California Tourism at The Racetrack: Death Valley National Park

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California Tourism at The Racetrack: Death Valley National Park

Laura Leiva

Modern Tokyo Times


There are plenty of unusual attractions and destinations around the globe, but perhaps The Racetrack is one of the most perplexing. Located in the Death Valley National Park between Last Chance and Cottonwood Ranges, a mysterious event takes place – rocks move across a flat, desolate lakebed by themselves.


Those who make a trek to the park are sure to enjoy the quiet beauty found in California’s desert landscape. Death Valley National Park, located about five hours east of Los Angeles near the Nevada border, is full of natural wonders. The Badwater Basin is one of the lowest points in the world – coming in at 282 feet below sea level, and is the lowest point in North America. While many visitors from around the world come to see the barren landscape, no trip to the National Park is complete without a visit to the Racetrack.


The journey to the Racetrack Valley is best done in high-clearance vehicles, as the rugged terrain is not suitable for most cars. Surrounded by Joshua trees, the road to the Racetrack starts close to the Ubehebe Crater – the road provides visitors an up-close look at the landscape, but don’t be surprised by the bumpy ride! After traveling 20 miles on the road, visitors will come to Teakettle Junction – drivers will need to keep going straight to reach the Racetrack, as the left road takes visitors to Hidden Valley, while the road on the right side goes to a lead mine last used during the First World War, called Ubehebe Lead Mine.


The Racetrack and Grandstand is located 26 miles from the starting point and leads drivers to a parking area, which visitors may use as they explore the attraction. Hikes of varying lengths give visitors breathtaking views of the Racetrack, in addition to the surrounding landscape. For those who want to enjoy the National Park and partake in a longer hike, there is a six-mile trail to the Ubehebe Peak. This trail isn’t for everyone, however, as it features a gain in elevation to 1,800 feet!


The Racetrack lakebed itself is two miles wide and three miles long. The spectacular region dates back 10,000 years, and the playa where the Racetrack now sits, also known as a lakebed, was once filled with water during various changes in the climate. Throughout the thousands of years and drier climate conditions, water evaporated, leaving behind mud hundreds of feet deep. While the lakebed is flat, visitors will see trails left behind in the sand by moving rocks – to see them best, visitors are encouraged to drive two miles south of the Grandstand parking lot. Once there, a short, half-mile hike will bring visitors to the perfect viewing spot of the traveling rocks.


While the exact cause of the moving rocks is unknown, experts suggest the combination of wind and rain help move them across the playa. Still, when visitors see the massive rocks and the fact that some have traveled more than a thousand feet, they will surely be fascinated with the unexplained phenomenon!

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