Most people are familiar with Death Valley National Park in California. Some might even know about "The Racetrack". But a little known fact is there is a very narrow and dangerous road that leads up to this area. It is called Lippincott Pass. There is also a couple other routes from the East including coming up from Ubehebe Crater. Before we get into Lippincott Pass, lets give a brief overview of this part of Death Valley National Park.
Ubehebe Crater is a large volcanic crater 600 feet deep and half a mile across. The site is at the north end of Death Valley at an altitude of about 5678 feet. It is part of the Maar volcanoes in the area, created by steam and gas explosions when hot magma rising up from the earth reached ground water. The intense heat flashed the water into steam which expanded until the pressure was released sending off an enormous explosion. Ubehebe—the largest of the Maar volcanoes in the area is thought to of formed about 2,100 years ago.
This is a junction coming from the Ubehebe Crater towards the Racetrack Playa. If you take a left or go east from this junction, it will take you to Hunter Mountain. Hunter Mountain is a pretty tame drive that connects this junction to the Saline Valley road. If you continue right or west it will take you to the Racetrack Playa and the Grandstand. It has become known as a place to hang a teakettle and write notes to other travelers.
Racetrack Playa and The Grandstand
The Racetrack Playa is a large, flat sand lake. It is almost 3 miles long and a little under 1.5 miles wide. This area gets very little rain (3-4 inches a year) but when it does it forms a crust on top of the sand. Then the heat and wind form to make the honeycomb shapes you see in the pictures below. The sailing stones are a great phenomenon to see. In the winter the sand lake gets some ice. As this ice melts and the wind comes up, it sails or shoves rocks and boulders across the playa. You can see the trails behind the rocks where they moved. One of my favorite things about the Racetrack is every visit is different. The Grandstand is a large rock outcropping in the middle of the sand lake.
Lippincott Pass - down
Lippincott Pass is a 7 mile road that connects the Racetrack Playa to the Saline Valley road. This is a very difficult 4x4 road. It has many wash outs, is rough and has many protruding boulders in the road. Its recommended for high clearance vehicles only with 4x4. I have included a video of us coming down the pass in our EarthCruiser. I left some of the video raw so you can see how it looked from the front cab. Sorry in advance for the squeaky brakes!!
This trail is not recommended if you don't have experience with difficult trails in 4x4. If you do, its a great place to challenge your skills and see some terrific views. If you want to see the Racetrack Playa but Lippincott pass is not for you, I would suggest Hunter Mountain road or the back road from Ubehebe Crater.
The road was very technical and had some major wash out areas. In a full size truck or jeep, this trail would of been a 5 or 6. In an EarthCruiser EXP it was more like a 7 or 8. We did hang the rear wheels off the cliff side of the road a couple times trying to get thru some of the washouts.
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