circumference of approximately 30 feet. Each kiln held 4 cords of pinyon pine logs and would, after burning for a week, produce 2,000 bushels of charcoal. These ten beehive shaped masonry structures, are believed to be the best-known surviving example of such kilns to be found in the western states and among the more remarkable historical-architectural features of Death Valley National Park.
Beyond the Panamint Range your adventure descends to the depth of Badwater Basin, the point of the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet below sea level. This point is 85 miles east-southeast of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet. Death Valley's Furnace Creek holds the record for the highest reported air temperature in the world at 134 degrees on July 10, 1913. Death Valley is the largest national park in the lower 48 states and has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve. Approximately 95% of the park is a designated wilderness area. It’s also the hottest and driest of the national parks in the United States. In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Yet, each extreme has a striking contrast. Towering peaks over 11,000 feet are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of wildlife species survives in Death Valley, including 51 species of native mammals, 307 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, three species of amphibians, and five species and one subspecies of native fishes. Small mammals are more numerous than large mammals, such as desert bighorn, coyote, bobcat, mountain lion, and mule deer. Mule deer are present in the pinyon/juniper associations of the Grapevine, Cottonwood, and Panamint Mountains.
After experiencing the lowest, hottest and driest point in North America your off-road adventure explores the historic Twenty Mule Team wagon road. For many people, nothing symbolizes Death Valley more than the famous Twenty Mule Teams. These "big teams" pulled massive wagons hauling borax from the Harmony Borax Works near Furnace Creek to the railhead near Mojave, a grueling 165-mile, ten-day trip across primitive roads in the Mojave Desert. Continuing your adventure travels out a curvy road to a striking vista overlooking Badwater Basin. Dante’s View is the primary overlook in Death Valley National Park because it offers premier panoramic views. Directly below Dante’s View is Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. Across the valley rises Telescope Peak 11,048 ft., the highest point in the park. The views are breathtaking in all directions and it feels like cheating to be able to ride your motorcycle to the edge of a cliff with such amazing views.
Day two of your adventure explores a historic wagon route to one of the most short-lived towns in the history of the American mining booms. This off-road wagon route ventures into the remote Grapevine Mountains, east of Death Valley to the ghost town of Leadfield California. This ghost town located in the middle of nowhere has become identified in western mining lore as an example of fraud, deception and deceit at its worst. Leadfield boomed briefly in 1925 and 1926 due to the extensive promotion which surrounded the camp, the unsavory character of its chief promoter, and the swift and sudden demise of the boom has led to unkind treatment at the hands of popular writers of western history. Leadville was the brain child of C. C. Julian, who could have sold ice to an Eskimo. He wandered into Titus Canyon with money on his mind. He blasted some tunnels and liberally salted them with lead ore he had brought from Tonopah. Then he sat down and drew up some enticing, maps of the area. He moved the usually dry and never deep Amargosa River miles from its normal bed. He drew pictures of ships steaming up the river hauling out the bountiful ore from his mines. Then he distributed handbills and lured Eastern promoters into investing money. Miners flocked in at the scent of a big strike and dug their hopeful holes and built a few shacks into the hillsides. Julian was such a promoter he even conned the U. S. Government into building a post office. After the people moved away and the dust had settled from the bustling mines the town slipped away into obscurity, leaving behind a few structures and scares in the mountain sides from the miners who dreamed of striking it rich. Leadfield may have been a bust but it did set a rich historical record for being one of the shortest-lived towns in western mining history.
Beyond Leadfield your off-road adventure explores Titus Canyon, one of the most scenic and unique canyons with a dirt road that passes thru some of the most beautiful desert mountain scenery in Death Valley. Titus Canyon has it all, rugged mountains, colorful rock formations, a ghost town, petroglyphs, wildlife, rare plants and spectacular canyon narrows as a grand finale! Titus Canyon is a deep, narrow gorge cut into the steep face of the Grapevine Mountains of the Mojave Desert, within Death Valley National Park. Although the Grapevine Mountains were uplifted relatively recently, most of the rocks that make up the range are over half a billion years old. The gray rocks lining the walls of the western end of Titus Canyon are Cambrian age (500–570 million years old) limestone. These ancient Paleozoic rocks formed at a time when the Death Valley area was submerged beneath tropical seas. By the end of the Precambrian, the continental edge of North America had been planed off by erosion to a gently rounded surface of low relief. The rise and fall of the Cambrian seas periodically shifted the shoreline eastward, flooding the continent, then regressed westward, exposing the limestone layers to erosion. The sediments have since been upturned, upfolded, downfolded and folded back onto themselves forming unique folds within the canyon walls. The highest point of the route is Red Pass at an elevation of 5,213 ft above the sea level. As the road reaches the foothills, it starts to climb and meander among the sagebrush and red rock outcroppings. The road becomes steeper and narrower as it approaches Red Pass, aptly named for its red rocks and dirt. From the summit of Red Pass, the road descends quickly as it winds its way down into the canyon. As the road travels downward, the canyon walls continually creep closer and closer, squeezing the road and creek-bed into one narrow slot canyon. The canyon walls begin to rise hundreds of feet straight up exposing layers of rock, twisted and deformed from the tremendous forces that formed the mountains. The walls of the canyon are so steep and narrow that the sun's rays do not penetrate to the bottom of the deep canyon.
After exploring some of the most dramatic desert landscape imaginable, your ride ventures to the remote ghost town of Darwin. Located on the western outskirts of Death Valley in Inyo County, tiny Darwin, a semi-ghost town today, was once the largest city in the county. The settlement got its start in early 1860 when a prospecting expedition led by Darwin French set out from Visalia, California in search of the Lost Gunsight Mine and a place that had long been referred to as “Silver Mountain.” While exploring the rocky, dry landscape southeast of Owens Lake, French’s party never found the Lost Gunsight Mine or Silver Mountain, but they did discover rich silver outcroppings and staked several claims before heading back to Visalia. When they returned, they were followed by hundreds of others and soon mines developed and the rugged mining town of Coso Junction was born. Around 1870 more gold, silver, and lead deposits were again discovered in the Coso Range, resulting in formation of the New Coso Mining District in 1874. The settlement of Darwin was soon established and named for early explorer and prospector, Darwin French. The town quickly developed into the main commercial center in the area, by the end of 1875, Darwin boasted two smelters, some 20 operating mines, a post office, graded streets, a drug store, hotel, three restaurants, the ever-present saloons, a newspaper, 200 frame houses and more than 700 residents. The Defiance Mine was the principal producer in the district, but, other profitable mines included the Argus-Sterling, Christmas Gift, Lucky Jim, Custer, Independence, Keystone, Thompson, and the Wonder Mine.
The next year, the town continued to grow, supporting over 1,000 people, at which time, it was the largest town in Inyo County. It’s Centennial Celebration on July 4, 1876 was the second largest in the county. Though the settlement had taken on an air of permanence, it was also gaining another reputation, that of a rowdy and violent town. Because of its isolation, and distance from the county seat of Independence, gunplay, assaults, and stage robberies were common. Still, the town continued to grow, peaking at a population of about 3,500 in 1877. However, it would not continue. The following year a smallpox epidemic swept the community and a national economic slowdown hit Darwin hard. Production slowed, and mine owners scaled back wages, creating more violence in the community.
In September 1878, the newspaper office closed its doors and the publisher, T. S. Harris, packed up the presses and headed north toward the boomtown of Bodie. He was followed by many of the miners. However, the following month, it was reported in the Independence newspaper that the town still had 200-300 people, four stores, three restaurants, five saloons, and a drug store. Six months later, on April 30, 1879, a suspected arson fire began in the Darwin Hotel, which resulted in the loss of 14 businesses, including several stores, offices, the hotel, saloons, and the post office.
Today, the semi-ghost town of Darwin has a population at about 40 people that live amongst the ruins of the past. Northwest of the abandon downtown on the side of Mt. Ophir, the remains of the once booming mining camp can still be seen, including decaying rows of mining shacks and the old mill buildings. Its downtown area still contains several buildings, once housing businesses but, now closed. Back in its heyday, Darwin was a rowdy and violent town home to hundreds of miners that dreamed of striking it rich but now days all that is left are, scattered and rusted mining machinery, rusted out vehicles and abandon buildings that make up the last remains of this lonely ghost town.
This dual sport adventure ride is perfect for medium to large dual sport adventure bikes.
Off-road terrain is rated "mild to moderate" with some "challenging" and lots of adventure.
Ride distance 475+ miles (75+ miles dirt roads)
Gas stops (135-mile range required)
Breakfast Lunch & Dinner at restaurants (Not included)
Meeting Location: Starbucks Ridgecrest CA.
1245 N. China Lake Blvd. Ridgecrest CA 93555
Ride returns to Ridgecrest CA (approx. 5pm)
Additional Hotels available in Beatty NV all in close distance.
near Beatty Nevada
Riders that choose to camp are recommended to make camping reservations in advance.
(Camping fees Not included)
Additional Hotels available in Ridgecrest CA all in walking distance.